silence- lao tzu

If you work in an office, you know how frustrating it is when you need to photocopy an important document and the photocopier is, surprise, jammed again! I was about to write “you would know how temperamental photocopiers could be”, but then I stopped, and looked up the word “temperamental” out of curiosity:

  1. 1:  of, relating to, or arising from temperament :  constitutional <temperamental peculiarities>

  2. 2a :  marked by excessive sensitivity and impulsive mood changes <a temperamental child>b :  unpredictable in behavior or performance <a temperamental computer>

 Examples of temperamental in a sentence 
  1. The actor is known for being temperamental.

  2. The old computer is temperamental.

  3. They divorced due to temperamental differences.

I thought, wow, “the old computer is temperamental”? It sounds strange to assign this type of “human quality” for lack of a better way of putting it to an inanimate object.

Does anyone else see a problem/or feel a little bit…????(insert strong word here) with part 2a of the full definition? Yeah…I know right? Sometimes it’s better not to look these things up…

You’re probably wondering about the title of this blog post. Our photocopiers at work are not always cooperative. A few days ago, someone was asking how to change a setting on the photocopier by my desk and when I went to help her she said, “Oh, this photocopier isn’t working again. It’s being SO BIPOLAR!“. Thankfully I am a great actress and managed to keep my cool and say anything rash and didn’t react. I was thinking, “Are you serious? Does she know what she just said and how stupid that sounds/how little sense that makes/how insulting that is?!?” Someone else came along and fixed the photocopier before I had the chance to actually react, which is a good thing, because given how tired I have been (which means high levels of irritability), it could have turned into a nasty situation.

How many times have we heard people say, “That’s so depressing”, “The weather is so bipolar”, “My OCD is acting up”, “I’m such a germaphobe” or “She looks so anorexic”? This was definitely the first time I heard someone call a photocopier bipolar. It’s never okay to do that. Language matters.

If we can do one small thing to work towards preventing stigma or to educate people about the importance of mental health awareness, let it be to teach them about the power of language.

I am not afraid to say how I feel or what I feel, but there are some situations where it’s not worth getting into a fight over a photocopier. I wasn’t worried about what the photocopier would feel. If it had been a person, it would have been a different story. I am concerned that people use mental illnesses as adjectives and think it’s funny, because this person actually thought she was being witty and/or funny. Like I said, I didn’t react to it, so maybe I sent a message that way, by not reacting.

Sometimes when someone really picks on you, the best “revenge” is not to react, because it shows that whatever he or she is saying/doing really doesn’t bother you. Am I being stronger by not reacting to this ignorant remark?

I highly doubt it would be worth my time to educate some of these people at work how insulting it is to use mental illnesses as adjectives and why stigma is dangerous. I do believe stigma is dangerous because it prevents people from seeking treatment and from being their true selves. I also believe that “you can’t fix stupid” (as harsh as that sounds), so some people are not just worth your time/effort. Save it for when it counts.

But, if you do think you can educate even one person and make that slight difference, go for it. Tell it like it is – if you haven’t noticed, I certainly do! Change the conversation. Then that person can change the conversation too and pay it forward. I blog for myself, because it’s therapeutic, but also to tell my story and share my experiences in the hope that someone will gain the courage to tell his or her story and learn how empowering it is – and Healthy Minds Canada is a great platform for telling your story!

vernon howard- sheep

About Melanie Luxenberg

My name is Melanie Luxenberg and I am finally ready to live openly with mental illness. I was first diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder in 2003, which I still experience. At the same time, I was diagnosed with Social Anxiety (which I also still experience), and then briefly experienced Agoraphobia. I have had depression on and off since I was 13 years old. In July 2010 I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder II. Shortly after it was realized that I experienced rapid cycling. I can experience multiple cycles in a week. Despite my diagnosis, I completed a university degree and then a college program. I have always held stable employment, regularly taken my medication and regularly attended my doctor’s appointments. There have been times of hopelessness, but I have always found support from my family, husband and 3 dogs. I am a law clerk, social media/content writer and of course, mental health advocate. My Twitter feed is full of mental health advocacy messages. I hope one day to see the end of stigma towards mental illness, because stigma has to stop!

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