What if we treated every illness the way we treat mental illness?

This is pretty powerful.

I’m up and down right now.  I thought I was doing a lot better this weekend, but today has been very difficult.  I’ll write more on it later.

I want to write when I’m in the middle of a downturn because I want people to get a glimpse into what it’s like for somebody who, for the most part (I hope), has his shit together.  Writing comes hard at the moment, though.  I’ll do the best I can.

MENTAL ILLNESS & PERSONAL: Pictures of my brain.
MENTAL ILLNESS: Time to go be a lab rat.
MENTAL ILLNESS: I see affection as a competition.
MENTAL ILLNESS: Today's session.
About JT Eberhard

When not defending the planet from inevitable apocalypse at the rotting hands of the undead, JT is a writer and public speaker about atheism, gay rights, and more. He spent two and a half years with the Secular Student Alliance as their first high school organizer. During that time he built the SSA’s high school program and oversaw the development of groups nationwide. JT is also the co-founder of the popular Skepticon conference and served as the events lead organizer during its first three years.

  • Azkyroth, Former Growing Toaster Oven

    I don’t know. I’ve suffered enough due to the actions of mentally ill people and had “I’M JUST SICK, I CAN’T HELP IT!” brandished at me too many times to be comfortable with this sort of unqualified comparison.

    • Makoto

      Just have to ask for some examples here. What actions from what kinds of mentally ill people are you complaining about?

      Were they asking for the day off because they were having a mental health issue (kind of like how I had to ask for days off because my chemo was making me too sick to come into work when I had cancer), or are you speaking in some kind of general sense?

      • Azkyroth, Former Growing Toaster Oven

        See below.

        • Makoto

          I’m sorry that you endured that, but drunk driving happens with every walk of life – mentally ill, cancerous, “normal”, other, and most make excuses for their actions.

          I hope your children are okay, yet driving drunk with your children in the car has little to do with the mental illnesses of this comic, except perhaps for alcoholism, which is a fair bit different considering the context.

          If that’s the limitation you wish to add, I support it, along with other drug-related limits, since I don’t want anyone driving while under the influence of LSD or other drugs, either.

    • A ‘Nym Too

      I’ve had experience of people with ASD being rude, insufferable arseholes and blaming their disorder.

      Does that mean I should extrapolate this to all people with ASD? Should I avoid and ignore them as a result?

      A few men have hurt me. I’ve been physically, sexually and emotionally abused by them.

      Should I chuck all men into the same dustbin as a result?

      It’s not about you azkyroth. Someone is suffering and trying to reach out. Don’t turn that into an opportunity to complain about the time someone with characteristic X was mean to you.. It’s a douchebag move.

      • Azkyroth, Former Growing Toaster Oven

        Where did I say anything that this is remotely comparable to? I said I’m uncomfortable with the blanket statement that mental illness is no different from physical illness.

        No shit it’s not about me, you’re responding to some puerile stereotype you’ve synthesized, not anything I actually said.

    • Anonymous

      I’m curious if you would say this to someone who was getting treatment for cancer that made them puke, and they accidentally puked all over your floor, and you had to clean it up because they were too weak to help. It really is the same thing. And the more you realize that, the more you realize that someone isn’t actually out to hurt you, and it’s easier to sympathize with whatever crap is going on in their head. Yeah…definately not cool. No one wants to have a mental illness.

      • Azkyroth, Former Growing Toaster Oven

        Find me a case of cancer causing someone to drive drunk with my child in the car and you’ll have a point.

        Otherwise, you can take your idiotic, trivializing presumptions and shove them.

        • A ‘Nym Too

          Brain tumours tend to cause dangerous and erratic behaviour. Traumatic brain injuries can remove inhibition.

          A former co-worker of mine lost her child, when her father decided to take his grandson for a swim in a river. He had undiagnosed Alzheimers-related dementia, that had suddenly worsened.

          Essentially, you’re a bigot, conflating all PWMI with one person who wronged your family.

          The mind is the body is the mind. Cartesian dualism is bullshit, and usually wielded as a stick to beat mentally ill people with. Mental illness *is* a physical problem.

          • Azkyroth, Former Growing Toaster Oven

            I haven’t said a fucking thing about “all people with mental illness” and you damn well know it.

          • Azkyroth, Former Growing Toaster Oven

            The only point I ever made is that claiming “mental illness is just like cancer or heart attacks” is problematic because mental illness can in some cases cause behaviors that severely harm others, and not only does failing to account for this erase genuine victims, it feeds the excuses of people who won’t get help for conditions that cause them to behave in abusive or dangerous ways. Conditions that cause behaviors that make victims of others (including both a subset of mental illnesses and a subset of those cases and, yes, your examples too) ARE different, morally and socially, from the overwhelming majority of cancers.

