adj. (of people or their feelings or behaviour) Angry, hurt, or resentful because of one’s bad experiences or a sense of unjust treatment.
Yeah, maybe it is super cheesy to start with a definition, but I’m doing it anyway. And, looking at that definition, I’m wondering if I even need to explain why I’m bitter… (Though I will.) When you’re looking for mental health support, it is unfortunately really likely that you’ll come out of it feeling angry, hurt, or resentful — hey, maybe even all three!
The truth is, it’s not easy to talk about mental health, but once you do, it can be even harder to live with, and seek treatment for, a mental illness. Above and beyond the standard difficulty of fighting my mental illnesses, I’ve also had to fight for the treatment that I deserve.
Seeking Help for Mental Illness
I’ve fought past dismissive clinicians and done my own research to find programs, only to end up on a months-long waitlist for a program that only barely fits the bill. Or, if there’s no waitlist, the program is bound to cost me an arm and a leg. My (discounted) private therapy on its own is over $400 per month!
Plus, my family doctor once told me that she didn’t feel comfortable treating one of my disorders because she’d never treated anyone with it before. Only, neither she nor I can find a psychiatrist that will take me on as an ongoing patient because there is such a shortage of them.
Unfortunately, thanks to my mental health, I’m not able to work at the moment. And while I wait for a decision on my application for disability support, I’m on Ontario Works — my province’s social welfare program — but it doesn’t provide nearly enough support for me and I’m forced to rely on my dad. I’m lucky that he’s willing and able to help me — I don’t even know where I’d be without him.
Welfare doesn’t cover my therapy, hell, it doesn’t even cover my basic cost of living — the maximum they hand out for that is $337 per month. Welfare also doesn’t cover my most expensive medication, which costs me about $100 per month.
And as if all of that weren’t enough, once I became a psychiatric patient, my concerns started holding less weight and I lost all respect. Even more, when I was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder, my psych notes went even further awry, from ‘confused and overwhelmed’ to ‘uncooperative and argumentative.’
Who wouldn’t be angry about that? All I did was get sick — it isn’t my fault — despite the stigma that says it is.
Stigmatization of Mental Illness
The strongest voice trying to convince me that I’ve done something to deserve this has always been my own. Well, maybe not my own, but it sure sounds like mine — it’s the illness. Self-stigma is a big problem for me, it’s often the first voice that I have to fight away. All the stigma that I’ve heard and experienced over the years has become internalized and now I struggle on two fronts: my brain and the world.
As practiced as I am at telling my story and being open online, the moment that I have to ‘come out’ as mentally ill, I feel the fear start to bubble up in my stomach. Because it’s not just as simple as having the courage to say it out loud — now I have to deal with different treatment.
Now that I’m the crazy one, I’m not taken as seriously, I’m shown less respect, and now discussion of my emotions are fair game. I once had a boss tell me not to be so emotional because it made me seem “less approachable.” (And honestly, I wasn’t really that emotional.)
So, I’m reluctant to ask for help when I need it and I’m often in a worse place when I do open up. My emotions can scare me, but when others also act like they’re not okay, then it just hurts.
Recovery (and Comparing It to Others’)
I wrote about this element and its influence in starting my blog over on my about page. My ‘recovery’ has been long, it’s been hard, and it’s nowhere near over. And when I have constant questions about ‘Why me?’ in my head and no answers, what am I supposed to do?
Sure, I try and convince myself that it’s just at random, or it’s genetic, or any other reason that I come up with that day. But in my worst moments, I don’t believe it; I resent that it’s me that has to bear this burden.
Especially when I watch other people recovering quicker. I think I covered it well on my about page:
In the last three years, I’ve crashed and burned half a dozen times and I’ve had to take time off school, leave jobs, end relationships, visit hospitals, and eventually drop out. But all she had to do was defer her exams for a month, move home for the summer, and now she’s back to life again. So, why is it her story and not mine?
My illness seemed hellbent on using her blog to bring me down. I’ll admit, it did work for a while. I was upset that the story being told was her relatively short and easy recovery. Would other people now expect for this to be the case all the time? I’ve already dealt with people surprised or offended that I wasn’t getting better fast enough, was there now going to be even more? I’ve been sitting, and stewing, and struggling, and fighting tooth and nail for over three years and here she was, after eight months, with seemingly all the answers and all of the audience, and all of the love and support.
To me, she was so lucky and I was so bitter. She had the privilege to not be scared, not doubt herself so much, and, most importantly, to get better. That was the root of it all: why couldn’t I just get better? Why does she get to move forward, and I’m stuck here, in the same spot I’ve been for three whole years?
Now, that’s not a fair comparison. Lives can’t be measured one to one, and neither can mental health or recovery. But in my pure, instinctual moments? I’m resentful. I’m mad that it’s them and not me. I’m hurt that I can’t feel okay again.
So, when it comes to my insanity, I’m angry that it’s so hard to seek help; I’m hurt by the stigma imposed on me by myself and the world; and I’m resentful that my recovery is moving so painfully slow. That’s all three. I’m officially bitter about my insanity.