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Dec
06
2022
Village Life

My Name Is Iden | Crutches

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By Iden Crockett

“It’s a crutch. You don’t need it.”

“But it will help me compensate for my injury.”

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“It’s a sign of weakness. Everyone will know that you are struggling.”

“Wouldn’t that be good? Then I could get the help that I needed.”

“No. It wouldn’t be good. It would be shameful and embarrassing. Just don’t!”

I had this exact conversation in my head a thousand times. I have PTSD, among other things, and I struggled with it for nearly two decades without asking for help, without admitting that I was struggling to anyone, and certainly without telling my doctor.

I was determined to march forward and keep my mouth shut. But it wasn’t heroism or bravery — it was fear. Fear of ridicule, fear of medication and fear of hospitalization. There are millions of us in this country suffering like I was because they are having this conversation in their heads.

Those words don’t come from nowhere. They have been carved carefully onto our brains by a society that stigmatizes mental illness and the mentally ill. Just say the words “mentally ill” to yourself and notice what images come into your mind. Bastille-like Victorian asylums?

Straightjackets? Serial killers? Imagine if we treated all ailments the way we treat mental ones.

“It’s a crutch. You don’t need it.”

“But I have a broken leg. This will help me to walk.”

“It’s a sign of weakness. Everyone will know you have a broken leg.”

“Wouldn’t that be good? Then I could get the help that I needed.”

“No. It wouldn’t be good. It would be shameful and embarrassing!”

Ridiculous, right? Ridiculous, but all too real. I said “no” to the “crutch” of therapy. I said “no” to the “crutch” of medication. For a while, I limped along. I snapped at my family, I avoided groups, I hallucinated, I panicked. Eventually, I couldn’t even limp. I starved myself. I cut myself. I spent all my days suffering, because a break is a break. That break never healed. It grew in severity and pain until, finally, I crawled into a therapist’s office. It was either that or lay down and die.

Once I was there, getting the help that I needed and seeing the real improvement in my life, I realized how I had fallen for the nonsense and false beliefs I had been given by society. I realized how needless that agony had been and how much time I had wasted. It was a tragic realization for me.

So what’s the answer? How do you remove a stigma that is as deeply rooted as the one against mental illness? My advice is the same advice I always give. Start with yourself. Realize that there is no more shame in having a mental illness or injury than there is in having a physical one.

Encourage others to seek help by seeking it yourself. Be open about your journey and supportive of other people’s journeys. Work to remove language like “spaz,” “schizo,” “basketcase” and “psych job” from your vocabulary.

And, if you have someone in your life — especially if you are a parent and they are your child — who deals with a mental illness or disorder, please be understanding and kind to them when they aren’t well. Treat them in the same way that you would if they had a cast on their leg and, heaven forbid, needed some crutches.

*Iden Crockett is an artist and writer. She lives in Yellow Springs with her wife and three children. You can follow her work at http://www.mynameisiden.com.

 

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2 Responses to “My Name Is Iden | Crutches”

  1. Anonymous says:

    Hello. Mental well being is an important topic for us all. I think Iden is addressing “compassion” and the need for it toward are fellow inhabitants here on Earth.

    “Mad In America” addresses many topics concerning mental health and the history and renovations found in the industry surrounding it.

    Here is a link to one article on a “Trans Lifeline.”

    https://www.madinamerica.com/2022/04/trans-lifeline-naming-trans-specific-harm-in-mental-health/

    Also, I don’t think any article on mental illness is complete without some reference number for immediate care.

    One such number is the suicide prevention lifeline.

    That number is: 800-273-8255

    Thank you for writing about this topic in the hope of recovery for everyone.

  2. Demi Grey says:

    “Thank you” for your story. Everyone has a personal story, including those who have been labeled; and those who represent different genders; races; cultures and ages; or anything else that distinguishes each individual as the person they identify themselves to be.

    I would no more try to tell a person how to deal with their mental illness or suggest that by so doing they’ll magically “save others from stigma” then I would tell someone what other kind of medical care or medicine they need or don’t for any other illness they may encounter. I can share my story; or what I believe; that’s all. What has helped me get through my days may not be for anyone else. My days are my days after all.

    Each person comes to their own understanding about their mental health and their need to address it, or not, unless of course, they are a dependent child who requires assistance in the monitoring of mental growth and health via parents or caregivers. (That would be part of ethical duty for custodians of youth)

    It is sad that we somehow gravitate toward blame in both, getting help (or not) to the adult person who may benefit from help (or not) and now how any individuals personal decision might impact the mental of anyone other than themselves. I say that as someone who has escorted others for emergency intervention that might have saved their lives and lost others to suicide. And, as someone who has battled my own thorns. Life is about choices; lack of choices, from well meaning people who only accept one way, may ultimately prove the greatest stigma of all.

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