My top five most hated statement from others about Psych injuries:
I’ve been lucky, My Psych injury wasn’t work related and was a long time ago when I was a teenager. But it was real, and I listen daily to people who have yet to recover or adapt to their work related psych injury. Over the years these are my top five most hated statements from other people about my injury and about other peoples psychological injury:
“Only weak people get psychological injuries.”
Fact: Anyone can and everyone does receive psychological injuries at least once in their life. I hear this mostly from people who’s have had very little in their lives to be strong about. I don’t hear it from the nurses, police (anymore), firies, or soldiers that I know, people who’s claim to be in a psychologically dangerous field is evident. I also don’t hear it from anyone who has worked or studied psychological injuries.
There is a concept of Resilience that gets bandied around a lot in the professional circles. Resilient refers to someone who has the capacity to cope with something over a long period of time. The problem is that resilience is another way of saying the above. I spoke to a police officer last year who was 25 years on the job. Accidents, murders, child abuse…. You get the picture. What drove him over the edge though was a fairly straight forward arrest where he was hit in the head by the offender. It’s not just “weak” people who get injured. Anyone can and at some point will experience it – the difference is the extent, not the existence.
2. “Just leave if you are being bullied.”
Fact: Leaving isn’t as easy as all that. Bullying is workplace violence (emotional/psychological violence) People do this to gain power over the other person, but another way of looking at it is the person is using violence to manage the relationship. If that is so, then the feelings of empowerment someone needs to “Just leave” is diminished. The whole purpose of the violence is to stop the person just leaving, thats a hard force to battle against. Beyond that not everyone is in a position where they can “just leave”. Mortgages, children, bills, reputation, fear of being unemployed, these things play a part in everyones lives, they play their part with victims as well. Further and finally, Just leaving can also be a sign that you are suffering a work related psychological illness. Fight, Freeze and Flight. The three responses to any attack on us and the vast majority of us just Freeze.
3. “Get over it or Suck it up sunshine.”
This just shows that the speaker has no idea or interest in you but I’ll unpack it anyway. Our Brains control our emotions through our limbic system (our monkey brain) chemicals, hormones, firing neurones etc… I don’t think anyone is certain exactly how it happens but, if something bad happens our brain reacts with physical and measurable movements in this system (just like if you touched something hot, or stubbed your toe). So Psychological injury is just as much physical as a broken leg. Tell the bloke with a broken leg to “get over it” and get back to work. yes you can recover and or adapt to a psychological injury, but if anyone believes that it isn’t physical they should get themselves back to school.
4. “Be strong.”
That sounds nice I know, but if you have a psychological injury it sounds very similar to the “suck it up sunshine” mantra above. Yes it would be nice to be strong, yes you think you sound like you are supporting me but yes, its insensitive and doesn’t reflect what I am going through.
The thing is, if you are talking to me then I probably am being strong. I am talking to you right? I’m not in my room sleeping to shut out the rest of the day. So please don’t tell me to be strong.
5. “You are making it up.”
No. No I am not making it up. No one makes it up and there are tests and observations made before anyone receives a label of psychological injury. Psychological injuries are real, as real as that broken leg or concussion on the football field. The problem here is that the person saying this is trying to deny that something like that could happen to them, or that they could be the cause, or that they have a psychological problem themselves (inability to relate to other peoples pain is a psychological problem) The accusation stems from fear more than anything else.
What Response do we need then?
Firstly to be believed, you don’t need to get into the nitty gritty of it but just accept that there has been a change because something happened to us.
Then just accept us for what we are. Injuries happen to everyone, change happens to everyone and just because you can’t see the chemicals flooding our brains at certain points of the day doesn’t mean that it doesn’t happen. Accepting the new “me” for a while as I recover and or adjust is important.
You can help though. Psychological injuries affect people in different ways, some are permanent (unfortunately) most people will recover from. If you are truely willing to be involved, then ask that person and those closest to that person how you can help.
Finally: Listen. I will talk about it, or I will demonstrate my illness through the way I talk to you. Don’t rush me or finish my sentences, don’t ignore me when I talk about it, if you listen long enough you will know when we can change the topic without me reacting to your attempt – and if I know you have heard my story or listened to me, then I wont keep on repeating myself (which annoys me more than it annoys you).