Ok. So someone said something to me the other day which I found inappropriate and hurtful. I felt my reaction was justified and would be no different than would be expected of anyone else. But no, their response was “you are obviously not well”.
It got me thinking, how many of you experience this same situation? When are our responses irrational and unjustified and when are our responses fully justified, but the other person is blaming our illness because they have no insight into their own inappropriate behaviour? Because God forbid they would be in the wrong.
I have found that following a situation like this I analyse my behaviour, motives, words used, tone of voice, body language and second guess everything I did. This in turn undermines my confidence in my ability to stand up for myself appropriately in the future. I question ‘what is me and what is my illness?’
The thing about interactions like this is that if there is no witness to them, you have no one to seek impartial feedback from. If you speak to someone else about it, you are telling the story from your own perspective, which will convey your hurt and dismay and your sense of being a victim in the situation. How does the one you are discussing it with respond appropriately when they only have one side of the story? What are you seeking when you discuss the situation with someone else? Are you looking for frank, constructive feedback or validation for your response to the distressing interaction that occurred?
I don’t know about you, but when I try to convey a situation that has occurred where I feel unjustly judged and my illness is blamed for my reaction, I can’t just relay it as a story. I relive it, my emotions, tone of voice, body language, volume and inflection, mimic that which occurred, from my perspective. My retelling of what the other person said has inflections on my tone of voice, etc, of what I perceived to be that of the other person during the interaction. But is my retelling factual and a true representation? Was I unwell and my retelling is skewed because my perception of the interaction is impacted by my state of mind at the time?
My go to people to raise and analyse interactions that distress me are my darling husband WallE and my daughter Liv. Now Liv, having Bipolar herself, gets the relived version, then typically provides me with the validation I need from my victim status and we bounce around ideas and strategies for future distressing interactions. Then, and only then, do I raise and share the details of the interaction with WallE. If I start to relive the distress experienced during the interaction, he will say ‘just tell me the story Nicci, leave the emotions out’. This is extremely frustrating at the time. However, having received the validation I need from Liv to soothe the soul, I can then, mostly, portray the interaction from a clinical perspective.
From there WallE and I analyse the interaction as if it occurred between two other people. WallE, at my request, probes to get more in depth details, which usually assists me in seeing the interaction from a different perspective and he is honest with me about the interaction from his perspective. Sometimes it works out that my reaction was an over-reaction and others I was more than justified to feel hurt, offended, etc.
The crux is that I cannot go back and change what occurred, but I can learn from it; I can gain further insight into myself. I have learnt to accept that sometimes my illness is to blame for my reaction, but most times it is not. Also, that if this type of interaction frequently occurs with a specific person and opening the problem up for discussion in a neutral, non-threatening environment does not work, I have to accept that some people won’t change or take responsibility for their behaviours. It is not my job to educate those who do not want to be educated or change them. I lower my expectations of them and basically tell myself it is their problem and action self-care by walking away when they start the blame game. It is a very hard strategy to learn, but I have to for self-preservation.
Conversely, if I do find that my reaction was inappropriate, I make a point of speaking with the person, apologising and explaining what I experienced when they said what they said. I don’t use my illness as an excuse, I accept responsibility for it and explain my perception of the interaction and how it triggered me into reacting the way it did. I own it and apologise.