Considering how prevalent mental illness is, why do so few bloggers talk about it?

The aim of this blog is to write about my experience with mental illness, developments in my life as well as issues in the field of mental health all the while keeping a feminist framework.

I hope you can take something from this blog, whatever that may be.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Mental Illness and Gender: Some Musings about Gender Roles

Having a mental illness is taboo and those with one (or more) is a group who experiences discrimination. But of course we are not ONLY our mental illness; there are many other factors which make up our identities. I identify as a young white woman who is able bodied and is of the middle class who has a mental illness. Being as such I encounter certain issues that those of different genders, age groups, races, abilities and classes. Being a member of the privileged group, save for gender, being a woman is the one characteristic that I find to have the most effect on my experience of mental illness. While thinking over this during my weekend I came up with some thoughts. I plan to make a few installments for this topic so look for more in the near future:

~gender roles:

you may agree that the traditional role of women in the many cultures of Canada is to be productive (especially in the home), nurturing, polite, happy/sweet, and generally giving of themselves for the benefit of others. I can tell you that I am hardly any of these things when severely depressed, making it all the more difficult to function. People, including friends and family, may not realise that they make assumptions about women regarding these traditional gender roles but when I am in a state where I am not productive, and instead I am selfish, rude, depressed and in need of serious support, often people will merely distance themselves. Of course many people distance themselves from anyone, man or woman, who is selfish and rude, but I think this tendency is exacerbated by how our cultures' expect women to behave.

additionally, being a discriminated group, women are often unheard (regarding their wishes, needs and even their opinion), unseen (in many different spheres), and underestimated (in what they know, what they can do etc). When I am undergoing treatment and there is a power differential (think of when you go to the doctor and he/she has much more power to make decisions and emphasize or dismiss symptoms etc) I find that common (discriminating)assumptions end up occurring much more frequently and with greater consequences. I have often felt doctors where not listening to what i said but rather putting their education (and what they learned from books) above my personal experience, they dismiss my role in my treatment and instead want only to work with doctors, and often underestimate my strength and ability to help myself and to be a productive part of the treatment team. (Hell I think the patient should be in charge of the treatment team's direction, not its Ginny pig!)

I think this is an interesting intersection of identities that is highly complex and unique for each person. This is also highly relevant for feminist and mental health activism as well as for the call for more individualized care which needs to work outside the constraints of the DSM categories.

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