Not another self-serving blog post on mental health! In my experience with people who are mentally ill, the one area of greatest contention is this: the center of the universe. What I mean is that I know people who are mentally ill who believe they are the center of the universe, and others who believe anybody and anything but them is the center of the universe. Few hold the correct view, that is that there is no center to the universe, and one must find a balance between self-love and self-discipline, giving and saying no, controlling and yielding.
I don’t mean to criticize anyone. I believe in mental illness just like I believe in cancer, but it’s trickier…
I hate to write because frankly I think mental illness is a fashionable term which most people bandy about excessively, inaccurately, and without thinking. In the past few years, knowing someone who lost a sister to suicide, seeing the difference in my friend before versus after good mental health care, and struggling with my own unwanted thoughts and behaviors, I have become much more attuned to our colloquialisms: OCD, ADD, bipolar, depressed, etc. Some of these words have meanings distinct from any sort of illness; for instance, I find it unfortunate that it is ambiguous to say, “I am depressed,” because of course one can be depressed without having an illness.
Anyway, I’ve read so many accounts of So-and-so’s struggle with an eating disorder or something, all ending in, ‘and now I love myself, and here are a few paragraphs full of the most positive adjectives I know of to describe how brave I am or how gorgeous my body truly is or–‘ almost always there’s something about inspiration in there. Maybe some vaguely feminist stuff. Often some allusion to a significant other, like, “now I see the beautiful woman my boyfriend saw all along.”
I don’t mean to rant about it or to really shit on it. I just dislike it because it’s hard for me to believe so many people are truly having such a very similar experience, then writing the same article on practically every blog of young women’s magazine out there for the past decade. Secondly, it reads to me like a bunch of positive self-talk, not so much what the person really believes. I think people who are genuinely secure do not preface statements of how awesome they feel with, “I may have X flaw, but…” I just don’t really buy it most of the time. Finally, if I did buy it, I’d be a little disturbed because such articles always seem to ignore the reality of a situation. It’s great to survive depression or develop self-esteem or learn to manage your compulsions–but life is still a bitch, and it doesn’t matter how good you feel about yourself, you still have to pay the bills, and the war in Afghanistan is still raging, and there’s no way you feel so “victorious” all the time unless you’re delusional or high or both.
So these are some reasons I rarely if ever write about mental health. I don’t want to be self-centered. I don’t want to be fake. I don’t want to be trite. I do like to be private.
But as much as it irks me to think about any sort of X-illness pride, there shouldn’t be shame either. And I recognize that refusing to talk about things even if I have good reasons might be part of why mental illness is still stigmatized even among healthcare practitioners (at least so says one of my mentors, a psychiatrist himself). Likely enough my perception of mental illness is colored as much by dominant attitudes as it is by personal experiences and actually thinking about it and trying to be fair and to understand.
I suppose I’ve felt for a while now that I would be a hypocrite for not “talking to someone,”–ah, that phrase! Yes, it’s seemed like a good idea for a while. I have not been functioning like I think I should be. If I were my friend and I were aware of things, I would say, “Go talk to someone!” I say people can be mentally ill, yet deny that I could be–then refuse to so much as have a check up lest someone qualified concludes that I am clinically something or other.
It was hard enough for me to accept when a doctor told me I have acid-reflux. (And I am still holding out hope–being stubborn?–that I can ameliorate this problem through behavior changes instead of medication.)
So my thinking and speaking has not been consistent with… my life, I guess. I’ve read psychology books. I could speculate about why. I do rather think that anyone in my circumstances would act more or less the same; but I see now that all that shows is my behavior makes some sense to me, not that it is actually normal or healthy. Anyway, today I made an appointment for a telephone assessment with someone from my school’s counseling and psychological services. I was unjustifiably surprised by how difficult it was to press the dial button on my phone. As it rang, I hoped for an automated appointment service instead of a person; and I was also surprised that I had this thought.
I don’t know what will happen. I know what I would like to happen, but not how it is possible. I’m very leery about drugs because prescription or not, sometimes they change people. Since my mother started taking psychiatric drugs several years ago, she has been like a different person both to me and to herself. I think I would rather suffer and be me than gain any benefit if it involved becoming someone else. I have had a very clear idea of who I am for a long time, and even the mild personality change that comes about from having a drink or two of alcohol disconcerts me.
Well, what is my point? My point is I have restored myself from hypocrisy. Good for me. Now if I can… I don’t know… get back on track, I suppose. We talk about getting on track with diet and exercise or work or this or that plan, or even with relationships. I need to get back on track mentally. Not a big deal, not different–neither more nor less special or “inspiring” than someone deciding to start working out consistently for the first time. Right?