Stigmatizing Mental Illness- navigating the healthy world
January 16, 2014 12:14 PM   Subscribe

I have Disossociative Identity Disorder (DID) which is sometimes referred to as multiple personalities. I am normal in many other respects...and just want a little perspective from people with no experience with the disorder.

So about me: I hold multiple degrees, have a stable 9-5 job, a little bit of a social life, married (no kids). I engage in therapy and group therapy and have a psychiatrist. I haven't had any recent hospitalizations (though have required some intensive therapy and specialized inpatient in the past). The switching/memory issues are under control so I have a continuity of whats going on in my life. Of course, all of this comes with my very extensive childhood trauma history.

My biggest issue now is relating with people who will never know I have the disorder (huge stigma) and will most likely never know my childhood history outside of 'it was messed up.' I have a lot of memory loss about my childhood, and I miss many cultural references due to the chaoticness of my upbringing when things like that come up in conversation. In present, I have hobbies, and interests which I can hold conversations with. I'm writing this because I want perspective from people outside of my inner circle of people who know/mental health professionals about other people's perspective on finding out a co-worker actually has DID. I'm very selective about 'coming out' and don't really need advice on how to do that. It is more of 'what are other people thinking?' and 'what would other people think' if for some reason the secret did get out. And I also just think I'm lying to everyone about who I am, as the DID is a big part of my life and how I perceive and interact in the world. Is that true?

In a way, a point of this post is to lesson some of my internal stigma or validate it. Because I really have no idea what someone with no knowledge of the disorder outside of a few TV shows/ horror movies would even begin to think.
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (25 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
This is going to sound harsh, for which I apologize. I have seen the same cheesy movies as everyone else and have read some books and articles about MPD. I had not heard the term DID before. If someone told me they had MPD, and they seemed like a functional person, I would think they were an attention-seeker and did not really have the disorder. OTOH I wouldn't shun them or stop being friends with them, everyone has their thing, I would probably just nod, act sympathetic, and file that away as 'Terry's thing is that he things he has MPD, does this mean he's going to drop out of the softball league?'.
posted by bq at 12:26 PM on January 16, 2014

I have to admit, I would be completely fascinated, and I would probably have to literally bite my tongue to keep from asking invasive, insensitive questions. I would likely want to know all sorts of things about your situation and be really embarrassed about my desire to ask. I would probably also get kind of awkward in my efforts to not be awkward about it.

Whether I felt positive or negative about the situation itself would probably depend a lot on whether I felt positive or negative about you before you told me. If I didn't like you, I'd probably attribute the things I don't like about you to your mental health situation and feel negatively about it. If I did like you, I'd probably use it the diagnosis as a reason to ignore whatever awkward characteristics about you that tended to conflict with my liking you.
posted by jacquilynne at 12:27 PM on January 16, 2014 [14 favorites]

I apologize in advance if any of this is upsetting, I'm just trying to honestly answer your question about "what are other people thinking", and I'm not endorsing any of the views I'm sharing as accurate or valid.

I had a conversation a couple of weeks ago with a number of friends (several of which work in mental health or with otherwise marginalized communities), and the topic of DID/MPD came up. The general consensus was that it was an invented diagnosis for a made-up condition. One person said they believed the existence of the diagnosis itself causes patients into acting out the symptoms (in the same way that regression hypnotherapy can result in false memories), but most people felt it was actually just a made-up condition where people who have other pathological behaviours can act out in. Pathological liars can lie all day long, narcissists can get everyone to focus on their needs, etc.

So, I would expect that if one of their co-workers were to come out as having DID/MPD, the general perception would be that this person is in some way faking this condition to satisfy some internal pathological need for attention (or deception, or...).
posted by Jairus at 12:27 PM on January 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

This is not the kind of information I want to know about my co-workers. Ever.

