We love to label people (geeks, bookworms...), and we, ourselves, often look for that defining label, which will make us feel safe and whole and, well, kinda "done" (mother, CEO, photographer, etc.).
The mental health industry is no different. Take a cluster of symptoms and give them a name.
But there are many brave psychiatrists and psychologists who are daring to question the very model of mental health, illness, and treatment, and one faction in particular fascinates me. There are a group of professionals who are finally saying that most mental "illness" is really just one form or another of complex post traumatic stress disorder.
Shit happens. It hurts. Your brain changes. You are changed.
I say Duh, but it is so important that the premises most people in the profession take for granted are being challenged. And the brave souls who are doing this are truly brave because it can ruin a career to go up against institutions of immense power like the A.M.A. or the pharmaceutical industry.
For me, this has been clear for some time. Some of us are born, perhaps, more "sensitive" to our environments than others, shit happens, we are injured.
Sensitivity + Trauma = Mental Injury
Those clusters of symptoms that the profession likes to label? Seems even more obvious to me in light of this equation. Imagine that a bunch of humans put through the same types of traumas end up exhibiting similar characteristics. Wow. Big leap there.
I mean, this is not the stuff of Einstein.
Let's get clearer on this, shall we?
Here's a little list for you:
You are not "mentally ill" just because:
- ...you are sad. There is probably a reason. No, that's not true. There is ALWAYS a reason. Dig for it.
- ...you have no energy. Figure out why. There are so many possibilities with nutrition alone.
- ...you hate your life. Change it. Many of us make choices about our lives when we are young and stupid and this doesn't mean you can't make it wonderful now. Get unstuck!
- ...you are grief-stricken. There is probably a reason. Elisabeth Kubler Ross, at the end of her life, said she was sorry for creating the steps of grief because not all people are the same, and she fears she did great damage. Yep.
- ...you don't fit into the 9 to 5 world. Humans are vastly different creatures but we think there is only one model for living and it includes a "regular job," a house, and children.
- ...you are filled with fears and anxieties. There is a reason for each one. Find them all. Deconstruct them. Also, you can grow your bravery.
- ...you are not able to be around the people who abused you. Imagine that.
- ...you are not okay with the abuse that was perpetrated upon you as a child simply because you "survived" and they didn't "mean it."
- ...you have big emotions. Again, we are all different.
- ...you hear voices, see big chickens, whatever. As long as those voices and chickens aren't telling you to kill yourself or hurt someone, who cares?! Madness used to be seen as partner to genius. And sometimes it still is: Watch this movie.
- ...you are socially inept or anxious in public situations or don't like to meet new people or like to stay with small groups or don't want to stand in front of hundreds and give a speech or have no clue how to find a significant other. Watch this movie for a beautiful portrayal of community and unconditional love.
- ...you feel broken. You are not. You may have bad coping mechanisms; start identifying them, understand where they came from, observe them, commit to stopping.
- ...you have to check the stove/door/cats/etc. over and over. Again, developing big mind will allow you to see what is happening in your brain and stop identifying with it.
No more comfortably numb.