Monday, July 13, 2009

Does Illness make you selfish?

I've been a bad blogger recently I apologise not posting or reading as much as I should or would like but truth is the first half of the year has been a funny one for me, in and out of hospital these last few months out of work changing care workers and just trying as we all do to find that something be it meds or counselling or some other Ephiphany that will give us some quality of life.(still searching)

Now that I have been reflecting on my time in hospital, namely the fact that in the last five months I spent nine weeks there and was admitted three times. I have started to thinking the effect this has had on the people close to me for the first time.
Whilst I was in hospital dancing on window ledges, climbing room divides, getting restrained, laughing, joking, sometimes shouting and running off the wards I didn't think about how my partner or mum and siblings would feel about this. Does this make me selfish?

My Mum never knew I was ill until I was admitted in March, she knew I was a bit down but not anything warranting hospital, and never a lifelong disorder like Bipolar. To go from not knowing anything to being told your daughter was recued from top of multi storey car park is hard hitting. I later found out she cried for three days. My sister along side her. How could they have missed this. I had always been the one they came to the strong perfect one. Always taking everything on the chin, happy, easy going. They thought.

My Partner knew about all the suicide attempts he has been with all the crap over the past few years so was not as much of a shock. Still doesnt prepare you for your girlfriend ringing you to pick uo your son becuase she in a cell under a section 136 for the third time in two weeks. He not really knowing much about mental health and such assumed I was going to get carted off to a specific mental hospital for months to years. Having to make decisions as to whether I should be sectioned up to six months or not, whilst being told by social workers the wrong decision could be fatal is a tough one. Having to bring me clothes and leave me in those places. Having your son ask for mummy but not be old enough to explain what was going on to.

I never really considered this. In my eyes. All I could see was the injustice of being locked up and thats why I escaped the ward twice, tried to leave another 2 times, and asked to leave nearly every day. I had to endure 24 hour days with little to do. Poor hospital food and sometimes frightening company so I had it worse right? That's all I could think of.

So I think Illness doesn't necessarily make us selfish, that sounds a little harsh, but what it does do is make us very short sighted at times, so we can only really see the difficulties in front of us as we experience them in the throws of a particular episode etc. And we forget what we are doing to other people. Every action has a consequence not just for ourselves but those around.


Abysmal Musings said...

Hi La-reve, great to see you posting.

I think the whole normal definition of selfish goes out of the window during the most difficult times. Sometimes when the self is exploding, selfishness is the only survival mechanism. I don't mean this in a moral or ethical way - just in a shit happens sort of way.

In more sedate words, I think one ends up having no choice but to inhabit ourselves as well as one can - we need the luxury of being at least half-within our own skins before we can properly account for others.

I found this post moving. It brought back a lot of memories, and I have gone round and round thinking about the selfish thing. The point is, back then, I was incapable of realising that my behaviour was selfish.

When I felt better I thought "How could I have been so selfish!" and then felt so bad etc etc.

But I was not in a fit state to even recognise that I was odd for much of my 'selfish' time.

It's a bummer - but there is only so much one can beat oneself up.

I hope you're not.

In answer to the question, yes it can, in the practical sense. But morals and ethics are out the window in this argument.

Take care, Dx

Abysmal Musings said...


And I won't ever forgive myself for trying to kill myself. Even though I don't think I was capable of seeing the wider, more selfless picture, ie my family. I don't blame myself, but can't forgive myself. That's just me.

I think it has helped me avoid thinking down that route since - because I won't relax over it - because I'm angry with myself about it. It's a defense mechanism.

p.p.s. On a completely unrelated note - I saw that jug go in a kiln today, the lid go on, and the heat started. I meant it a month ago - it's yours when it comes out the other end. Dx :-)

Mandy said...

Morning Lareve

When I saw that question my responses was Yes and No and yes and no....etc.

Illness can be very self absorbing...and some people appear to be more selfish than others when they are ill. Then again some people seem more capable when they are ill than others.

There times when I feel very selfish and I think I act in selfish ways (I would call them self protection but from the outside it would appear selfish).

I am not making excuses because i think people are a very selfish species and capitalist societies do little to encourage otherwise. However, getting off politics and into the reality of does eat away at a person. There, for me, are constant internal fights for survival. Some days I am much more together than others...some days I am more able than others....and my actions change in accordance with my mental states but I often feel selfish because I think I should be able to overcome the illness and 'get on with things' (alot more than I do).

Being a parent/carer adds another angle to this because I was neglectful of my child and sometime my Mum and some would say now my Dad.Back then, I would say that multi demands on one person, in themselves, can knock people off kilter. I got my priorities totally wrong when my daugher was little and my only defence is I didn't know what else to do. MH services gave me no advice or support in regards to dealing with the complex needs in my short it all went boobs akimbo.

In regards to you, your comment about your family not having any idea you were ill,... That has made me think of 2 things. The first being that perhaps families accommodate illness...behaviours and moods... and so how are person is (in their varying states) is seen as 'normal'. Just a thought and I think that depends on the family and how it works. Or it could be that family members don't want to see the illness. These are not personal comments..only thoughts from the peripheries.

I think shock plays a part..when a person goes from coping to not coping (there is some big shift) that becomes evident to all. The first time I went into acute care, my Dad drove me to the hospital. We both sat in silence as he drove and he walked round the unit with me and a nurse. Then I was left to sort my bit and bobs out and he was taken off to a room where the nurse talked to him about me being there.

Later the nurse told me that he had cried. I think that was a very human thing to do. It did make me realise what a big thing it was for my family, that I was in a loony bin but also I think he was sad that it had gone that far.

Such is life though. You can't always put the brakes on before the car has spun out of control. Although as time goes by, you either learn or just keep finding out where the triggers come from. The ones that send you spinning. Well, that is another theory. Ha! ha!

For me the bottom line is that people with mental illness are no more selfish than people who don't have it..and actually with or without illness people are individuals and how selfish someone is depends on the indidivual.


Anonymous said...

Its great to see you posting again. I think that when you are ill you do what ever you need to make things feel better, be more in control, for hope in the future. When times are like this being selfish is not an issue. Hannah x

La-reve said...

Thanks for comments everyone

Yes I think being selfish is ok sometimes or not that it is ok in so much as it is needed and is the only thing to be. x