Mentally ill…maybe not

Often images of the mentally ill are ones that come right out of a Dickens novel. People visualize asylums, dark and cold, filled with people raving and ranting and making little if any sense. For those who suffer from mental illness, they too see those images and carry them within. Possibly there is a belief that if not for anti depressant meds or good therapy, sufferers would be back there in the dark ages of mental treatments. Thus sufferers become silent. They deal with their illnesses with some support from close family and friends, but doing their best to keep it hidden from others.

Sometimes sufferers hide even from their own family since the sense of self shame is so strong. Mental illness becomes something to be hidden, placing great pressure on sufferers who cannot actively seek support in day to day lives.

The saddest part of this phenomenon is that it is self imposed. The mentally ill person makes the choice to hide the illness because he or she fears that others will perceive them through these images. It becomes difficult to be authentic even with oneself when one sees that self as being damaged goods.

It thus becomes imperative that societies begin to recognize that with the help of medications and therapy the mentally ill are capable of living meaningful lives. When society begins to act on this and portray mental illness in a more positive manner then the mentally ill themselves will cease trying to hide behind the wall of shame they themselves create. It is time for people to stop supporting an often untruthful and sometimes frightening portrayal of mental illness in order to enable those who suffer from such problems to live the meaningful lives they are capable of.

The mentally ill themselves can go a long way in making this happen by refusing to hide their illnesses. They can react to inaccurate portrayal of their illnesses with the outrage that such inaccuracy deserves. There is no reason for the mentally ill to wear a sign identifying themselves to the world, but neither is there any reason for those who suffer from mental illness to hide in world of self loathing and shame.

I ALWAYS say its mind over matter…


15 thoughts on “Mentally ill…maybe not

  1. A wonderful book to read on this subject is taken straight from the mind of a woman that has bi-polar disorder. It’s called “Madness” by Marya Hornbacher. I am currently adapting the book into a play.

    I started reading this book when I started having panic attacks and was put on anti-depressants (one that i’m on my doctor said SHE was actually on for awhile). I could possibly be making a mistake by getting closer into her mind by writing this play… the actress that performed some of the monologues I adapted last semester said she had the same problem – getting too far into her mind. Trying to understand what it’s like. NO. Don’t TRY to understand… I must pretend I DO understand. Trying to understand can quite literally make someone go insane – like Heath Ledger in his role of the Joker. They found him in a hotel room with bottles of sleeping pills. All he wanted to do was sleep but he was constantly trying to be in the mind of a mad man. Some people (especially “sane” people – whatever the fuck that means) have a hard time with the method acting. You must literally take a piece of this person into your heart, BUT adapt it to yourself somehow. Find something that you can actually like and embrace.

    During my panic attacks (seeing/hearing things, feeling numb, thinking I was having a stroke, crying for NO reason, etc..) I would take multiple pills given to me by friends (left nameless) – Vicodin, Codene-covered tylenol, Xanax (which I became addicted to but quickly cut myself off), alcohol .. beer and wine would do, but the hard stuff made it better to sleep.

    Now I only “suffer” (if you will) from sleep. Some nights I get none. Some days it has serious effects on me, sometimes I seem like I slept like a baby, when in fact, I did not. I’m also currently on Lexapro. There are days that i feel like I need to desperately talk to someone but I fucking hate therapists – WTF do they know? half of them can’t empathize at ALL. but they’ll tell you “I understand..”. (Marya went through this… she’d cuss out her therapists everyday.. they had no idea what she felt like inside. no one could.) Sometimes you can really only help yourself. D is right – Mind over matter. which is how i get through everyday.

    Now the majority of you who are reading this (if anyone) probably think I’m nuts. But in all honesty, I lead a very normal life. I work in a library, have great friends and family, I read, dance, eat good food.. You wouldn’t be able to tell.

  2. Mental illness is just that, an illness, just like cancer or alcoholism. Each comes with a stigma within societal parameters. The illness is personal to the individual and his/her family and to be shared as comfortable. Society can’t dictate what must be shared, with whom and by whom. It has to work within the life of the individual. I do concur there should not be a fear to do so.

