A Note on Stigma from a Woman Who Is Trying to Fit In
The Super Bowl party that I attended was a quiet affair, about seven couples, with sloppy joes, a vegetable tray, chicken wings and beer and wine. Like magic, the men landed in the great room in front of the television and the women fixed themselves in the kitchen around the food. It was an older crowd; almost all of us were in our 50s somewhere. We had kids and some of us even had a grandkid or two. The hostess was impeccable, asking each of us about our lives and our families.
“So when is your wedding?” the hostess asked the youngest woman there.
“Is it going to be in town?”
“It will be beautiful, I’m sure. And how is your daughter?” the hostess asked another woman.
“She’s well. She just completed her training to be a psychiatrist.”
“Wonderful,” said the hostess. “You must be thrilled!”
“I am except I’m a little worried about the kind of people my daughter has to deal with.”
This stopped me in my tracks. What did she mean by this? As a bipolar person, who has seen a psychiatrist since 1991, I was a little taken aback. Was she afraid her daughter’s patients were somehow lesser individuals because they had mental health problems? Or worse yet, was she afraid that they were a distasteful, dangerous crowd? Or just a sickly, crazy group?
I wanted to say something, but I remained quiet. To correct the woman would have meant that I had to “out” myself, and I didn’t want to go there that evening.
It’s not too often that I am the object of prejudice as my disability is hidden. I just happened to be standing at the wrong place at the wrong time, and I overheard a worried mother’s inner thoughts which she was voicing to a room of women.
To be fair, mothers worry about everything. And if the daughter had just completed her education to be a kindergarten teacher, perhaps the girl would have a simpler, less complicated life with the 5-year-old clientele with which she labored. And to be fair again, if the woman would have known that there were folks with serious mental health issues in the room, I’m sure she would have censored that comment. She’s a lovely woman and would never set out to offend anyone.
Nevertheless, I chose to be a bit offended by her statement.
Was it my job to raise the consciousness of people I encountered out in the “field?”
I didn’t feel that it was appropriate to do so when the topic came up. It was a party, after all, but I liked the woman who uttered the prejudicial statement. Other than her derogatory views on people with mental health problems, she was delightful. She was well-travelled and rather chic in every other way. I’d like to ask her to lunch and then talk to her about a typical psychiatrist’s clientele — we’re her neighbors, her friends, her family members. Heck, I might even admit that I see a psychiatrist. And I’m a lovely person, right?
Would my leveling with her even raise her consciousness? I would hope so. If “friends” don’t try to set people straight, who will?
It is a shame that people fear or dislike people with mental health issues. We can’t help that our brains are wired a little differently. We’re trying to fit in, really, we are.
Funny, I told my mother about this, and she said a lady in her card game said something truly awful about autistic children. Her grandson — my son — is on the spectrum. She too bit her tongue, did not reprimand the lady, but Mom will never forget the comment. Like mother, like daughter.
So it was a Super Bowl party to remember, one where I chose to not lose my cool over a stupid comment that inadvertently applied to me.
Super Bowl 2019. Not a lot happened on the playing field, but so much did in the kitchen.
Yeager, L. (2019). A Note on Stigma from a Woman Who Is Trying to Fit In. Psych Central. Retrieved on February 19, 2020, from https://psychcentral.com/blog/a-note-on-stigma-from-a-woman-who-is-trying-to-fit-in/