Obey Me or I’ll Kill Myself
Understanding crybullies and the people letting them die
We talk a lot about mental health. One can hardly pass by a waiting room television without copping the solemn admonishment of “we need to talk about mental health more” from the nodding heads of a midday discussion panel. We keep talking about it, and we keep saying we need to talk about it more, and we’re still not very well. The more we seem to talk about mental health, the worse it seems to get. Now, that may sound like incredibly regressive thinking. You may be hesitant to read on. Unfortunately for you, however, I’m in a vulnerable space right now and it is critical for my safety that you read on, or risk invalidating my existence.
That’s right, I’m setting boundaries.
You, the reader, are now trapped in a sarcophagus of unearned guilt. You hold my life in your hands, and therefore, as a consequence, I hold power over you. As long as we both choose to remain in this social realm, wherein my perspective of my needs is the default penultimate priority, your moral duty is to balance on the knife edge of my ultimately unpredictable condition. Think of my psychological wellness as a sort of social and political Sword of Damocles, ready to slice down upon your head, should my needs be insufficiently considered.
“But what about my mental health?”, I hear you meekly ask. Well, frankly, if your mental health was so important, you would have brought it up when you first started reading this article. The fact that you didn’t, the fact that it only seemed important enough for you to bring up your mental health, once I started setting my boundaries, indicates that you’re really quite a toxic person and probably a narcissistic personality type.
Okay, let’s stop here for a moment.
Let’s call that persona the ‘mental health crybully’. Once armed with therapy-speak and unleashed upon the world, the crybully invokes their own peril at will. However, the crybully isn’t usually a liar. They usually do indeed have fairly severe emotional problems. The modern politics of therapy, however, are not equipped to support them. Real therapy challenges the ways we view ourselves, the world and those around us. It empowers, by teaching us to recognise our own accountability, to change what we can and accept what we can't. It doesn’t reinforce our toxic beliefs, it identifies and exposes them. Instead, the crybully mentality has us retreat into a purely reactive stance, where our mental health is a static object which the world itself must warp around. We further insulate ourselves from help by declaring any challenge to our unhealthy worldview an ‘invalidation’ tantamount to goading us into suicide.
Put another way, there isn’t much wiggle room in ‘obey me or I’ll kill myself’. So, when even acknowledging an illness is a social faux pas, our only remaining option is to instead affirm it. The crybullies are told that they must be accepted just the way they are, and that their mental health hinges precariously on that acceptance. Whilst its unkind to tell an emotionally stable person that they’re one poorly-phrased comment away from triggering an onslaught of self-harm, its an even greater unkindness to tell an emotionally unstable person that their very will to exist hinges on the whim of public perception and progressive policy. In short, the crybullies really do need our support, but their political representation instead offers the placating blanket of affirmation.
And also death.
Earlier this year, a Canadian hospital told a suicidal woman that the system is ‘broken’, warned her of long wait periods, and asked her if she had considered MAiD – Medical Assistance in Dying. Offering suicide to the suicidal is a fiercely pragmatic approach to mental health management, I must admit. However, marketing death as a ‘solution’ strays into the darkly unethical when we lose the will to first even try to help those coming to us in need. For a problem to have a medical solution, the implication is that it has a medical cause. We don’t offer heart surgery for heartbreak, nor lobotomy for stress headaches, and yet, we can be caught championing medically-induced death as an antidote for suicidal ideation and suggesting surgery as the ultimate solution for gender dysphoria. We are casting the definitional net of ‘a mental health problem’ wider than ever before, while simultaneously rebranding last century’s malpractice as this century’s empathy.
And Canada is leading the charge.
Prime Minister Trudeau claims to believe that, ‘trans kids need to feel safe’. But if transsexuals are as suicidal as the statistics indicate, why then, is his administration also widening the eligibility criteria for voluntary medical death to include mental illness? Is offering suicide to the suicidal an affirmation of their identity? Is that what it means to be ‘affirmed’? Are we so incapacitated with the guilt put forth by mentally ill crybullies that we can’t even stop them from committing suicide for fear of invalidating their lived experiences? The argument comes to mind, that perhaps lived experiences don’t count for much once a heart stops beating.
