As someone who has been judged and found to be lacking all my life due to being different from the norm, I try hard to be tolerant myself of all kinds of difference in others. It’s not always easy, but I do my best. I’m a natural introvert at heart, and have spent a lifetime struggling with recurring bouts of depression that remained undiagnosed until my early twenties yet caused a lot of upset and distress within my immediate family during my teenage years and beyond. Growing up I was always labelled ‘the difficult one’ because I simply didn’t fit in with everyone else’s expectations of who I should be.
And it seems that once you’ve been labelled as lacking by your family, that label sticks no matter what comes afterwards. Even now there’s a better understanding within my family of depression and just how debilitating it can be, no-one has bothered to update the labels of ‘difficult’ and ‘awkward’ as applied to me. So although others within the family who are suffering from depression are now given some basic level of familial understanding, and more importantly allowances are made for their fragile mental state and the sometimes erratic behaviour that arises from that, it seems that basic understanding is not to be applied retrospectively.
I do try to correct that misjudgement whenever possible – my mum will be recounting a family tale and will say ‘Well of course, Ruth always had to be so difficult’ in her usual indulgent smiling-but-disparaging way, so I pull her up on it and remind her that I was depressed, not deliberately being difficult. But it seems it doesn’t suit mum’s life narrative for me to be anything other than the teenage thorn in her side of her memory, so sadly I’m still remembered as being a recalcitrant and badly-behaved child rather than a young adult who was struggling emotionally, completely out of her depth.
Anyway, the point of this post is to explain why I try so hard to be as open-minded and fair as far as possible, and not to be immediately judgemental of others straight out of the box. I always like to get to know each individual or group’s invisible back-story before I make any decisions on their actions or their worth. The bottom line for me is that I truly understand the unfairness of difference being judged as being deliberately difficult and by extension dangerous, and I understand the frustration felt by (through no fault of your own) being deemed a potential threat to the status quo within each familial, cultural and societal norm so many of us take for granted every day.