In an effort to find peace within myself and build understanding about living with mental illness for others, I’m trying not to judge, but to realize there are two sides to every story. I want to show how some otherwise good people hurt me, but I also want to show what caused that to happen.

The hurting started soon after I retired from my group. The understanding I was left with was that I couldn’t come back to attend as a peer. Although I was doing poorly emotionally—the beginnings of dementia suspected—I had no group to support me. What I needed was care and compassion, but I, who had cared for so many, did not receive any for myself.

There were meetings about the future of the group. (I believe about me as well) Those involved treated me alike—with impatience and irritation, in some cases disrespectfully. The message I got was that the group I had, out of love, founded nine years earlier, was no longer my business. When I had questions I was pushed away. All of a sudden, I had become a nonentity.

I knew I had the wisdom to create the philosophy that had made the group work all these years—philosophy that had been adopted by many other groups. Yet I was not conferred with when changes were considered. All was kept secret from me. All I had passed on to my successor was the facilitation of the group. But more was being taken over than agreed on. I felt like the most important thing I had ever done was stolen.  My legacy. The rug pulled out from under me.

I’m determined not to judge, though you can imagine the pain and anger I must have felt as a person who was already doing poorly. What happened here was discrimination.

When you’re discriminated against, you are robbed of your rights to live among others and be treated like others. Your self-esteem suffers. You might feel worthless, no longer feeling you have a reason to live.

In my case, I was no longer treated as the valued individual I once was. Was my behavior as bad as all that?

Discrimination causes emotional pain and feelings of shame and guilt. The pain is often worse than the effects of the illness itself. No one should have to deal with this. In the same way people with physical illness are not blamed for what they live with, we should not be blamed either.

And yet, so many well-meaning members of the community unintentionally set those with mental illness apart as different. They might treat them unfairly without realizing it.

I’m hoping these writings will improve awareness. And I’m hoping I’ll come to better understand where my pain comes from.

marja