Of course, this isn’t just limited to the Canadian government’s death squad alumni. Right now, you can buy a t-shirt online that says ‘This Barbie Takes Lexapro’ for $17.95, presumably inspired by this viral thread, captioned ‘for all the medicated barbies out there’. It is at least slightly alarming that we’re imbuing coping mechanisms with pop culture stylings enough that companies are printing them on t-shirts for profit. The lasting identity of Gen Z girls resembles a stew of pharmacology and pink-or-goth-styled consumerism, and we owe it to them to figure out why. It seems that we’ve tied identity and mental health into a knot so tight that we can’t tell one from the other.
Western society can’t separate a disorder from an identity.
Nowhere is this clearer than in the case of the aforementioned affirmation. An affirmation doesn’t just soothe. Entrenched in an affirmation is a statement on reality, a reality where we hand the keys over to the patient and let them decide whether their disorder is a disorder or not, depending on whether it fits into their current identity. It begs the question – when exactly do we stop being something to be accepted, and instead become something to be reformed? When do our mental derivations cross the threshold from an endearing eccentricity to a psychiatric episode? There isn’t any objective answer, because this is a question of worldview. That’s why mental health is so political. The definition of our worldview is the culture war.
To define mental health, is to define reality.
This goes beyond simply the lives of crybullies. While it’s clear that politics has corrupted mental health discussion, this warped version of mental health is in turn pathologising every other aspect of life. The fragile crybullies are just a symptom of this shift. From an individual, ‘obey me or I’ll kill myself’ is a cry for help. From a society, however, it signals the end of our shared reality. For debate to exist, for healthy disagreement to exist, we need a shared intellectual foundation. That can’t exist in the self-care society, where the whole world is filtered through a pathological lens. When the political becomes clinical, and the marketplace of ideas is converted into a psych ward, we put the foundations of reality in the hands of academic ideologues. Consider the pandemic, for example, and the various dissertations on ‘vaccine hesitancy’ – emphasis mine:
When we compared the early life histories of those who were vaccine resistant to those who were not, we found many vaccine-resistant adults had histories of adverse experiences during childhood, including abuse, maltreatment, deprivation or neglect, or having an alcoholic parent. These experiences would have made their childhood unpredictable and contributed to a lifelong legacy of mistrust in authorities, as well as seeding the belief that “when the proverbial hits the fan you’re on your own”. […] The resistant group also described themselves as non-conformists who valued personal freedom and self-reliance over following social norms.
Vaccine resistance has its roots in negative childhood experiences, a major study finds
The Conversation (2022)
Describing your political opponents as traumatised and maladjusted might sound like an exercise in compassion, but there is an immense power in this dismissal. The moment we can comfortably rule rational reactions to irregular situations as simply the behaviour of mental defectives, we’re then free to kindly dispose of those people in whatever way we consider most humane. Historically, this meant different things at different times, often institutionalising men and lobotomising ‘hysterical’ women in droves. While a preoccupation with the mental health of others certainly implies a moral footing, tragically, it far from ensures it. Our compassion for ourselves cannot come at the cost of our compassion for others, and our compassion for others cannot come at the expense of their freedom or dignity.
For this reason, the cybullies are never truly cared for. They must stay damaged, helpless and perpetually traumatised by the inane, because that state of vulnerability keeps them dependent on their ideologically-aligned structures of power. If the crybullies ever learned effective self-determination, they would collapse as a reliable constituency. If they ever adopted ‘personal freedom and self-reliance' as the pillars of their identity, they would swiftly switch from the constantly affirmed to the compassionately institutionalised. In the self-care society, only identities which disempower oneself are permitted to flourish.
Put simply, the mental health culture war is a fight over who gets to deny our agency and for what reason. No institutional power, whatever their rhetoric, will ever truly reject these tactics, for fear and dependency are the greatest recruitment tools available. Contrary to the claims of pundits and bureaucrats alike, our mental health is not in a ballot box.
Our sanity is ours to defend.
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