Tuesday, January 21, 2014

She Doesn't Want to Look Like a Mental Patient

There is a forum I participate on for people that have had weight loss surgery.  Tonight I read a post from someone that had weight loss surgery several years ago and now has to have surgery again to repair a hernia.  She was advised to wear an abdominal binder afterward and posted to ask for advice about where to get one.  If possible, she said, she would like one that she could wear under her clothes because she doesn't want to look like a mental patient.

Well.  I have been a mental patient.  Many times, in fact.  In many different mental hospitals.  Well, OK, most were not  mental hospitals, they were general hospitals with psychiatric wards, but two of them were psychiatric hospitals.  That's all they did. 

Anyway.  I have been a mental patient and I never wore an abdominal binder of any kind when I was in a mental hospital.  None of the other patients wore abdominal binders, either, as far as I knew.  Which is what I said in my reply to her.

Now, I know what she meant.  She meant that she doesn't want to look odd or abnormal.  She doesn't really think mental patients wear abdominal binders, nor does she think that people might think she is wearing an abdominal binder because she has schizophrenia or PTSD or bipolar disorder.

But... I think she probably thinks mental patients look odd or abnormal.  Or maybe she doesn't just think they look odd or abnormal, maybe she thinks they are odd or abnormal.  If she didn't think that, why would she suggest she would look like a mental patient if she wore an abdominal binder?

Her question had nothing to do with mental health.  Nothing to do with mental illness.  Why stick that little jab in there about how  mental patients are weird?  It was unnecessary.  She probably didn't mean to be cruel, but it is cruel to suggest that mental patients look abnormal.  It is cruel to say she wants to make sure she is never mistaken for one.

Words matter.  They do.

She hasn't replied to my response to her.  We'll see if she does.


  1. Kelly, I think she may have been linking the abdominal binder with a straight jacket. I wouldn't take it personally as I am sure that she meant no harm.

    1. Ah. It didn't occur to me she was thinking of a straight jacket. Do they even use those anymore? I've been in, let's see, ten different psych wards over the last 20 years and I've never seen a single straight jacket. Is that the image people have when then think "mental patient?" Someone in a straight jacket?

      I'm sure she meant no harm. But when people say harmful things without meaning any harm, the fact that their intentions were not harmful doesn't take the sting out of their words. If someone made a racist remark but didn't intend any harm, would you tell an African-American person not to take it personally? Maybe you would, I don't know. But I do take prejudice personally. It is personal. If only more people realized that, our society would be a kinder, gentler place.

    2. I agree with Anonymous' assessment of the situation and the comment was probably incredibly ignorant and thoughtless but meant to be harmless. I understand that you want people to think before they speak and consider the impact of their words to make the world a better place.. I agree, indeed it would. But I think such expectations are unrealistic and give too much credit to the average clueless thoughtless idiot. Brian and I have had many discussions concluding that most people are rageful, hateful, ignorant people who drive like jerks and say stupid things either as an intentional result of their misery or because they are intellectually and socially limited and can't help it. I don't expect most people to be kind or thoughtful and am pleasantly surprised when they are. Its OK to have standards for excellence and a better world but I find that most peoples' self-centeredness prevents them from wanting to make the world a better place through their words or actions.Just my opinion though.