Does mental ill-health…

…make you selfish?


THINK (Photo credit: Erik Eckel)

I’ve been taking a break from writing, but I’ve been mulling over the characters.

In my previous books, the characters have all been likeable to a certain degree. Sure, Dr Bailey (Hospital Corners) is a tough woman to love, but she has her redeeming features and comes good in the end. People who have read Agoraphobics Anonymous, find Angela quite a tough woman to like, but can sympathise with her situation and give her a break.

However, in my latest attempt, Moving Meditation, I’m finding some of my POV characters to be wholly unlikeable. I’m really struggling to portray one of the characters: Steve. He’s obsessed with himself; his own wants, needs and desires. Nobody else gets a look-in and, because I write in first-person, you can’t escape his selfish nature. I know I’ve created him, but I’m beginning to wish I hadn’t.

Hitting the Books

Hitting the Books (Photo credit: javaturtle)

Reading everything I’ve written from Steve’s POV and shuddering, I wonder if my opinion of this exceptionally self-centred character is how other people see me? I’ve read many books on mental ill-health, BPD in particular, and most of them highlight the fact that mental ill-health is incredibly selfish. That people suffering from mental ill-health are concerned only with themselves. That people with BPD are all incredibly manipulative in order to get things the way they “need” them to be.

I’ve always laughed off such sweeping statements, but my struggles with Steve (who’s suffering from depression) led me to think the matter over quite seriously. I’ve looked at my own behaviour, past and present, and I can see where it might be interpreted as selfish. I know many people with schizophrenia or bipolar whose acts can appear incredibly self-centred.


If someone with brain damage started acting out of character, it would be understood and accepted. The same needs to be done for mental ill-health. When we suffer from a condition like BPD, depression or bipolar, our brain isn’t functioning in a healthy manner. It is, in essence, damaged. That doesn’t give us free license to do whatever we like, but please give us a little leeway?


Selfish (Photo credit: wonderferret)

Of course, that still leaves me with the problem of Steve…I think I just need to accept that, depression or not, he’s a selfish, unpleasant man.


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