So I have a confession to make.
I am a hypocrite.
Since I am confessing things, I suppose I should also tell you that sometimes I like to sit in the bath waving a fork in the air pretending I am Neptune, king of the sea, wielding his trident, but that confession is slightly less relevant to this blog post and perhaps we can discuss that more at another time.
So yeah, I am a hypocrite, and this is something that has been pointed out to me multiple times by a number of psychologists, friends, fellow mental health warriors and, of course, my mother. To be fair to all of these potentially rude sounding people, none of them have actually stomped over to me, looked me straight in the eyes, and said “you are a hypocrite”, but it is something that is (quite rightly) implied when people ask me questions like “do you even read your blog?”
In answer to this question, of course I read my own blog (I write it too funnily enough…MULTITASKING), yet I think this question is less a question as to whether or not I actually read the articles I hope other people will be reading somewhere else across the globe, and more a question of do I take note of any of the advice I often spout in my attempts to help other sufferers of mental health problems. Sometimes my posts are about misconceptions that I want to tackle, some are personal insights into my own experience, but there are a fair few tips of ways to manage mental health problems…tips that I tend to broadcast for everyone else and then ignore in my own life. To quote Lewis Carrol in his novel Alice in Wonderland, “Off with their heads!”…no wait that’s the wrong quote…what was I saying? Ah yes! “I give very good advice but I very seldom follow it”.
In fact I think this is the case with a lot of people around the world, but it is something I have noticed is extremely prevalent in people with mental health problems, and on paper, a lot of my friends with mental health problems are very much sitting beside me on the “hypocrite” train.
Trust me, if you want advice as to how to deal with eating disordered thoughts or a lie that OCD is trying to convince you is the truth, talk to someone who experiences them too and it is likely they will have the answer that will logically solve all your problems. Indeed, most of the best advice I have ever received is from people with mental health problems, and in hospital it was a daily occurrence for me, or another patient, to turn to someone struggling before a meal, tell them that it was ok to eat, that their body needed the food and that they weren’t greedy, before immediately walking through to the dining room, plunging their face into their bran flakes and sobbing about how they couldn’t eat because of all the reasons they had just spent time telling someone else they didn’t need to worry about (to any people who visited me in hospital and wondered why I had bran flakes in my hair, now you will know why. It was all of the face plunging). This kind of thing can be quite baffling in its blatant hypocrisy to a passer by who may assume that the hypocrite in question is some kind of fool, so I thought that I would try and provide an explanation as to why this happens and why so many people with mental health problems are, when it comes to their own advice, hypocrites.
A lot of it is probably due to the whole “it’s different for me” thing that we all tend to feel a lot of the time, that ability we often have to feel like “the only one” in all of human history. For example I strongly believe that other people need food. Obviously people need to eat, doing so isn’t greedy, it is the only way to sustain life, yet when it comes to me I feel guilty and gluttonous no matter what I eat because I don’t deserve food, I am different, a person so horrible and disgusting that they cannot possible be considered in the same category as other people.
That said, I don’t think it is this “it’s different for me” thing that is the main issue, I think the real issue is that when people are confused as to how someone can give advice but not follow it themselves, it is because they do not realise or cannot see the level of control the disorder has over their abilities to do what they may know is the right thing.
If I had to explain it in an analogy (lord knows how much I like analogies), I would simply explain the issue by asking you to imagine a plumber named Mario (not THE Mario. This is a different plumber called Mario who hasn’t got a whole Nintendo franchise or a moustache. This Mario is in fact hairless and hates video games.)
He is however a great plumber, with all the knowledge in the world about pipes and water and…plumbing things.
Now imagine Mario standing behind his apprentice Luigi (again, different Luigi, they are not related), and giving him specific instructions on how to fit a shower. In a booming voice of authority Mario tells Luigi exactly what to do, which pipe should be at which angle, what spanner is required and he knows the second it is time to do something with the stopcock (suffice it to say I know very little about plumbing). Every time Luigi makes a mistake Mario yells something like “that is not what I said! You have to do exactly as I say because I know exactly how to do it.”
Were someone to overhear Mario yelling at Luigi from the next room, they may ask “why the hell doesn’t Mario stop telling Luigi what to do and follow his instructions himself”. Indeed, Mario looks rather bad and lazy on face value. However, were the person overhearing the scene to become so frustrated that they stomped upstairs and swung open the bathroom door to bring justice to the situation, they would see something that paints Mario’s inaction or inability to follow his own instructions in a different light.
Mario it turns out, is not ignoring his advice because he is lazy or because he is a fool, rather it is because he is caught up in the arms of a giant octopus who somehow escaped from the local aquarium, burst into the bathroom and proceeded to entangle Mario amongst its many flailing limbs. Mario knows that the big spanner needs to be used first and he knows that it would be best for Luigi in the long term if he turned the stop cock (can you turn a stopcock?), but knowing what to do logically, doesn’t mean he can physically perform the actions himself due to the aforementioned octopus entanglement issue. His arms are glued to his side, his legs bound together, and there is a large sucker covering his left eye. What he knows or doesn’t know is not relevant to his situation, because the situation is being controlled by that damn octopus, and that is how I feel whenever I give advice to other people.
In real life, I AM Mario. The majority of people with mental health problems ARE Mario.