If we were friends it would be interesting/ enlightening to know about but honestly, I do not want to hear a huge amount about my friends problems beyond the practical. By which I mean concrete information about how it has or might affect our friendship and how best to deal with it. I am always willing to help with things I can help with but I am not willing to listen to hours of analysis of other people's issues that I can do nothing about and that don't affect me. You have one, maybe two people at a time you are that close to in your life. That's it.
posted by fshgrl at 12:33 PM on January 16, 2014 [9 favorites]

For some perspective, ask yourself how much you know about your co-workers' childhoods or their current mental health diagnoses. Or how much you know about how many of your friends have been raped or been in abusive relationships. That stuff is all so common but largely unshared except among the very closest of friends because it's also personal.
posted by DarlingBri at 12:35 PM on January 16, 2014 [20 favorites]

I have had the experience of learning that someone I know has DID -- not someone I'm close to, but someone I used to see every so often. They are not being successfully treated, so they are in a very different place from you. Mostly I think I reacted to this person in much the same way I react to someone else with similar behaviors for a different reason. (Person #1 has boundary-pushing, inappropriate behaviors because of DID. Person #2 has boundary-pushing, inappropriate behaviors for unknown reasons. I react to both in the same way. I'm being vague on purpose but I am thinking of actual people I know here.)

I never discussed the diagnosis with this person, although after learning about it, I did tend to ascribe any atypical or uncomfortable behavior to the diagnosis. I may or may not have been accurate in doing so.

I have had some recent psych courses which covered the change to the DID diagnosis, so I may not be typical here.

And I also just think I'm lying to everyone about who I am, as the DID is a big part of my life and how I perceive and interact in the world. Is that true?"

There are a lot of big parts of my life that I don't feel the need to disclose to most people. (Look, I'm not disclosing them here!) I don't think everyone you meet needs to know this information, and I don't think you're lying to people by not voluntarily disclosing it. (On preview, I think DarlingBri has it.)

I have a lot of memory loss about my childhood, and I miss many cultural references due to the chaoticness of my upbringing when things like that come up in conversation

I miss a lot of these references too, but in my case it's because I didn't have a TV as a kid. One of my friends misses them because she was living in Japan as a kid. There are a ton of reasons not to get these references -- just having a not-further-explained chaotic childhood is more than reason enough.
posted by pie ninja at 12:37 PM on January 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

So many of the people I know go to therapists and/or take psychiatric medications. I have no idea what their DSM-5 diagnosis is, nor can I imagine any situation in which that would be disclosed. If a close friend told me they'd been diagnosed with DID, of course I would be supportive and sympathetic. But I can't imagine how I would come to know this about someone who did not specifically confide in me. I really wouldn't worry about this "getting out."
posted by Wordwoman at 12:40 PM on January 16, 2014

All I know of DID is a book I read, written by Kim Noble (although it seems that Patricia wrote the book) and a couple of videos on Oprah.

I've had mental health issues in the past, so someone disclosing to me that they have a disorder will likely be met with less shock and horror than perhaps other people would. I wouldn't be at all bothered that you had the condition, but I would be curious. I hopefully wouldn't be quite so rude as to ask you questions, because who wants to go through 101 level detail about something as intrinsic to one's personality as something like this is. But I think you likely would have to field questions from people. DID isn't like depression, in the sense that a lot of people won't have heard of it and therefore will have no frame of reference for it.

I totally wouldn't be phased or bothered at all to find out if someone I met had DID. What I might suggest is using the term DID rather than MPD, as people are going to have preconceived notions of what that is/means and they're probably going to jump to some unpleasant conclusions. The term DID has very little stigma, and you'll be able to explain better, perhaps, what it is and how it works. If you can mention the name of a Doctor who people can Google, I think that might help. When people realise that it's a medically recognised condition, by people in the actual medical profession, hopefully they'll not think you're just attention seeking.

