Maybe it is because I surround myself with those mentally ill that are of questionable character, but I cannot find any upside to coddling the mentally ill. Many do not want to get better. Hell, I stated in my previous post that even I can succumb to tired stereotypes of not wanting to improve psychically. People with mental illness tend not to improve on their own – in the absence of external stimuli – and many will resort to manipulation knowing that others know that they are mentally ill. The former case is uninteresting and I will leave that topic to the reader for reflection. The latter is what is of great interest to me. I have used my mental illnesses to manipulate others and others have used theirs to manipulate me. The intention of the individual to commit interpersonal harm may vary, but I cannot believe that all that are mentally ill are not tempted by the reward of using their illness as a crutch. In a society that coddles the mentally ill, the rewards become self-evident and tempting to even the most pious individuals.
In the waning months of my marriage, I spent countless hours setting up traps to ensnare my then-husband. I set the bar extremely low, convincing him that I could never improve and that he would have to continue to accept me as is. There were times in which I was perfectly functioning, but chose to have him expend the energy in the relationship. I would do this by being intentionally disinterested and blaming my mental illness for such disinterest. Why would I do anything that I didn’t want to if I knew that I could use his good nature against him? After all, in a society that demands coddling, who wouldn’t step up to take care of a mentally ill partner when actual illness becomes indistinguishable from actual “laziness?”
Similarly, I have had this used against me in interpersonal relationships. My patience and goodwill were pushed to the limit by individuals that legitimately suffered from mental illness. Their efficacy was so low that they would set the bar even lower than I had with my marriage. Such individuals would become irate when I refused to accommodate their mental illness or personality defects, and I would remain trapped, driven by the desire of their company when they weren’t actively ill or being outwardly broken. The responsibility to set boundaries ultimately resided with me, and I failed, because I fell to their manipulation.
Now, I describe above those nefarious reasons in which someone would choose to exploit another via their mental illnesses, but I strongly believe that even those that are of better nature can do the same. It is human nature to recognize reward and to seek it. At every step, the society we live in, rewards the mentally ill by giving them sick days, unwarranted compassion, companionship, and more. Maybe I am skeptical of the goodness of man, but I could certainly see how a leap from “I’m sick, therefore I’ll call in” jumps to “I don’t feel like working, I’ll cite my mental illness.” The same analogy could be used in terms of interpersonal relationships and in other areas as well.
It benefits no one to coddle. The mentally ill will not improve and those around them are setting themselves up for pain. We need to reject a liberal society’s call to overcompensate accommodation for those that are ill. We need to hold each other accountable and demand improvement. And, lastly, we need to ensure that we aren’t putting a target on our backs by showing undue amounts of compassion.