            Argue with that statement if you want, but I will not be held responsible for this boilerplate shit you’re mindlessly vomiting up.

      • A ‘Nym Too

        This. I’m totally upfront about my physical illnesses, but closeted about the mental ones.

        Why? Two of my friends, one who was my best friend of 15 years (and a counsellor, sadly) and another I loved dearly, fucked me over because of my depression, ED, and suicidality.

        The last straw was when I had to be taken to the emergency dept. after my shunt stopped working after I got dangerously dehydrated (norovirus), and they decided to use the wait to stage a mini-intervention over my self harm.

        I cut the best friend out of my life, she had no excuse. The other one is crippled by privilege, so I cut her a little slack, but not after telling her that I was not being mental to spite her, and then avoiding her for over a year.

        It hurts like hell to know I can puke, faint, and bleed on people without reproach, but that crying, getting stressed or frustrated*, or obsessing over things will invite accusations and blame.

        *Doesn’t help that one of my physical illnesses causes emotional lability, due to brain damage.

      • Azkyroth, Former Growing Toaster Oven

        And the more you realize that, the more you realize that someone isn’t actually out to hurt you

        Intent is not magic.

        • A ‘Nym too

          You’re the reason people don’t seek help for their mental illnesses.

          And the sheer neon, visible from Space, GALL you have to wheel out “Intent is not magic”. YOU, who have spent years polluting the internet with your creepy, bigoted shit-dribbles, then screaming “WAH ITS NOT MY FAULT!! I’M AUTISTIC!! YOURE PICKING ON MEEEE!!!!” when you’re called on your crap.

          You’re a pathetic ableist jizzrag. You come to a post about how hard it is to come out and be treated for mental illness, written by a man in the middle of a mental health crisis, and spew “Mentals are dangerous and scary and not ill just selfish”

          What the fuck is wrong with you? While people like you exist, mentally Ill adults and children will continue to be massively overrepresented in the murder statistics, and their killers will remain unpunished

          . People will hide their illness due to the kind of stigma you perpetuate, and they’ll commit suicide, like I tried to, rather than knowing theyll be jud;ged as crazy, irresponsible, malingering wastes of oxygen because their brain chemistry is messed up.

          They’ll self medicate with drugs and alcohol because shame and poverty makes that their only option.


          • Azkyroth, Former Growing Toaster Oven

            ….jesus fuck, who ARE you?

            I don’t recall bringing up my ASD anywhere on FTB until a few months ago, and I’ve been accused of “using it as an excuse” by other commenters maybe once that I remember. I don’t consider that an accurate reading of what I meant to express, though I’ll concede I may have done so badly. In fact, I’ve been fairly closeted about it, precisely because of this sort of reaction. If you’re dragging this out from any venue where I have discussed it…um…holy shit, that’s terrifying.

            I have attempted to make a very narrow point here that is extremely relevant to my own life. You keep ignoring it and attributing some extremely general anti-mental illness attitude to me. That’s not very decent or honest, even ignoring your dehumanizing tone and lack of compassion – simply blowing off an emotional reaction to child endangerment is unforgivable. Frankly, I don’t give a shit if I make people like you uncomfortable.

            I will acknowledge that I have failed to state my objections in an appropriately narrow fashion at times in the past, and since you’re apparently creepily obsessive about my commenting history, your views may be colored like that. I apologize to the decent human beings with mental illnesses I may have inadvertently included in those statements.

          • Azkyroth, Former Growing Toaster Oven

            You come to a post about how hard it is to come out and be treated for mental illness, written by a man in the middle of a mental health crisis, and spew “Mentals are dangerous and scary and not ill just selfish”

            This is not only “not my intention” is is objectively not what I said. I apologize to anyone who honestly got that impression from what I did post…though I remain extremely cynical regarding the possibility of that.

    • JediBear

      May I humbly suggest that you’ve mistaken the argument the cartoon is presenting?

      It’s not being implied that all behaviors caused by mental illness should be excused. Rather, what’s being said is that people with mental illnesses should be extended the same consideration we extend to people with other illnesses.

      • Azkyroth, Former Growing Toaster Oven

        Yeah, I kinda picked that up from JT’s post, part of why I backed off.

      • Azkyroth, Former Growing Toaster Oven

        But, thanks.