As for the lying to people by not telling them, I don't think it's actually lying. Lying would be saying you have the condition when you don't, or saying that you don't have it when you do. It's not something that people really need to know. I sort of kind of have some experience of "withholding the truth" from people when I don't actively tell them that I'm gay. Yeah, being gay is a part of who I am, but it being a part of me does not mean that it has to be made available for public consumption. I don't hide the fact that I'm gay from anyone, people just for some reason assume that I'm a hettie and are then surprised when they find out I'm not. The thing is, it's not really anyone's business who I'm attracted to. It's not relevant to most things. You can't withhold something from someone when that person is not entitled to have it. Only you can decide what level of sharing you're comfortable with. If people are upset that they didn't know, then they're being presumptuous about the level of information they think they are entitled to about another person.

Some will care, some won't. Some will judge you and call you a liar, some will believe you and be OK with your diagnosis. There are assholes and scumbags out there, but there are also kind, nice people who will treat you as a fellow human. Sometimes the former will disguise themselves as the latter. People will look at your behaviour, and if you can show yourself as being a better person than the asshole who shares private information, you win.
posted by Solomon at 12:48 PM on January 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

From an HR standpoint: this is a real risky one, for more or less the same reasons that it's risky to "come out" as having schizophrenia or AIDS or anything else with a very strong negative public image. It's not your fault, but it is something you have to deal with. And, quite simply, at least where I work, the only people about whom people (in general) know about their condition, are people who have done things that made people learn about their condition. Confidentiality rules mean I can't get more specific than that, but please feel free to imagine the absolute worst way to learn that someone has a serious mental illness, and rest assured that at least one of our incidents was worse than anything I could have imagined happening, albeit if you limit it to things that could happen where disciplinary action was the worst official consequence. I am absolutely certain that the employee in that case wishes it had never happened and that no one knew.

There are, meanwhile, quite a few people with "issues" of various kinds (same sensitivity level,) where I am similarly absolutely certain that at most one or two coworkers know about it (besides HR.) There are also quite a few things on this scale that HR has learned about people that one or two coworkers knew about first.

In all cases, the best scenario seems to be where people are truly long-term friends well before it "comes out," and it "comes out" in a natural, reciprocal way (like, when one of my friends and I first learned that each of us has an incredibly complicated childhood history involving "siblings of mine have never met one another" type stuff.)

Admittedly: my workplace is chock full of people who are shockingly good friends, or who are "ex brothers in law" or something else similarly close/long-term in nature. My boss's older sister works for us, and the sister's husband used to effectively have my boss's job, and all three of them got their jobs at very different periods of time through a highly regulated system in which nepotism is actually against the law. Two other people in our section (which has 12 people total) are married to current or former employees, and the one whose husband has retired has a son who works here. I now assume that everyone with the same last name will turn out to be related to everyone else with that same last name, because I'll be right more often than I'm wrong. There are close to 800 people working in my department, and over 7,000 in the organization overall. It's a little bit ridiculous.

Which is to say: I think quite a few more people at my current job have revealed this sort of thing to any coworker at all than would happen at most any other job. I've never had a coworker at any other job do something like that, even at Disneyland where we were all living in each others' pockets and spending all our free time together. And there we were all young and blissfully unaware of the potential long-term consequences of pretty much everything we did.
posted by SMPA at 12:50 PM on January 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

It is more of 'what are other people thinking?' and 'what would other people think' if for some reason the secret did get out.

Hi, my wife wasbeen diagnosed with DID about 7-8 years ago. Virtually no one understands it, most think of it as the Three Faces of Eve or some such. Via back channels and other gossip, I hear that some people we know don't believe the diagnosis or think she's faking. Most medical professions think the same thing, when they've heard of it.

It's a big load to hand someone and very few take it well, even if they're sympathetic. So there's almost no reason to tell co-workers, especially if you're functioning as well as you are. Seriously, it makes not one bit of difference to work people, cause you're functional. Work isn't a support network, so I'd be leery of trusting anyone with such important information that's so easily misunderstood in a negative light.

And I also just think I'm lying to everyone about who I am, as the DID is a big part of my life and how I perceive and interact in the world. Is that true?

