I think most of us probably have a few of them in our lives: the people that want to be supportive, but they’re just way off the mark.
The fixer: This is the person who wants to figure out how to solve your problems because then you’ll no longer have anything to be mentally ill about, right?
Have you tried… ? My aunt’s neighbour’s dog’s best friend said that going out for a walk every day made them feel much better. You should try it!
Other people are worse off: This is the “children are starving in Africa” argument. As if by reminding you how bad some people have it they’ll magically convince you that you’re not actually mentally ill after all.
It’s not so bad… Oh, you’ve been bullied, that’s really sad, but look on the bright side, you didn’t get physically assaulted. Cheer up!
It’s normal to feel that way: Anyone would feel badly if they had to deal with [shitty situation x], it’s normal! No need to worry about it!
Are you taking your medication? I get this a lot from my family, because they don’t seem to understand that I can be unwell and still be taking my meds as prescribed.
You look really good: This is the good old assumption that if you look good, then you can’t be sick. Maybe if you’re reminded of this often enough you’ll realize that you were just confused and you must not be sick after all.
Try to focus more on the positive: Thank you. Perhaps I will need to remove my pink unicorn horn from where it is shoved up my ass and use it to stab you in the eye – now that would be positive.
In many ways I find it easier to ignore the people who are saying stupid things out of stigma, because I can write them off as being dumb-asses. I’m less sure how to handle the people who are well-intentioned but clueless. It’s not exactly polite to ask people who hit them with a stupid stick. Sometimes I think it’s easiest to just let things slide and try to focus on the good intentions rather than the crap that comes out of the mouth.
What are some of the well-meaning but ignorant comments you’ve gotten?
I’ve done a follow-up to this post on how to be supportive.
My book Making Sense of Psychiatric Diagnosis breaks down the different categories of DSM-5 diagnoses, explaining the diagnostic criteria and providing first-hand stories of the various illnesses. It’s available on the MH@H Store, as well as Amazon and other online retailers.