    You are correct in that society forces people to live a life of hiding and running from the illness. Change must come from society and from the individuals impacted.

    For consideration is also the individual learning to honestly accept and live with the illness; developing practices and those daily living skills which allows the person to live a productive and successful life.

    So many times, and for various reasons, this does not occur. Mismanagement and/or denial of the need for medication and therapy sets the individual up for a life of challenge and for loved ones to, often times, opt out of the relationship. Taking medications not prescribed to that individual, self medicating from others, not following practices mutually agreed upon between therapist and the individual can be devastating and send the individual in to a spiral.

    All of what is articulated above, and as you shared, D, perpetuates the situation in which many with this illness are forced to live. It’s unfortunate.

  3. Um yea you are NUTZ!!! just teasing! 🙂

    I do appreciate you sharing that with us, but I still must propel the thought that it IS all in our mind. I refuse to think some synthesized formula can make it all better. Check this out, CHina population makes up 19.84% of the worlds population and the U.S. only makes up 4.52% but yet we have more “ADD/ADHD, BiPolar, and LD children and adults than they do!!

    With that astounding fact I must contend that its all what is taught as “allowable” reality. THe Chinese culture in this instance has found away to “think” through such mental traps and overcome them – Americans resort to a “magic pill”.

    Don’t get me wrong, I am not calling you lazy or minimizing your disposition, all I am saying is that there MUST be another way to overcome things that aren’t real.

    Most problems in the mind ARE self imposed and made up. “I am fat”, I feel sad etc… WE have 100% control over such things. Thats why some people laugh at some things while others may get madd or angry – its all in the interpretation and how we are taught/allowed to handle such things.

    Here is the bottom line – we as humans think we can and are smarter that God/nature. The mind is VERY powerful and more so than we give it credit. We think our magic pills and diagnoses can fix it when in fact the solution/medicine is within us and always has been.

    We just need to focus within and start there first…

  4. Let me tell a story –

    I had two uncles that committed suicide back to back (different sides of the fam) two summers ago. One of them was an ex-Marine war veteran. What drives a man to kill himself after 60 some years that served our country proudly? The Government. My uncle felt like shit after all those years… he couldn’t handle it any more. This is still happening to the men coming back from Iraq fighting for OUR country – they end up going “crazy”. How do we solve this problem? Once again, sure, they can talk to therapists but ONCE AGAIN – What do they know???

    I believe that these men need to start their own support groups with each other and not be ashamed of what went on over there. The worst thing you can do is push everything deep inside you until you explode, which is kind of what happened to me. Only I wasn’t serving a fucked up, adolescent-at-heart country that had a retard as a President.

  5. I’m going to change your “we as humans” to “we as Americans”. Americans are fucked up because that’s how they want to see themselves!! I was in Greece for four months and I smoked, drank coffee, and was around WAY healthier people that walked to the markets in the morning AND they even took a 3-5 break in the afternoon – their siesta!

    Americans stress themselves out TOO much. They overwork themselves, they freak out about deadlines, they crap themselves if they get a B on a midterm, they think up lazy ways to get by in life (See exhibit A on the snuggie or exhibit B on that garbage bag that lets you lose weight.. lol). I’m from a small town so everyone drives here. I walk a lot of places that are close and I’m looked at like I’m crazy!! YOU LAZY FUCKING BASTARDS. GET OFF YOUR FAT ASSES, ENJOY LIFE AND DRINK SOME FUCKING ALCOHOL.

    …I’m done. 🙂

  6. BTW – I take on Eastern philosophies/religions when it comes to spirituality and keeping myself grounded. It works. Wonders.

  7. Hmmm, I hear you but I am not clear on what your rebuttal is to my comment is above…

    I am sorry for your uncles perishing – BUT note that whatever reason they did it, it was because of our president, a war, or anything else – they committed suicide because THEY commenced the thought to reality.

