As a society, we tend to popularize certain things and as a result, they get a lot of air time. It can be almost anything. Words, phrases, movies, groups trying to make a difference in the world, whatever.
One of the most popular sayings in the mental illness community is, “Mentally well people can’t see it, therefore they don’t see it as real”. This phrase or any variation of it is used a lot for a very good reason because it’s one hundred percent is accurate.
The problem I have with continuously using this example above to express why some just don’t seem to understand mental anguish is that, in my opinion, it stifles both personal and collective growth. What do |I mean by this? Once a sentence goes viral, it tends to get stuck in the cultural consciousness. In other words, you see it everywhere. I tend to think that this can be very helpful at getting people to pay attention to what it is one would like others to know. But I feel that it also leaves little room for other possibilities, other ways that could help drive home what they are trying to convey, in this case, the stigma of mental illness and the interior war zone that destroys so many.
On this road to mental wellness, my goal has been to find ways to alleviate the internal pain. One way I found that helped me to achieve this was to take a hard look at the physiology of my illnesses. As a result of my research, I believe that it may be helpful to drive home that the brain is an organ. Of course, we all understand this. However, we seldom venture past this fact to learn more about the brain’s normal function, little lone it’s potential for being subject to an untold amount of neurological abnormalities. I have rightfully concluded that an anomaly with my neurology is indeed the driver of my illnesses.
Most of us understand and have sympathy for those who have a heart condition for example. We have been taught to understand that the heart is an organ and because it is an organ, we know that it is subject to malfunction and failure. When something goes awry with it, you can see it. A heart attack can be sudden and very traumatic. Mental health conditions have their own symptoms. A depressed individual may spend days in bed, this can be and should be considered a symptom. I believe that we need to change our own way of looking at mental illness, and then we need to be passing this message to the well-minded.
So what is physiology? Merriam-Webster defines physiology as a branch of biology that deals with the functions and activities of life or of living matter (such as organs, tissues or cells) and of the physical and chemical phenomena involved.
Because we all know that the brain is an organ, and like that all of our organs, is subject to damage in one form or another. Therefore, it stands to reason that the brain is not immune to a variety of damage. Organic brain injury is one form of damage to this organ but is far from being the only form. Dysfunctional neurology, mental illness in this example, is very real and is just as deserving of compassion from people as others with more observable medical conditions.
An excellent article on the biology of mental illness can be found here: The roots of mental illness Published by the American Psychological Association.
In the body of this article, it makes a very good argument that mental dysfunction has to originate from somewhere, that somewhere is within the confines of this organ, the brain. I feel like our brains are something we rarely give and thought to, ironically.
In my opinion, it is the most ambiguous of all organic functions and psychology and neurology are seen as two different things, at least in the minds of the average person; but my question is, should they be? Perhaps mental disorders need to be communicated to the public from the perspective of a medical model like that of any common illness.
Learning to understand that the brain is subject to an assortment of abnormalities, like that of any other organs may help to make it “click” that mental disorders are clinical, legitimate illnesses. I believe that we must do more to help people see that we are not lazy, that we can’t just simply get over it. We must do more than regurgitate the same narrative over and over, that of “just because you can’t see it.” It’s a great start but, in my opinion, it doesn’t go far enough to make individuals see mental disorders as a real illness.
The argument that I make here attempts to make mental illness relatable for everyone, building it off the collective knowledge of other clinical organ diseases. I hope that it will help dismantle the
walls of stigma.
You may also enjoy: When Is The Silence Of Mental Illness Not Stigma?
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