They have read all of the self help books available, know more about their disorders and have filled out more healthcare questionnaires about their condition than a potential doctor in medical school could hope to, but it is hard for them to use all this knowledge because of the control their disorders have over them, much like that octopus had over Mario. I can watch someone else wash their hands and tell them to stop after one squirt of soap, yet when I try to do it, the OCD steps in, and regardless of the physical possibility of turning the tap off, it feels like I can’t. OCD will not let me leave the sink because it has me in its grasp and it can’t hear my rational thoughts or cries for help because one of its many tentacles is wrapped around my brain. I cannot get to the information I have cleverly gathered over time no matter how much I wiggle, there is a massive tentacle in the way, and OCD is in control.
Maybe it is different for other people, maybe you will read this and angrily disagree with me by stating that people with mental health problems aren’t all hypocrites and that it is just me being rude and making baseless generalisations (though I would like to believe that there are a lot of people out there reading this and thinking “OMG YOU ARE RIGHT, ME TOO!”)
Nevertheless, this is the best way I could explain the fact and reasons as to why I am often a hypocrite, and if you know someone similar to me in that respect, then maybe it is why they are a hypocrite too.
People with mental health problems who do not follow their own advice don’t act in such a way because they are being silly or give out fake advice they don’t really believe to other people just for fun. Instead, it is because knowing every trick in the book as to what should be done in a situation doesn’t always solve a problem when an octopus or mental health disorder has you in its grasp.
Take care everyone x
12 thoughts on “Why I Am A Hypocrite”
This is fantastically written as usual but also a fantastic analogy, I feel like it makes a lot of sense for people who are often really struggling but can give great advice to other people. ^_^
Aww thank you, you are too kind! x
Agree and definitely guilty of it myself. It goes beyond mental illness though. I feel like it’s a very human thing to not practice what you preach. Like, almost everyone does it.
You know plumbing terms I am not familiar with!
Hehe I am glad to know that my plumbing knowledge isn’t as bad as I thought… maybe I should take it up as a career!
This is my new favourite of all your posts ever. I think it’s relatable to most people with mental health conditions to be honest, I was definitely yelling (in my head of course, I didn’t want to alarm my family) ‘YES YES YES THIS IS ME!!’
Sending you love and hugs as always x
Hehe thank you so much, this made me smile 🙂 Lots of love and hugs coming your way xx
I’m a bit worried about writing this but I also believe it to be true so here it goes…
I think we are all capable of being hypocrites and that every single human to ever have existed will have been at some point. I agree that it appears more common in the mental health world but is that because we are more aware of the em two health world and if we were in a different sphere, we’d think it more common in that sphere? But also (takes deep breath and a huge gulp) I think there is sometimes an element of competition/making oneself feel better when dishing out advice/encouragement (maybe more so in ed world) and (takes even bigger breath) we like to think we are that special snowflake and it really is different for us. We don’t choose to be “ill”, but sometimes we allow ourselves to take the victim/helpless/hopeless role which means we can then justify why none of this applies to us. I don’t know if this makes sense, and I am preparing myself to be raged at….time to run away and hide (whilst whispering that I think this because I think at times this is exactly what I have done…and hangs head in shame).
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Why were you worried about writing that my dear! I think you make a very valid point! Never fear being raged at when you have things as valuable as this to say! Thank you! Now come out from that hiding place and accept a hug because I think you are fabulous, MWA xxxxx
the mental image of a hairless mario was too funny not to look up. it did not disappoint :’) https://assets3.thrillist.com/v1/image/2762013/size/tmg-facebook_social.jpg
OMG WHAT IS WRONG WITH HIS FACE
I think this post is well written as always. You are not a hypocrite, or at least no more so than any of the rest of us. I think that it is part of the human condition that we don’t practice what we preach. It is really more the norm rather than the exception. I also must say that I find a lot of courage and truth in Edisorder9’s comments (who has no reason to hang her head). That was well said! The competition part I must say I don’t understand, but I did find that it was quite prevalent in the eating disorder world when my son was in inpatient and PHP. I also think that most of us, myself included, see ourselves differently when giving advice to others, or should I say see our situation as just a bit different than the situation we are giving advice about. Perhaps some of that is that we have a much more objective view of someone else’s situation. Identifying problems and solutions is much more simple when we aren’t personally involved. Maybe it is also that we, by nature, have much more compassion and understanding for the frailties of others than we do for our own. I also wonder if there is a part of us that has become accustomed to the symptoms we have. Not to say that we like them, but that they have become something we are used to. They are like that annoying relative living in our home who we would like to see move to a hotel or something, but at the same time our home and our life would look different if they weren’t here. Who would share the cooking and watch TV with us? Who would I be without my OCD? Suppose I try to get rid of it and fail? What would people think of me then? What if I get well and people start expecting more of me than I can manage? Being “helpless” and “unable” to get rid of our symptoms keeps us in a safe place, false as it is. Not a pleasant place, but safe only because we know it so well. Of course, it isn’t safe, especially in the case of an eating disorder. It does also give us the perception that the expectations of others will not be as high, although I do think we fool ourselves and that it is a misperception. It does keep the pain of “failure” at bay, because if our symptoms are just too much to overcome or if I don’t take my own advice, I can’t really fail. Sometimes the best way to remove the roadblocks to the consideration of our own advice is to examine, with honesty, the fears that taking it would bring.
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I think you are right with everything here especially about the safety thing. You are so wise! As always thank you for reading and commenting on my blog, your words have , as always, touched me and illuminated ideas I have not thought of before. Love to you and the family X xx