I’ve struggled with chemical mood disorders for most of my life. It was relatively recently that my medical team found out how to mitigate the symptoms to my satisfaction. I am extremely glad that those days appear to be behind me, and distance has allowed me to see how even my mental illness could be used as a psychopathic tool.
People use illness or disability, either real or fictitious, for personal gain all the time. Those with real illness or disability use it to gain the closer parking spot or to obtain a meal that they are simply too weak to prepare themselves. The more sinister feign such maladies in order to leech off of others, to parade Fluffy around wherever they go, and to collect money they are not entitled to. Society, generally, has decided on every level that those that have difficulty due to physical or mental impairment should have help with living their lives as best that they can. It is the extension of the empathy found in most human beings: we help those that cannot help themselves.
It should be easy to see how easily such empathy can be exploited. From the person faking homelessness asking for money to the parasite filing false disability to receive a cheque that they are not entitled to, such exploitation is everywhere. The problem is widespread enough that many jurisdictions are making it much tougher for the legitimately ill and disabled to receive benefits. This does not particularly matter to me. These examples are at the societal level, which makes the crimes much more innocuous in some ways. What if the attention were turned to those directly around the deceiver?
My mental illness was quite severe at times. It would be nearly impossible to function properly and I often battled feelings of ending it all. These facts I cannot deny. However, I also realized that I could satisfy my self-centeredness by tailoring the degree of my illness to those around me. The converse of what I said earlier is true – it is not just that we become suspicious of misdeeds when some are discovered to game the system, we become hypersensitive to real suffering when we know that it exists in some form. If those around me knew that I had the knife at my throat before, they would be slow to second-guess me at a future point when I claimed to have such proclivities.
The process was simple, actually. Maybe I was having a bad day emotionally. Maybe I wasn’t. Maybe my overwhelming need for stimulation had kicked in and I wanted to draw someone closer to the point where I was the sole focal point of their attention. By either exaggerating the symptoms or by threatening severe self-harm, I could easily bring others close to me. It was exhilarating to know that I had such control over others. The symptoms, if real, would lessen to a degree. The symptoms, if feigned, would allow me to fill that self-centered need for shallow companionship or for stimulation. It was so easy. The empathy that makes others “more human” than me would allow me to command them like marionettes.
We all have a capacity to exploit others for personal gain. I just believe that few suspect the provably ill or disabled as one group that can do it quite easily. I am by no means saying that the group at large does this even on the most minute basis, but I am saying that it is such a convenient outlet for that exploitation. I am elated that I no longer suffer from such debilitating illness, but I would be deceiving myself if I said that it was not a perfect conduit for getting what I wanted from others.