I’m Not OK, But That’s OK

If you are depressed,
you are living in the past.

If you are anxious,
you are living in the future.
If you are at peace,
you are living in the present.
If you think this makes sense,
you have mental health privilege.

From an internet graphic meme, original source unknown

I have had my struggles with mental health issues. Depression has plagued me at least since my late teens. In my late 30’s I was diagnosed bi polar, though later two different therapists told me they disagreed with the diagnosis and said that my depression had more to do with not dealing properly with my status as a trans woman and other issues that have arisen over the years. I have many loved ones, friends of loved ones and loved ones of friends that have also had their struggles with mental illness. Through this all, even when I was at my own personal lowest, I felt myself outraged on behalf of other mentally ill people for two very simple reasons: how lightly it is treated by those who do not struggle with it and how everyone, including the mentally ill, can still act like mental illness is a moral defect.

Too often in mainstream entertainment we see gross caricatures of the mentally ill. They are the butt of jokes, a source of cheap drama, the malevolent psychopath preying on your children or the pet “project” of the protagonist so that the producers can show what a good person he or she is. “Crazy”, “psycho”, “has issues” or actual clinical terms are used at the drop of a hat in public dialogue to describe anyone we disagree with. In using the image of mental illness to demonize others, we continue the demonization of the mentally ill.

With rare exceptions the mentally ill did nothing to create their illness. Whether it is innate due to a chemical imbalance or life events wearing you down, no one did anything to put themselves on the path to poor mental health. Maybe they have done things counter to improving it once they were on that path. I know I have done this, but when you are living on mist shrouded, rocky coast you are not sure where to step.

Things have gotten better. While the knee jerk reaction of the public at large when dealing with individuals is still fear, shock and judgement, we treat the mentally ill as a group with more compassion. I just think that over a hundred years after Freud, and with our ability to disseminate information around the world instantaneously, this should no longer be a struggle at all. If I may be so bold, those of you who use the words “crazy” or “psycho” so casually, or who judge the mentally ill: stop. For those of you who do not do those things, please, call out those that do.

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3 thoughts on “I’m Not OK, But That’s OK

  1. It is true that most Americans (possibly most of the world, but I can’t speak for everyone) think in terms of “mental health problems” = “crazy”. And treat the persona s if they were untouchable.

    There is a terrible stigma attached to admitting that one is depressed, bipolar, etc..

    I have to admit, only a few years ago I was oblivious to this as a social problem, but in the last few years I’ve started listening to a number of science podcasts and one in particular has brought this up 2-3 times in the last couple of years. For the record, it is called The Skeptics Guide to the Universe. The host is Dr. Stephen Novella, a neuro-scientist and he’s talked about the stigma of mental illness a few times.

    He’s often very insightful and he’s opened my eyes to this as a problem, but even I admit I have a long way to go before I undo a lifetime of programming.

    I believe things will get better as more information gets out there.

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