  • smrnda

    Thanks for posting this. I’ve been dealing with having schizo-affective disorder for more than 10 years now and though things are better than they used to be, you still get the same old ignorance from time to time.

  • pwillow1

    I’m thinking of you and pulling for you. Hang in there.

  • CC


    I’m glad you’re writing as much as you can. Those of us who follow your blog want to know how you are and how we can support you. Just as importantly, people need to see and understand what it’s like to live with a mental illness. It encourages me every time I see you using this platform to give us a glimpse of what it’s like. Thank you for sharing your experiences.

  • Praedico

    I have mild mental illness (depression and social anxiety) and it took me years to seek help precisely because I’d internalised this attitude.
    “I don’t have real problems, I’d just be wasting people’s time. I just need to suck it up and deal with it.”
    But of course, you can’t just ‘deal with’ mental problems. Even now, I still struggle to shake the feeling that I’m just wasting my therapist’s time. It’s made worse by the fact that I live in the UK and am getting counselling free on the NHS (I’d never be able to afford it otherwise), which is understaffed on the mental health front and has massive waiting lists. So every appointment I feel like I need to just get better already and get out of the way.

    • http://www.facebook.com/septicsceptic thomascaldwell

      Me too. Comment below. I’m sure Social Anxiety is way under reported – maybe just in the US, since a lot of people I’ve known with social anxiety seem to have worse careers than they otherwise might have, since job hunting and career advancement depends a lot on at least basic social skills.

  • CC

    I also want to say I love this because I have seasonal affective disorder (SAD), which often gets made fun of in the media. It burns me up whenever I hear people dismiss SAD as whining. It’s very real and, because of it, I suffer from depression for several months Every Year.

  • http://peopleofpublictransport.wordpress.com Zinc Avenger (Sarcasm Tags 3.0 Compliant)

    @Praedico, #5:

    Same boat, here. The one who tells me to “get over it” more than anyone else is me. I obstruct my own treatment because when I’m down I am naturally disposed to diagnose myself with malingering.

  • http://www.facebook.com/septicsceptic thomascaldwell

    Mental illness is all in your head. I suffer from social anxiety disorder, ADHD, and some depression (the previous 2 are major causes of that). Dog bless! I sometimes do the same thing – it feels like kind of a risk (especially for me w/ S.A.D.) but maybe it will help people understand not just me, but others that might be more close to them.

    • http://www.facebook.com/septicsceptic thomascaldwell

      When I say S.A.D. I mean Social Anxiety Disorder.

  • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com WMDKitty (Always growing and learning)

    @Azkyroth — Wooooow, you are a piece of work. Get OVER yourself, already, and have some fucking SYMPATHY for people who are SUFFERING.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/wwjtd JT Eberhard

      Azkyroth usually leaves good comments and has demonstrated a keen intellect in the past. If he is wrong here (as I believe him to be), you are doing him a disservice by asking him to get over himself, assuming he lacks compassion, and not batting down his reasons.

      Some people understand only an in-your-face approach. I doubt Azkyroth is one of them.

      • Azkyroth, Former Growing Toaster Oven

        There’s a bit of history here. I’ll leave it at that.

      • Azkyroth, Former Growing Toaster Oven

        Some people understand only an in-your-face approach. I doubt Azkyroth is one of them.

        Yeah. Because of a combination of (since I’ve been outed, I might as well be open about it) disability-related difficulty perceiving intent and evaluating my current position relative to social norms, and a combination of maladaptive heuristics and straight-up trauma from an extensive history of bullying and several abusive relationships and friendships, I lean REALLY strongly the other way and tend to lash out if I perceive that (as neutrally as I can put it) another party is trying to make me feel inferior or exert power over me.

        Perhaps this belongs to my category of “conditions that cause behaviors that victimize others.” I’ll have to think on this.

        Regardless, explanations and non-triggering challenges like yours help me learn a lot. Thank you.

        • A ‘Nym Too

          Outed? You’ve made that statement on several blogs in this network (and elsewhere), always in response to being called out on your usual derailing and bigotry.

          You’re a joke. An absolute joke. You cause splash damage to every single person on the spectrum every time you gush out some new, horrifically prejudiced rhetoric, argue in defence of it, and then revert to “Sowwy. I’m not neuwotypical and I di’n’t understand. Fank you for helping meee”

          Yeah Cartman, whatever.

          Meanwhile, the rest of us poor bastards who have to share a diagnosis with you, will be fighting as hard as we can to stay afloat.

          Outed. Oh my Dogs.