No. Not everyone needs to know deeper details about you. Using a broad comparison, if you're an introvert, as I am, not many people I meet need to explicitly know that. I need to to behave in a manner that's more or less within the confines of the society I live in, while taking care of myself. As someone gets to know more, it might help for me to explain that why I'm not going out every night when they are, but even then I don't have say I'm an introvert. Simply saying "Oh, I like to mix it up, time out, time at home, not a gogogogo type person" would work.

Basically, you don't want to lay a lot of your individual feelings/thought processes/issues/whatever on people, especially when first meeing them.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:06 PM on January 16, 2014 [9 favorites]

I have no point of reference for DID other than the cartoonish characterization it gets in popular media. And I know it's cartoonish, so I know to discount it.

When you tell people is going to play a huge factor in how they react. If they know you well, then telling them will be giving them an additional piece of information that completes their picture of you as an individual, and can be understood within the context of the person they already know. If you tell them before they know you well, then I suspect for many people, that fact will become the defining feature of your personality, and everything you do will be seen through that lens. And if they don't know you well and don't believe DID really exists, then they'll just think you're a lying drama queen.

It is not lying to people to withhold information like this. I understand that it's important to you.
posted by adamrice at 1:07 PM on January 16, 2014

And I also just think I'm lying to everyone about who I am, as the DID is a big part of my life and how I perceive and interact in the world. Is that true?

No, it's not. At worst, choosing not to disclose that you have DID might be an omission -- and I'd argue that it's not really even that, unless you're not telling people in a situation where this is need to know information.

You're the sum of all your parts, including DID, but I see no reason to distill you down to each individual bit or to use that one thing about you to explain everything about you. Which people often do when handed a label they don't understand or are unfamiliar with, or is often grossly mis-characterized in culture, etc.

I've been there and done that and no, the tee-shirt is not even remotely worth it. (I don't have DID but I doubt the mileage varies that much.)
posted by sm1tten at 1:16 PM on January 16, 2014 [2 favorites]

I can only speak for myself here, so bear that in mind.

If word got out to me that a coworker or casual acquaintance were claiming to have DID, I don't think I'd really react at all in any way that would be visible to them. A mental health diagnosis like that is something I honestly just don't need to know about other people unless I'm very close to them (like, intimate partner close), or if it's going to have some sort of measurable impact on me. It has less to do with stigma and more that this is a private thing I don't need to know about. What I would think of you is irrelevant, but I would think very poorly of whomever chose to share gossip like that.

And I also just think I'm lying to everyone about who I am, as the DID is a big part of my life and how I perceive and interact in the world. Is that true?

No. People don't need to know everything about you. There are aspects of me which I believe to be huge parts of my identity but which I don't share with others except when it becomes relevant. Discretion's important.

Because I really have no idea what someone with no knowledge of the disorder outside of a few TV shows/ horror movies would even begin to think.

I think - and this is maybe another reason to only share the information when relevant, so as to just save yourself the trouble - I think that the layman might observe that this disorder is supposed to be a huge deal with serious impact on the lives of people who have it (at least according to media portrayal), but that they've known you and/or worked with you for however long and had no clue you've got it, which might lead them to the uncharitable assumption that you appear to have a disorder you can turn off when needed. If I were in your situation, I'd just skip the hassle.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 1:24 PM on January 16, 2014

I work in social services. I'm not a doctor or therapist but some of my friends and co-workers are and I share an office building with many mental health professionals. I think I have more than a layman's level of knowledge of psychiatry. I probably know enough to be dangerous and not enough to be very useful. I have an acquaintance who has been diagnosed with DID (I only know this because her sister is my childhood best friend and I witnessed their traumatic childhood to the point where it's reasonable that my friend and I have discussed the realities and scars of her and her sister's survival of it).

It's true that much of the mental health field views Multiple Personality Disorder as a bogus diagnosis. I blame Roseanne Barr. But who cares about those assholes? Your reality is yours and nobody really has any say in whether or not it's valid. If it's valid for you and your treatment team than that's all that matters.

Personally, if I was your co-worker or friend, I would probably be extremely curious and want desperately to ask many inappropriate questions. If I was your good friend, I would go ahead and ask them.

