Lynn Browning shares the pain she is challenged with – due, in part, to those who carelessly discriminate and are demonstrating ignorance and stigmatising judgement of others. Despite Lynn volunteering in a shop to help others less fortunate, she wonders if she can return…
Sticks and Stones
One of the few things that I really enjoy, is working in the charity shop. It makes me feel useful for a few hours. I love being out front on the till. I love meeting people and I love the diversity of people that come in. I love the fact that people want to talk to me. Some come in, just for a chat, and never buy anything. Volunteering means that there’s no pressure; I don’t have to be there. The other staff know nothing about my mental health.
They knew I’d had a heart attack because I was off for a while and when I went back they “looked after” me. They still do. If I so much as go to lift something it’s whipped out of my hand at lightening speed! They’ve always been so grateful and welcoming.
I know I’m maybe extra sensitive at the moment, and I know that whenever you get a group of women together there’s always going to be some bitchiness… ha-ha, it’s what women do!
I don’t work out the back very often so I don’t tend to get involved in much of the conversation but last week I was sorting bags of clothes with two of the others. They started talking about a woman who wanted to volunteer and had come into the shop a few times.
One of them said they didn’t like her “because she was weird“. She said she was “horrible and obviously had mental health problems“. I said that maybe she just wasn’t a very nice person. She answered with “well that’s the same difference isn’t it?“.
I didn’t answer. I just kept quiet. I was horrified that someone would so blatantly imply that anyone with a mental health problem was not a very nice person. I couldn’t believe that someone who is supposedly caring, and doing a job where the whole ethos is to help people, could be so damning.
It’s not the first time she’s made comments about people’s mental health or joked about it. She once told a customer they’d rescued me from the “mental hospital”! I normally just take it with a pinch of salt but this time it seemed to cut deep. So now I am so upset because, yet again, something good has been spoilt. I can’t stop thinking about it. I wonder if I’d be treated differently if they knew about my bipolar. I don’t know if I want to go back.
The trouble, with me, is I often take what people say, personally. I can remember comments people have made, word for word, even from years ago and I just can’t forget what was said. Whoever said words can’t hurt you was wrong.
I remember being told to be quiet because I was “just a silly little girl” by one of my Mums friends for trying to join in an adult conversation. I can remember it so vividly. I can remember feeling so stupid. I was only about 9 or 10. It’s strange how things just stick in your mind.
I often do it; I go over and over the same conversation in my head. I obsess over every word. It gets to a point where I can’t concentrate on anything else. The same word or phrase just takes over and I’m definitely more likely to obsess when I’ve been hypomanic. If I’m depressed I tend to blow it all out of proportion and get really upset over something that wouldn’t normally bother me.
I’m sure we’re all guilty of judging people. I’m sure I make jokes about being crazy or mad. I’m sure we all say things without thinking. I guess, even nowadays, mental health is still misunderstood and I guess people are still ignorant. Maybe if I didn’t have bipolar I wouldn’t have even picked up on it?
Maybe when I feel better it won’t bother me so much? Maybe I should have said something? Maybe I should have stuck up for the poor woman instead of just thinking about myself? Maybe I should have spoken out about mental health? Maybe I’m making a mountain out of a molehill?
I chose not to go into the shop this week; I just couldn’t face it. The thought made me feel sick. I’m hoping I’ll feel differently next week.
Additional reading: Bipolar Disorder: A Complicated Disease With Significant Ramifications