You know those comments that sting? A passing remark made by someone in a jokey manner, but it is just a little to close to home? A subject so sensitive to you, that you couldn’t understand why it would ever be considered funny?
I was asking someone in my family which number is the sort code on my credit card, holding it so they could see. (I’m finally trying to sort out my student finance for next year and have quite a lack of general life skills!)
They reached out to hold the card, but I said could they just look from there, moving the card slightly out of their reach. I knew that they wouldn’t wash their hands after touching the card and money, so I didn’t want them holding it. I didn’t explain this to them, I just sort of awkwardly looked at them, hoping they would just tell me which number was the right one.
But then they looked back, smirked and said; ‘Oh, stop being a germ freak.’
I don’t think any harm was meant by it, but even writing about it now, I feel myself getting upset. Upset that something that controls my life could be trivialised like that. Upset that someone who knew about my fear would even try and make it into a joke. And upset that even after two hours of not speaking after the incident, they haven’t even realised that they have hurt my feelings.
Some of me thinks that I’m overreacting, but at the same time, I do question whether another long term illness would be made into a joke like that? I think it also stings a little more that they know me really well and know what an affect it has had on my life, but still feel that it is ok to say that?
I think mental illness can be seen as the deficit of a person, and all too easily it can be used as that one thing that a non sufferer can have the ‘upper hand’ on as it were. They don’t live in fear or worry, and so can’t relate to the someone who does and the huge upset passing comments like that can have on a sufferer.
Maybe, I should have just passed the card to them, and it was indeed a ‘freakish’ thing to do. But to make fun of it like that, just makes me feel stupid, and suggests that I have control of it and that I am just doing it for a bit of fun?
Or maybe no harm was intended? Maybe it is a result of how mental health is too often being trivialized when stood next to ‘real illnesses’ in media, and that anyone suffering from mental illness is indeed ‘a freak’, or crazy? Even typing that, I feel my head shake and feel quite a lot of resentment towards that ridiculous idea. But times are changing, and mental health is slowly becoming ‘more accepted’ and discussed more freely. But for the time being, maybe I will just to have to stick to being the Germ Freak…
(I put quite a few things in quotes in this post, which I have done to try and write some of the common misconceptions of mental illness, and certainly do not illustrate my own views on the subject.)