I’ve already said my piece about how people perceive labels as opposed to how labels should actually be used. Now, I would like to address how we look at mental illness and why this is the wrong way to approach it.
When it comes to our mental health the majority of the focus is put on the symptoms and fixing the problems. The problem with that approach is that the “problems” aren’t always problematic.
For example, my anxiety is sometimes an illness and sometimes a gift.
Let’s just say, for example, I lost my hearing. It would be devastating. I would have to re-learn how to communicate. There would be a period of time where I would mourn the loss of one of my senses.
Once over that hump though, I would learn to use my other senses differently, more effectively. Sound would be felt through vibrations instead of heard with my ears. If I were to go blind, I’d learn to see through touch. If I couldn’t taste, I would learn to appreciate texture.
When we can’t interpret the world or communicate with it through the more widely accepted ways we learn to interact with it in new ways.
When we begin to look at the world in new ways, we see new things. We bring new talents, new ideas and new strengths to the world.
Personally, I think the symptoms of anxiety should look more like this:
-Feelings of panic, fear, or uneasiness
-Cold or sweaty hands or feet
-Increased or decreased sex drive
-Weight gain or loss
-Increased writing skill
-Great interest in at least one scientific field
-Reflective and thoughtful
….I’m sure you get the point.
Of course, not everyone will share the same symptoms and not all of the symptoms will present themselves at the same time.
If I did not have anxiety, I would not have the talents, strengths or weaknesses that I have. The thing that causes me to break down and feel like a small child huddled under blankets for fear of an invisible monster about to grab my feet is also the thing that has allowed me to focus my energy on writing and art to learn how to express myself in an alternative way. It’s also inspired my love of science. It allows me to think in ways that are abnormal and unique.
This does not need to be cured. It does not need to be fixed. For me, it does not need to be medicated and numbed and mixed into a stew of side effects; though I am hesitant to say that it does not need to be medicated for all I’m certain there are many like me who are harmed more by the medications than helped by them.
Though my own personal experiences lie with anxiety, depression, insomnia, and autism and I’ve never personally experienced any of the others…I still strongly believe that people with bipolar disorder, dissociative identity disorder, schizophrenia and so on have enormous stored potential that is untapped and overlooked because all of the focus is always put on the bad and the ugly and the need to “fix” everything so it all fits together perfectly like a nice set of identical dinner plates. Just imagine the beautiful things that they could show us if we stopped telling them that they’re wrong and they need to work extra hard to become better.
What does need to start happening is that we need to start looking at mental illness as it is: Strengths and weaknesses. It’s a gift and a curse. It’s a talent and it’s dysfunction. It needs to be treated with love and support and an incredible amount of patience. We need to start allowing these people to be educated in nontraditional ways and accept them as they are without making them feel broken.
Lets start letting all of our geniuses, artists, writers, entertainers and scientists really shine.