          • Azkyroth, Former Growing Toaster Oven

            I should note that statements like the one immediately above are what’s typically referred to as

            when revert to “Sowwy. I’m not neuwotypical and I di’n’t understand. Fank you for helping meee”

            That’s not an honest interpretation.

            What is it you’re asking me to do – lie and say “yes, you’re right, you’re absolutely right, I DO understand social norms and the nuances of what people are saying and I just CHOOSE not to follow them?”

          • Azkyroth, Former Growing Toaster Oven

            Knowing how these things go, I should qualify that. I am aware of expressing myself poorly in the past, and I’m sure anyone sufficiently motivated can find past statements that, if read uncharitably, can be interpreted consistent with that characterization.

  • http://freethoughtblogs.com/wwjtd JT Eberhard


    Some people claim mental illness as a convenient excuse. I don’t question that. It’s unfortunate, because it creates a stigma that harms people like me.

    In this case, it seems you’re convicting the victims of mental illness for the crime of whoever drove drunk and used it as an excuse. Understand that the context of the cartoon was to show that physical disabilities, which mental illness is, are generally treated as something someone can’t help, up until that physical disability resides in the brain.

    Surely you can agree on that point?

    • Azkyroth, Former Growing Toaster Oven

      On that point I would agree, yes.

      And I’m not necessarily convicting victims of mental illness of anything.

      Perhaps I should rephrase:

      First, I find the implied argument that mental illness is “no different” from other illnesses distressing at an emotional level because it implicitly discounts (if interpreted without qualification) the behavior of, and in some cases resembles the excuses of, multiple people who been frequently emotionally abusive and on occasion physically abusive towards myself and my loved ones, of which I cited one particularly egregious example. These include examples where there is a clear logical link between verbal descriptions of symptoms (especially having to do with impulse control) and abusive behaviors, not merely one or a few cases where someone has jumped to it as an excuse when confronted.

      Second, I find the argument problematic logically, if applied without qualifiers, because there ARE cases (even if a minority) in which there are large, morally relevant differences, which I’ve alluded to above.

      I’d be satisfied with an acknowledgment that it’s not always that simple, really.

    • Azkyroth, Former Growing Toaster Oven

      Having sat back and thought for a bit (unfortunately, one of the results of emotional abuse in the past is that I find people ignoring what I’m saying in order to have the argument THEY want, but holding ME accountable for words they put in my mouth, triggering), I should probably further concede that many of my issues with the blanket statements about “mental illness” are really specific to personality disorders. I will narrow future statements accordingly.

      JT, I apologize if I’ve caused you stress or difficulty here.

      • http://freethoughtblogs.com/wwjtd JT Eberhard

        I’m good. No worries here.

  • Adam

    As someone with a mental illness, I can’t stand hearing “snap out of fit” or any variation of it. If I could will my anxiety away, I sure as hell would. I wouldn’t have spent money on therapy or medication either.

  • GibberishWord1

    Don’t worry, you have your shit together. I know because you write a good blog.

  • neatospiderplant


  • Trisha Allison

    Wish you well JT. I’m new to this site and have only read a couple or your posts, but I like what I’ve seen and intend to read more.
    I hope that this comment isn’t misunderstood, but I think it’s a shame that people can’t tone down their rhetoric enough to keep things civil and at least politely impersonal. Struggling with a mental illness is difficult enough without facing a personal attack because of a fairly generic post or reply to a comment, especially when people are often saying much the same thing. If someone takes exception to this comment, then go ahead and fire back. Having battled clinical depression for half a century, I’m too tired to give a damn at the moment.
    JT, your attempt to elucidate the issues that you face when you’re dealing with a downturn, as you call it, is noble and so worthwhile. I look forward to whatever you write and thank you for it. It’s a terrible shame and failure of our society that mental health issues are stigmatized and sufferers disempowered and denigrated. In time, that will change.

  • Trickster Goddess

    One well meaning relative told me: “You don’t _have_ to be sad!”

    I have never felt any obligation to be depressed, I just am.

    My own father can’t accept that I suffer from depression. He thinks it is just laziness and a lack of self discipline.

    Lazy? Fuck. Before I became unable to work anymore, I worked at a self employed job 12 hours a day, 6 days a week for 6 years. Then I went back to university and took a greater than full course load for 5 years, year round — 18 consecutive semesters — with no summer breaks. For 4 of those years I also worked part time, two of them I was working 25-3o hours every weekend. After university, I spent 7 years working 16+ hours a day, five days a week. Laziness my ass.

    Ironically, and despite him being a religious conservative, he had very little trouble accepting me as transsexual.

    Go figure.