Pat Risser – I Used To Be Low Functioning — Not Any More!

Low Functioning?

Low Functioning?

I was labeled “low-functioning.” Of course that was a punishment label.

If you can’t help others because labels, like “low functioning,” and treatment plans, are in your way, you should step aside and find some other calling. Not everyone is cut out to do this work.

I’ve known many doctors (MD and Ph.D.) who should never have any human contact because their people skills were so meager. They should be in some back room laboratory somewhere, torturing poor rats. At least they’d never get to torture us with their holier than thou attitudes.

Mental Health Experts and Labels Made Me Low Functioning

I wasn’t motivated. I went for help and gave away all my personal power. I had been taught from infancy that if there’s a problem, see a doctor. Trust doctor. Doctor will fix it. So, I trusted authority. When I didn’t get better, I figured it must be me doing something wrong. Perhaps I needed more therapy, more drugs, more journaling, more something. I was obviously “low functioning.”

Of course, it couldn’t be the expert authority. The harder I tried and the more I didn’t get well, the harder I tried and the more I didn’t get well.

Eventually, I was so defeated, felt such despair and overwhelming hopelessness and helplessness, that I was like so many “low functioning” mentallly ill patients, just shuffling from moment to moment, measuring time from cigarette to cigarette, from Big Gulp to Big Gulp.  An occasional toke was a high point of a week for me. (pun intended).

It wasn’t until I started questioning and challenging that I started to recover. I got angry and learned that I know me best. I fought and struggled and recovered…my self-esteem, my self-worth, my SELF. I am fully recovered and no longer depend upon uncaring fools to help me, no longer low functioning.

I Still Get Suicidal, But Don’t Get Locked Up

I still feel suicidal at times. I just no longer get locked up because I don’t frighten those poor mental workers. and because I no longer get stupid about how I respond when I am having a disturbing feeling. It’s not rocket science.

I’ve survived five heart attacks, and I don’t waste much time any more. I strongly suspect the heart problems were in part due to years of psychiatric drugs.

I used to be suicidal. I’d tell some mental illness professional; they’d panic and lock me up. I don’t get locked up any more. I still feel suicidal at times. I just don’t tell mental health folks.

Labels like SMI and “Low Functioning” Are Misleading

Am I still “Severely Mentally Ill” (“SMI”)?  Was I ever SMI? Was I ever low functioning?  Does it matter, or tell you anything about who I am?

Email me. Call me. Talk with me. Google me.  Get to know me. You may completely forget I was once labeled mentally ill and low functioning.  I’ve been around a long time and worked as a professional, worked as a peer, trained peers. and helped a lot of folks along the way. May you be as fortunate.

Labels tell us so little about people. I was labeled “low-functioning.”  The label doesn’t tell you I attended law school. I helped invent the Wellness and Recovery Action Plan (WRAP) with Mary Ellen Copeland, and others.

I have lived a full, very productive life, but I was also a low functioning mental patient for over ten years.  I’ve been homeless (with my wife and kids), and been through my share of struggles.

Try going up to the “low functioning” person you identify as most repulsive, and find the strength and good in that person. Perhaps start with the fact that they’ve somehow managed to live and survive as long as they have. Theirs might be a fascinating story or journey.

Ask what they wanted to be as a child. and what happened to that dream. Don’t judge or label them. Just find out their story. See if there isn’t one positive thing you can help them discover that might make their day better.

When you see people in a new, less judgmental way, then try to help others do the same. This sort of positive energy is contagious. will help recovery. and turn things around for “low functioning” people.. It’s not easy, and it takes time, but it’s so very, very worthwhile. You have the capability to do this and I’d love to hear about your successes.

Could you help anyone, or yourself, by challenging the label “low functioning” with a positive idea?


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