I’ve been re-running these Prozac Palace posts with the hope that those who need to read them will find them. It’s occurred to me that readers may wish to comment, but not know what to say. You’re under no obligation to say anything at any time.
If you want to but are at a loss, may I suggest this simple phrase: I read it.
From Friday, May 4, 2007
"She can’t help it."
I heard that remark many times over the years. Once my sister was declared mentally ill then no matter what she did this was offered as the reason. I don’t buy it. Not totally anyway.
She’d never had to take responsibility for her actions when she was sane. Later, having insanity to fall back on made for a lovely soft landing.
Regular people who have limited experience with the mentally ill will often believe that the mentally ill just need a bit of discipline, a bit of order in their lives, and they’ll be fine.
It’s an absurd statement, but it may not be entirely incorrect.
I can only speak for what I saw in my sister’s case. If she’d learned personal discipline and had been made to take responsibility for her actions earlier it may have made a difference. If nothing else, it might have taken her longer to decide the blame for the injustices of her life rests with everyone else.
That’s an aside to my point. What I suggest is she can help herself to a degree. Let me explain.
I agree that she cannot help being mentally ill any more than another can be blamed for being physically ill. But when my sister flat out refuses to take her medication it becomes a different game. She can help it. The help is right in front of her; she is simply choosing to ignore it. She takes the meds, feels better, then decides she’s fine and doesn’t need them anymore. It’s a familiar pattern and hardly exclusive to her.
I think there are times she is scared to take her medication. Usually they come about when she’s been off them a while. Perhaps she can’t help coming to that conclusion, but she still made the decision to stop the medication. She can help that. She can help herself. It’s entirely in her control.
Saying she cannot help it simply feeds her. It provides her with a wonderful excuse to not do anything. Saying that mentally ill people can’t help how they are is as much an excuse for inaction from us as it is from them. Some behaviors can be altered and controlled. The excuse we give for them is really an excuse for the rest of us to turn our backs and walk away.
“They can’t help it” easily becomes “they can’t be helped.”
And that is wrong.