Why mental illness is not an excuse to be an asshole.

Why mental illness is not an excuse to be an asshole.

This doesn’t apply to 99.99% of those diagosed with a mental illness.

However, the 0.01% that it does apply to are a major contributing factor to the ongoing stigma and misinformation regarding mental health.

It’s as simple as this.

Mental illness is not licence to be an asshole.

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Does that sound harsh? Yes, there are conditions where it can become incredibly difficult to maintain proper social conduct with others, but for any person who grasps the concept of good and bad behaviour, let me say it again:

Mental illness is not licence to be an asshole.

For a while, I had a friend by the name of Mia. Mia had some very genuine mental health issues. Those who falsely claim to impaired mental status as a scapegoat—that’s a whole other blog. She suffered from deep anxiety and chronic depression (we both did at the time), struggled to leave the house more often than not, and was a type two diabetic. She had also been diagnosed with aspergers.

At that time I wasn’t aware that my own mental situation was also an autistic one, so I took it for granted that what she told me regarding autism was truth.

She said that occasionally she needed to info-dump on people, ramble on until she’d finished the topic–and that I liked. I wasn’t always wholly interested in the subjects, but I do love listening to people talk about their passions. I do recognise this need to over-explain and tell stories as they happened from beginning to end, and if you do happen to get me started on a subject I love… you may be there a while. This blog (and the length of the blogs!) is testament to my need to just get words out at times. Some of the things she described were perfect examples of aspergers.

Some, I now recognise, were not.

I don’t remember what the disagreement was about. Like many aspies she had considerable difficulty accepting alternative points of view, and would argue her point viciously. More than once she became so aggravated by the intensity of the discussion, she turned the conversation to personal and unnecessary attacks.

There’s nothing particularly wrong with that. Arguments get heated, things get said that aren’t nice. It was what would happen after the situation had cooled and olive branches were being extended that I was never completely okay with.

When one half was apologising for poor conduct, at a point where a return apology was expected, she would give this instead:

‘Well, I have aspergers so you just have to accept that I’m like that.’

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And for me, at the time, I didn’t know enough about what might be going through her mind to really comment. So I left it at that, and over time she demonstrated repeated disdain for the feelings and general existence of other people. In understanding that aspergers causes social issues that involve missed cues, we did suggest that rather than blaming her brain for being a twit, she accept her behaviour and apologise for it.

Because that is the difference between someone who is an asshole, and someone who is not. Both can screw up, but only assholes will seek to blame their behaviour on factors outside of their control.

Others, including the neurodivergent, will recognise behaviour that is unacceptable. It may have to be explained, the cues may need to be highlighted, but these people are willing to work on their behaviour.

You can probably guess what she said when we suggested that if her behaviour was out of her control, it might be something to talk to her therapist about working on.

You got it.

She saw aspergers as an explanation and excuse for any behaviour that upset or hurt those around her, and expected us to simply tolerate it. I highly suspect some of these incidents weren’t aspergers-related, but greed-related actions for which aspergers was a convenient excuse–and that is another story.

Yes, mental illness can lead us to be less than our better selves. It can explain why something occurred, but should never excuse it. You have the choice as to how you handle what happens next. Whether you take ownership of your actions and work towards bettering them, or expect those around you to absorb the impact of your less-than-okay is what makes you an asshole or not.

Not your mental health.

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