But . . . if I were you, I wouldn't want my co-workers and acquaintances to know that information. Primarily because some people are going to be annoying about it; they're going to ask intrusive questions or roll their eyes or whatever and that would annoy me.
I'd probably share with a few close friends and be comfortable with that. It's really about whatever you're comfortable with sharing and what you're willing to deal with.

I'm assuming you've discussed this issue with the therapist who has been treating you? He or she probably has some thoughts on this. It's possible that given whatever stage of treatment you're in that it might not be recommended to "out yourself" right now.
posted by dchrssyr at 1:30 PM on January 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

Everybody's already pretty much covered my thoughts on telling co-workers at large (don't), what people are likely thinking (curiosity, disbelief, disinterest, or assuming random, inaccurate media portrayals apply to you), and whether or not not telling your coworkers counts as "lying" (it doesn't).

Me, the camp I'd I'd fall into is the curious, but *really* tries hard to be polite and not ask, shrug to myself and know I didn't *need* to know, assume you've gotten some fantastic help (provided you've got it as together as you say you do) and hope that things continue to go as well for you. I'm a little more widely read and rather anti-media-brainwashing, so I may be - heck, I know I am - a bit atypical.

Oh, and add a comment on the "missing culture references" portion. Pretty much everyone has some sort of blind spot, culture-wise. For those that are gamer, movie, music freaks, it's entirely possible that they don't know a darn thing about books. Or for someone like me, who is pretty widely read and doesn't watch TV at all, hasn't since she was in middle school, and rarely (5, maybe, max a year) watches movies - the thing I always have zero clue on? The freaking COMMERCIALS everyone is talking about. Not a week goes by that someone doesn't make a reference to some commercial, in either a joking, quoting, or have-you-seen way... and I never, ever have. Though I might have heard about it from somebody at some point, that's not quite the same. Don't stress over it. Really.

But anyways, what I really wanted to address is this:
It's one of your challenges. It doesn't define you.

Sure, it's a little stronger than saying that Anonymous has blue eyes... but don't give it the weight of Blue Eyes owns anonymous, either.
posted by stormyteal at 2:30 PM on January 16, 2014

And I also just think I'm lying to everyone about who I am, as the DID is a big part of my life and how I perceive and interact in the world. Is that true?

No. I wonder if you're aware that one of the measures on tests for dissociative disorders is (paraphrasing--don't have it handy--sorry), "I feel like people think I am lying when I am not."

You are not lying. You are navigating the world as a multi-faceted human being. You've likely worked harder than the average person at getting different aspects of your personality to work in concert. Good for you!

As others have mentioned, many people have traumas in their past, and choose to keep discussion of those limited. I hate the stigma that surrounds mental health issues, but some people are jerks, uninformed, or both. That doesn't mean you can't or shouldn't tell them, but it does mean you may wind up hurt by the reactions, so why bother? (Remember, you are NOT lying or living a lie or anything of the sort by keeping personal information to yourself.)

I have a dissociative disorder (it's on the derealization/depersonalization end of the spectrum). I don't have multiples, but that's my therapist's specialty, and I don't know if it's any consolation at all, but I do believe you.

Oh, as for missing cultural references, yes that is frustrating and some people poke fun. I just poke back with a good-natured, "Sorry, I didn't spend my life in front of a TV," or whatever. They move on, and so do I. No harm is done, and it's quickly forgotten. People are almost always more interested in themselves than others.
posted by whoiam at 2:42 PM on January 16, 2014 [2 favorites]

My ex claimed to have MPD, and so unfortunately my views of it, and disorders of a similar vein, are less than favorable. Harsh as it may be, if a coworker told me they had MPD or DID, I would think they were 1) seeking attention and 2) preemptively trying to absolve themselves of accountability or responsibility for poor behavior/actions (by blaming it on their diagnosis).

