I confess, I’m awesome

March 24, 2013 § 10 Comments

Here is the post in which I tell you about my own “mental health”. Can you even read that without cringing and wanting to leave? Me neither. While I hope you enjoy this experience of selective honesty, I ask you to be generous about the pace of it. I need you to understand that I cannot share all of it at once. It isn’t a grocery list or a river of narration in stereo. It isn’t ordered or poetic or even particularly interesting to anyone but me. To me it is both amazing, as is the first cell I started from, and mundane, like the way I part my hair after I wash it in the shower.

I’m learning more and more that people really like it when you share yourself. Now I’m not looking for likes here, I’m only searching for a deeper connection to myself and therefore to you and ultimately to the Great Pulsing Now-ness. So. In the spirit of extending my humanity to you as a plant turning toward the sun, I confess to you, I’m awesome.

When I say “I’m awesome”, I mean I live with “mental illness” inside around, under, behind, and throughout me. It’s part of me, my family, friends, and many people I’ve yet to meet. By my own diagnosis, I can get depressed, hopeless, anxious, and generally fearful of living bravely or otherwise. Yes, okay, I’m describing most people. I’ll get more specific. Family members have called me “sensitive” as though it’s a special, inherited condition. When I was a baby my great-grandmother told my mother that my emotions were “very close to the surface”.  I do have very active tear ducts. According to the professionals, who like to sterilize their language, my records indicate the treatment of mental illness symptoms. Therapists have described me as someone who deals with the effects of emotional abuse.  One told me I was “understandably blue”. This was the same woman who described my brain’s synapses as having the efficiency of “country roads” as opposed to the “super highways” of “regular” brains. I think this woman lives in a sc-fi-country song. Another therapist asked me, “Were you a sad kid?”, as though it’s simple for someone to reduce their childhood experience to one adjective. Two psychiatrists diagnosed me with dysthymia, which is a low-grade depression generally thought of as less intense than the other form(s) of clinical depression.

Look, I get that we need names for this shit to help us sort out the chaos of wires that we call dialogue but they’ve never impressed me. I’m just telling you straight out so you can look it up online and get lost in the worlds of psychology/psychiatry if that’s your thing. For me, my “illness” is like a mental limp/scar/unique feature that’s always there but can be intensified by circumstances like stress, poor health, or nothing at all. I call it being awesome in my own head because it makes me laugh and it truly does feel like this “overwhelming feeling of reverence, admiration, or fear; causing or inducing awe” (thanks dictionary.com). I don’t mean to minimize or invalidate the anguish and pain experienced by many; I only mean to amplify the incredible power of those who survive it. It’s time for us to focus on strength rather than sickness.

I have a great deal of disdain for our current practice:

Step 1 – Human experiences personal crisis and cannot cope “normally”.
Step 2 – System analysis brands Human’s heart with the hot iron of “mentally ill”.
Step 3 – System offers inadequate care and concern for Human’s experience of this fucked-up but beautiful world.
Step 4 – Human feels weak and confused as to why she cannot recover.
Step 5 – Repeat.

Everyone will experience some sort of hopelessness at some point in their life, and wherever they fall on the spectrum, it seems unfair to first cripple them via the factory of labelling and power theft that goes on in our medical system. This is not helpful. I mean, at this rate, we’ll have to start labelling the non-mentally-ill people if we want a more efficient system. “Oh there’s absolutely nothing wrong with you? How rare. Here, wear this nametag that reads ‘normal’ so we can tell you apart.” So, I say, we all have awesomeness worth sharing. We all embody and emit an awe-inducing amount of reverence, admiration and fear. It might seem like focusing on the darkness will make it stronger but in my experience people are happier when they know that the darkness will never disappear and that ignoring it only gives makes its evil shadows loom larger on the wall.

There’s obviously more to the story here, but as I said, let’s slow our roll. If we blow our “mental health” load too soon, we’ll have hit the roof and woken up the neighbours with nowhere to go but spiralling off in all directions in a somewhat glorious but breakfast-less walk of shame. I will say that I’m incredibly fortunate to have supportive people around me and a fairly privileged life, all things considered. But I want to talk about this mental health thing. I need to talk about it. We need to get much better at connecting each other to hope and strength. It’s the only way. I think we’re just getting started on all of this, good people. We’re just beginning the rock star tour of opportunities associated with awesomeness.

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