“Sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt Me.” is a little ditty that I have not and will not sing or say to my children — not ever. I understand the context of this children’s rhyme and the effect that it is supposed to have, throwing it out there is saying that the taunt has no effect and I’m choosing to ignore it and remain calm. While I agree with teaching my children to remain calm in situations where bullying can be present, this rhyme does absolutely nothing for their confidence and self-esteem because in reality it’s a lie — words hurt.
I have said a lot of hurtful words to people, self-talk included, and they sting for a very long time. The thing about words is that once they’re out there you can’t take them back, you can back peddle and apologize until you’re blue in the face, but sometimes in the heat of the moment, vile things fly right past your filter and a whole can of sludge has just escaped your mouth. Remember that blog on conflict that I wrote? You can refresh here, as I need to do. But like anything, we can choose to behave and react in a way that is healthy rather than slinging mud at each other. Confession time, I slung a bunch of mud just last night and I feel filthy for it. While I believed I was completely justified in doing so (no one is ever justified in hurting someone else) the second the words were out of my mouth I wanted to take them back, and I couldn’t.
To be perfectly honest while I am obviously upset by how I reacted, it was childish, hurtful and low, I am more upset by what the other person took away from my outburst. This is just a little sampling of what I heard in response to my very valid points that were delivered, albeit in a very poor and unflattering way:
Are you off your meds?
Don’t you think you should call your doctor?
Maybe you should go back to the hospital.
I don’t need to listen to anything you say; you’re obviously having an episode.
Why are you blaming your bipolar on everyone else?
Without getting into details of the conversation in which I chose to use hurtful language, not a single thing was mentioned about my illness, medications, doctors or any of the above. The argument was very valid and expressed concerns about this person and their behaviour, unfortunately my choice of language trumped the initial conversation and the person to whom I was yelling at chose to take the responsibility off of themselves and lay it onto me by flipping it, and I take full responsibility for giving that person the opportunity to do so. What may just have been a moment to dig deep and hit the bottom of an issue that has been flourishing in an unhealthy manner for quite sometime, took a complete 180° turn and now has a very slim chance of being resolved any time soon.
The kicker here is that while on one hand I want to apologize for my behaviour, while still getting the initial point across as well, I am so upset by the words that were thrown back into my face. This was a lose-lose situation all around, one that I take responsibility for. My words hurt someone and in their defence they hit low to hurt back, using my illness against me. My bad behaviour had absolutely nothing to do with my illness and everything to do with my choice to react. While I have to obviously work on my reactions, and overreactions, let this be a lesson to those of you who would choose to throw someone’s illness in their face.
- I’m not excusing our behaviour but we’re human and sometimes we make mistakes that have nothing to do with mental illness, just like you do.
- Stop telling us that if we have a bad day or overreact to a situation that we’re having an “episode” because when you have a bad day or overreact to something, we don’t blame that on some kind of circumstance out of your control.
- If we are in a bad mood, stop asking if we’ve gone off of our medications, we’re entitled to a bad mood once-in-a-while too, same as you.
- Quit telling us to go to the hospital if we find reasons to disagree with you or stand up for ourselves, we do still have our own minds, ideas and beliefs.
Look, I will make a promise to behave better and act like an adult instead of a child throwing a tantrum, but I need you to stop playing the mental illness card when you don’t like something I have to say. Deal?