IMHO, such a diagnosis is not something I would share with co-workers. Don't make life harder for yourself.
posted by stubbehtail at 2:52 PM on January 16, 2014

Just from reading the responses to your question thus far, it is clear that you should be discreet in your personal communication. Hey, most of us need to be discreet about one thing or another. Whose life is an open book?

However, my perspective is that each of us has different internal parts. In some of us the situation is more subtle, in other cases, such as your own, the situation is more pronounced. If you are interested in reading a bit more about this perspective, check out this simple, enjoyable book.
posted by elf27 at 2:59 PM on January 16, 2014

Let's think about it not in terms of stigmatizing mental illness or one particular diagnosis, but in terms of what you'd share with whom.

Most coworkers of mine who have had any medical issues either leave it at "medical issue" or "I had to get something removed; it's all good now." I think that's acceptable.

I have had clients and coworkers reveal the most intimate details of their physical medical maladies to me and I really with they hadn't.
posted by MonsieurBon at 3:00 PM on January 16, 2014

What are the experiences of others with DID? There are support groups on the internet. I used to read the usenet group Here is the FAQ for the group.
posted by Obscure Reference at 3:03 PM on January 16, 2014

I would not want to know this about a coworker, just like I don't want to know about my coworker's yeast infection or alcohol problem or abusive childhood. I am not their friend. It's way too intimate and it's probably not information I will ever need, unlike for example if someone has an epi-pen or something.

Not sharing personal information is not lying. I would not be angry at someone for telling me or think any less of them for their circumstance, but honestly, I have enough of my own problems and my friends and family and charity problems to feel up to being some aquaintence's confidante. Someone sharing intimate details of their life places an obligation on the listener to give a shit about the teller and their revalations, and if you're in a situation where you have to see that person every day, that's a really big burden to put on someone who hasn't agreed to carry it.

Also, I have panic attacks and I could definitely see this information giving me a panic attack if someone I barely know told me it basically for no reason. Not because I'm afraid of them, but because I would start analyzing- WHY did they feel the need to tell me this. What are they really trying to tell me? Is there some reason they told me this, like what if I am showing symptoms of that illness and they noticed because they recognise the symptoms because they have it so now they think I have it oh my god maybe I do have it maybe I have had it all along and no one ever told me and this is their way of trying to tell me or maybe its because I'm supposed to do something if they have some sort of attack what if they start acting weird and it's because of their illness and I'm the only one who knows they have it and i don't know what to do and something terrible happens and it's all my fault and then everybody dies and its ALL MY FAULT OH MY GOD WHAT IS HAPPENING HELP.

Which is my problem, not yours, but you wanted to know how people would react- well this is how I and my mental illness would probably react.

So, in conclusion, probably just only bring it up if it is relevant.
posted by windykites at 5:35 PM on January 16, 2014

It is more of 'what are other people thinking?' and 'what would other people think' if for some reason the secret did get out.

I am assuming you mean that someone else leaks it (gossip), rather than you personally choosing to confide in me specifically. In which case my response is: Huh. Is there any cake left in the kitchen? I mean really, you behave within the broad definition of 'normal' and you do your job? Couldn't care less.

I also agree with pie ninja - if someone's behaving poorly, it doesn't really matter what the cause is or whether there's a diagnosis. It can only be accomodated to a point, regardless. Besides that, it's pretty much impossible to tell where the diagnosed mental illness stops and just ass-holeishness starts. (I'm thinking of someone in particular, yes.)

And I also just think I'm lying to everyone about who I am, as the DID is a big part of my life and how I perceive and interact in the world. Is that true?

Nope. Not everyone needs to know everything, especially at work. I am 6.5 weeks pregnant, and it is a massive part of my life right now. It's nearly all I can think about, there's so much to do, so much planning, and I feel awful all the time (yea, it's totally impacting my work). I won't tell work for another 6 weeks, and even then I won't talk about it much. Why? Work is just work. I come here to... work. And then I go home and live my life. These work people are nice, but I didn't choose them - they're not my friends. I need them to do things for me, follow my directions, consult me, etc... I need a certain amount of respect and distance. They do not need to know that I cried on the way home for the grocery store yesterday for no reason whatsoever other than hormones (I told my mom though!).