    It was ALL in their head – all self imposed.

  8. I’m not denying that it wasn’t self imposed. I just wish they felt like they had someone to talk to. also, he wasn’t getting the help that was promised to him from the Government.

  9. Dimitri, you are most correct in that attitude and our perception plays a huge part in our success and drive for mastering conflict and challenge. For those with an illness, it can be a life time attitude and outlook on life.

    I am not professing that medication isn’t suitable, appropriate and needed by some extreme cases. For the majority, however, that is a different issue. The U.S. is medication happy — a pill for everything. But so, too, is society so lazy and easy to look at ‘what’s in it for me’. Immediate gratification and resistance to a challenge and hard work has pulled down society, and lowered tolerance levels. This is played out in every walk of life.

    I’m not minimizing the impact of watching thousands die before your eyes, but it seems you (Sarabi) are lashing out in several directions (to be expected when loved ones are lost). You point a finger at the government and the specialists. There has to be an element of inward reflection. I won’t go down the path of arguing the validity of sending soldiers in to battle as the issue is not just Iraq. There will always be wars to fight and the issue of dealing with the impact on soldiers as they come home. With that said, just as there are competent and incompetent professionals in every walk, so, too, in clinical specialists. There must be a fit between the individual and the specialist, and an attitude and willingness to walk the path to developing a maintenance plan.

    I don’t think one can ever get over watching others die but a willingness to live a long, healthy, happy life is fuel to work with those who can help. The same is true in any situation of challenge, mental illness included. Attitude plays a huge role.

  10. There is always someone to talk to…the individual has to be willing to look for and take the hand offered!

  11. Someone that can empathize though? My dad is a Catholic and he went to confession after coming back from Vietnam and the priest told him to get out. He wasn’t trying to hear about the war.

  12. I’m not saying this is EVERYONE’s experience. This is what I’VE seen or heard or have been through. Apparently though, I just hear the really negative things.

  13. As I said before, there has to be a fit between specialist and individual. It make take a longer path to get there in some instances, and you can’t give up. Again, it has a great deal to do with perspective and attitude.

    People hear and see what they want to see and hear…and get out of situations what they expect relative to what they’ve put in to it, in most situations. I’m not saying each situation ends happily, but we condition ourselves with our attitude. Remember, you can only control yourself.

  14. Yeah… so I understand what you are saying but nothing is always anything. People with mental disabilities and/or illnesses often do not have the ability to think mind over matter which is an indication that one has a disability or an illness and they arise from a variety of places. It could be something they are genetically pre-disposed to, it could be something that is ignited with the use of alcohol or at a particular developmental level, or their could be a distortion of brain functioning. With the exception of alcohol use none of the previously stated can be controlled simply because one thinks so.

    I agree that it would be more helpful if there were not stigmas surrounding mental illnesses which would allow people more opportunities to accept current conditions, seek proper help and create a better reality for all involved. With that said it is important for someone with an illness of any kind but especially a mental illness to have the support of family and friends.

    Additionally, it is vital that families begin sharing their actual family history of illnesses and stop hiding behind secrets, lies and dismissals of other members who have had mental illnesses that went untreated. Again, I agree the more we talk about it, the more honest we are, the more can be done to help and thus the more hope we can have.

  15. ctn1luv,

    Interesting – however I must simply contend your stance. My point is that *I* think people with mental illnesses is that if taught/shown the can in fact overcome the issues. Now I will express that I am not speaking in terms severe mental illnesses.

    My last thought is this – even if a “pill” is required in order to treat the mental illness, I just wish we would employ a more natural approach to such treatments.

Please use the comments to demonstrate your own ignorance, unfamiliarity with empirical data, ability to repeat discredited memes, and lack of respect for scientific knowledge. Also, be sure to create straw men and argue against things I have neither said nor even implied. Any irrelevancies you can mention will also be appreciated. Lastly, kindly forgo all civility in your discourse . . . you are, after all, anonymous :)

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