Google defines ‘crazy’ as: “Mentally deranged, esp. as manifested in a wild or aggressive way.” It goes on to add synonyms such as: insane, out of one’s mind, deranged, demented and lunatic.
Seriously, with descriptions like this, is it any wonder we fear those with mental illness?
I have a friend who went through physical hell for the last year or so. She thought she had an auto-immune disease but the doctors said she didn’t quite fit the mold. She had some of the symptoms, but not all of them and then some symptoms of other diseases. In short, the medical community didn’t know what to do with Connie. They couldn’t label her with a physical disease even though her pain would be, at times, debilitating and left her suffering with insomnia, seizures and high blood pressure.
Eventually, she developed severe panic/anxiety attacks. Even though her rational mind was saying she wasn’t in danger and didn’t need to fight, flight or freeze, she would have a very physical reaction to this self-perceived harm. Her medical doctor put on her on anti-anxiety medicine and suggested (FINALLY!!!) she try counseling.
Connie did seek the services of a therapist and was frustrated that she, after going so long without knowing what was wrong, STILL didn’t have a medical diagnosis. When she asked the therapist about this, Connie was told that she, the therapist, really hesitated to tell people their diagnosis because of the negative connotations surrounding it. She told Connie her diagnosis was a mental illness.
Dum de dahhhhh dah DUM. And there it is. The words: “MENTAL ILLNESS.”
For some of us, these two little words can be scarier than anything Stephen King could bring to life. Oh, I don’t mean we fear developing mental illness ourselves. Noooooo, we fear those who have it. Fear might be too strong of a word, but most of us are certainly are uncomfortable.
You tell someone you have heart disease, diabetes or even cancer and that is immediately accepted. No questions asked; no fear in their eyes. You’re told, “I’m sorry to hear that. How are you doing? Do you need anything?” Or maybe you just receive a generic nod of the head and an uninspired ‘oh’. These physical diseases are accepted and freely talked about so why aren’t mental health issues? Why is that taboo?
I have a young nursing student friend who recently was diagnosed with a mental illness. She had a nervous breakdown or ‘psychotic episode’ one day and immediately took herself to the emergency room. Her brain had reached the limits of stress, overload and pain it would endure. Her brain said, “enough!”
She came to see me about a week later. She was wondering why, even though she was taking her medication as prescribed, she was still having problems cognitively (memory retention and concentration). When I asked my Guys (Guardian Angels) about this, they said she had received a wound to her brain and it needed to be treated with the same care you would give to a wound you could see. They went on to say it might take up to six months before her brain injury healed and functioned in the manner it did prior to the injury.
Stress, genetics, biology and psychological trauma are all causes of mental illness. They can also cause physical illness. Interesting, huh? As you’ve read in the case of Connie, these mental traumas can mimic physical diseases. If your mind mimics the disease for too long, the disease will become real. The body has a way of saying what the mind cannot. Are you listening to yours?
Let’s not underestimate the value of healing your brain, whether it’s by conventional methods such as a professionally trained counselor or non-conventional methods such as IET, Body Talk or even Reiki. Healing trauma within your mind can have resounding effects on your physical body and psyche.
Connie gave me permission to tell her story, even though she’s scared she’ll be judged. She has a strong desire to bring awareness and to educate others about this. It does not need to be awkward or avoided. In truth, mental illness is so common. Did you know eating disorders, PTSD, autism, anxiety, suicide (yes, suicide) and depression (to name a few) are ALL mental illnesses? When you look at it that way, who HASN’T been touched (pun intended) by this?
Connie’s hope is that we can reduce or eliminate the stigma surround mental illness. She’d like to get rid of the demeaning comments, the discrimination and even the harassment. Sometimes this is subtle, like people avoiding eye contact once you tell them your diagnosis. Sometimes it’s not so subtle and the words and body language used can be cruel.
Imagine this: On the job you certainly wouldn’t say, “You have high blood pressure so you could stroke out at any moment. We’d better not put you in a stressful situation” but that’s one type of implied discrimination mental illness receives. Remember, as with anything physical, if a mental disease is properly treated there is no concern of someone ‘going postal’ because of it.
The following statement is from one our local radio stations and it’s so appropriate: “Normal? Isn’t that a setting on a washing machine? Who wants to be normal?!?”
After doing research for this blog, I’m wondering who IS normal? With all the stress, the workloads and the overwhelming need to be constantly being plugged in, mental illness could just become a little less crazy and a lot more normal.