These bodies we ride in as a consciousness are tricksy things. Disease and injury and illness all play havoc with our ride and (frankly) are a serious freaking bummer. Nothing tho is as hard to ride out as diseases which directly impact the place our consciousness resides in.
I think we ARE making strides in recognizing mental health as a real and valid thing, that mental illness is just as real and no more or less stigmatizing than physical illness. And you know, I DO think we’re seeing more mental health issues at the forefront of our society in modern times. Why? Because frankly we have more time and independent agency than many of our forebearers did, and our increased communication means that we see it more, talk about it more, and are less ashamed of it.
BUT. There is so much farther we can go.
The troubling thing about our brains is that when there’s something wrong in them, we may not notice it. I know you know that, and I know that… but when we’re REEEEALLLLY fucked up? We DON’T. We are operating based on the input and analysis of that input that we have at the time. We’re just doing the best we can with what we have. Sometimes, that best is (from an outside perspective) completely batshit.
My whole family deals with various types and levels of mental health issues. Depression and Anxiety and Attention disorder are way more common than we used to think, and I’m pretty sure that we’re in the phase of research where we’ve IDENTIFIED things, and haven’t REALLY found the path to resolving them yet. Meds are great, they really are. Meds have saved the lives of people close to me, and will continue to do so. I am, however, hoping we learn enough in the next 50 years that we can effect some more lasting change with different methods, whatever those may be. (There is a lot of FASCINATING research out there which doesn’t all come together yet… so. Here’s hoping)
Me? I deal with anxiety of various levels… and also the odd rolling bout of more situational depression. I think of these things as disease (anxiety) and illness (depression)… not necessarily the same thing. Diabetes? Disease. Lupus? Disease. Common Cold? Illness. Annoying as fuck, but still… illness. Temporary and endurable unless there’s extenuating circumstances; and while I do things to mitigate the symptoms (therapy) I don’t necessarily medicate the illness. But, I keep an eye on it, because if it becomes a disease, it’s a different ball of wax.
I know don’t seem particularly anxious or depressed most times on social media… because this is my public face. (I’m an actor, we’re HELLA good at being “on.”)
This week, I ran smack-dab into the realities of disease pathology, in a really unexpected interaction with someone who was one of my best friends in high school. He commented on a post I made, and his comments were not only hurtful and offensive, but also did not (to my level of understanding of reality) make any sense.
I engaged with him some, I hopped over and read his page and looked at what was up in his life. I admit, I’d lost contact as many of us do; I feel badly about that, but it’s life.
I could not understand anything of what I was reading. I mean, I could identify streams of thought, and things which meant something to him… but I had no framework for understanding what was motivating him and concerning him. It was, to use the vernacular, “crazy” TO ME.
It breaks my heart. I know without a doubt that he is operating under the best response he can to what he perceives as reality right now. He is deeply worried about things, deeply offended by things … just as I am. His things and my things simply don’t bear any resemblance to each other.
I recognize that I am making the assumption that *I* am rational and he is not, which is an assumption based on what MY brain chemistry is telling me at this very moment. It is of course true that my perception of reality is not “truth” so much as my version of it… however empirical analysis of his truth contrasted with the truth of a large number of other people would seem to put his significantly more at odds with the general perception of reality than is mine.
I know that very fact is, for him, feeding the surety that he IS right, because that’s how delusions work.
It scares me. For him, and for anyone.
Because the brain is such a fragile system, and when it goes awry, it’s impossible to SEE from inside it. You know that the world is upside down, because that’s what you see every time you open your eyes, but it never occurs to you that maybe your eyes/brain are misleading you. Every bit of input you get reassures you that YOU are right, and everyone else is insisting on believing they are walking on the floor, when clearly they are on the ceiling.
If this were a physical disease, in which his brain was running optimally… he would be able to see that, and consider getting help. I hope that as we communally get more comfortable with seeing mental diseases and illness as a physical condition, and not a moral failing, we will become more and more willing to consider the possibility that the upside-down room may be our mind playing tricks, and not the world at fault.
I hope that every time we are honest about our mental diseases and illnesses, we help with that just a little bit.
I hope that my friend finds some way to get help before he hurts himself or others.
I hope that you, if you are struggling with an illness or disease of the mind, remember that it’s part of your chassis too, just like your spleen or your stomach. It doesn’t mean that you, the consciousness riding in that chassis, are weak or a failure… it just means that there’s a hitch you should look at.
Be well, and get help if and when you need it.
As a reminder, the suicide prevention line is always up, and has both a phone and text based interface.
In the mean-time? Keep reading, keep writing, keep listening… and keep sharing your stories.
Cheers, and Bisous.