Conversely, I'm probably not going to tell my mom that I dealt with 5 insurance claims, 2 research requests, a privacy consultation, and a wayward temp today. She doesn't know these people, and as long as *I'm* happy, really doesn't care. She doesn't care about 'other' stuff except how it effects me, her charming daughter. Work doesn't care about my personal stuff except to the extent that it adversely effects my performance (ie. I'll be late Monday, here's my medical leave form).

It's like different friends you have - we have friends we go hiking with, friends we play board games with, friends who have kids, friends who are globe-trotting urban professionals etc. They each fill a niche. They all know a lot, but only my very closest friends that I've known for years and years and are family know it ALL.
posted by jrobin276 at 6:02 PM on January 16, 2014

If the need to explain comes up, rather than state the diagnosis, which a lot of people have preconceived ideas about, how about just explaining the condition without a label by saying you're fine now but "I have a lot of memory loss about my childhood, and I miss many cultural references due to the chaoticness of my upbringing". They then get a partial explanation, you get to feel that you are being honest and sharing with them, and you don't have to battle with a stigma. I do this sometimes with my fibromyalgia. I'll just say I have a chronic illness which causes me to be fatigued and be in pain sometimes, but that I manage to function just fine, thank you (but it makes it difficult to lift boxes or whatever brings up the need to explain). Few people press for more specific info.
posted by Jandoe at 7:06 PM on January 16, 2014 [3 favorites]

I hate this: until 1) diagnostic categories are more reliable than the DSM-5 (and precursors), and 2) we fully grasp how brain and behaviours are related (in both typical and nontypical brains) and 3) this understanding becomes so clear and obvious that the smallest child knows it or could, most people (numbers) will think this about psychiatric illnesses:

A) if it's a common problem like depression or anxiety, or one that overlaps some with their own experience, that it's a question of volition and the fault of the sufferer

B) if it's an uncommon problem with minimal and controversial coverage, that the sufferer is somehow in alignment with the controversy (possibly threatening/frightening, depending)

C) if brain relationships are known, that the person is in some way 'diseased' and to be feared/avoided.

People seek out those who are understandable and similar to them. In the interests of self-preservation, I would try to work with that and find a beard that fits well enough.
posted by cotton dress sock at 9:25 PM on January 16, 2014

One thing I can pretty much state unequivocally: most employees are going to treat information revealing gossip ("Have you HEARD??? Anonymous has multiple personalities, OMG!!!") about your mental illness with a huge amount of skepticism, thinking (rightly) that at best the gossiper is being a "bad" member of the community or trying to hurt you.

This is one place where the stigma and disbelief surrounding the diagnosis helps you, as well; it would take an awful lot for most people to believe that sort of third-hand information. If someone tried to share that sort of thing with me (about a third party) I'd mostly think "holy heck, there is something seriously wrong with Jim [who just told me something that's probably a lie and is a horrible thing to have told me about someone else even if it's true because WOW not my business, ugh.]"

Remember, no matter how much it may feel like the workplace is junior high school all over again, it isn't: everyone is there to make money and get to the end of the workday without anything especially annoying happening. Gossipers have significantly less power in this sort of situation, which is why the sorts of people who did that in junior high school - the ones who haven't gotten over it, that is - have a tendency to do other stuff (like sabotaging work projects) instead.

And, as an HR person, I wouldn't be shocked to find that kind of behavior resulting in a reprimand, actually. My employer has an an entire performance appraisal category devoted to prosocial behavior, and doing something of that sort would merit a "Development Needed" in the eyes of many of our managers. It's not quite as transgressive as screaming in someone's face, which is why we wouldn't call it "workplace violence." Definitely not a career-advancing move nonetheless.

Seriously, half the crap people pulled on each other in junior high school would be cause for defamation lawsuits and prison sentences if done by adults.
posted by SMPA at 4:12 PM on January 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

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