It’s no secret that one of the biggest battles for people with mental illness is the stigma – a notion that seems to come with the territory. Some seem to feel that death by suicide is a choice, while I’ve heard others say, what we’ve likely all heard before, that “someone always has it worse”. How many times have I heard a sentence that starts with “you just gotta.? I want to make the case that our mental illness is real.Tweet
Our mental illness is real. Here I lay out my argument.
It’s no secret that one of the biggest battles for people with mental illness is the stigma – a notion that seems to come with the territory. Some seem to feel that death by suicide is a choice, while I’ve heard others say, what we’ve likely all heard before, that “someone always has it worse”. How many times have I heard a sentence that starts with “you just gotta.? I want to make the case that our mental illness is real.
When talking to the folks who use these “I know how to solve it” one-liners, I find it fascinating just how generic these suggestions are. What I find disheartening. though, is that they presume to know the level of havoc psychiatric disorders have on a person. I wish there was some sort of mental-illness pain scale that could show the level of pain that beats around in one’s head.
I have to say that I truly believe that many are well-meaning, loved ones who have little skill to help and even less understanding of the ill. While on the other side of that coin, there are those who don’t care to get it and, honestly, they aren’t worth trying to convince. At least not on the individual level. The best thing we can do is combat the inaccuracies together.
With that said, how does one simply brush it off? When many mental-health conditions come standard with a feeling that nobody likes me; how do you ignore that stigma? When you feel like everyone is angry with you, how does one let that go? I’m willing to wager that many don’t.
Assumptions are born out of factual inaccuracies. In other words, we fill in the gaps when we lack knowledge or experience.
As much as we may try to articulate the severity of our pain, those who don’t know likely never will. Unless, of course, they become ill themselves.
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Personally, I’d like to put to rest that “if you can’t see it then it’s not happening” assumption. Nothing could further from the truth. There are a few roadblocks that re-enforce this assertion. One of the biggest being the myth, that there is no evidence that you can see mental illness.
What I think makes us blind to the symptoms, is that the majority of us aren’t that good at understanding human behaviour. I feel like we see it as a secondary function of humanity, when in reality, it’s one of the most fundamentally important. We do what we do for a reason.
Experienced or trained observers are much better at understanding what makes us tick. We, the ill, can tell, and so can a mental-health professional. To the untrained eye, however, they have little to go on but the assumption that we are well. As we know, assumptions are born out of factual inaccuracies. In other words, we fill in the gaps when we lack knowledge or experience.
So, mental-health conditions do exist; it’s an undeniable fact. The symptoms radiate from an organ known as the brain and its symptoms are many. Take PTSD for example; one symptom of this disorder is a heightened startle response. So, if you notice a loved one jumping out of their chair over every sudden noise, that’s a symptom, an observable symptom.
The brain, not unlike the heart after a heart attack, has damage and very real consequences as a result of that damage – proving that our mental illness is real.
This brain scan, it shows the effects of PTSD on the brain. More specifically, it shows what happens to the prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain behind your forehead that makes you, you. It is responsible for managing impulsive behaviour, future planning and executive function among other things. For a comprehensive read go here
Please, do your best to not feel shame or like you are being judged.
A simple way of understanding the images here is, the brighter the colour in the image, the more brain activity; less colour is an indication of lower activity. As you can see, the prefrontal cortex, located at the top of the images, shows less activity in images 7 and 8. A notable difference between images 5 and 6. It’s visual proof that PTSD’s symptoms have a source. This is true of many other psychiatric disorders.
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So, there you have it, proof that our mental illness is a real, legitimate health condition. The brain, not unlike the heart after a heart attack, has damage and very real consequences as a result of that damage. Essentially, both organs have functional issues that cause them to underperform and produce symptoms that can be seen. Remember the PTSD and its startle response from earlier? It’s a symptom as a result of real changes to the organ we call the brain.
Please, do your best to not feel shame or like you are being judged; your illness is real. I hope I did a good job demonstrating that today. Not only for those suffering but also for those who aren’t. The odds of you knowing someone with a mental illness are high. If it’s a loved one, they need to see that you have taken the time to learn about their illness. Education leads to understanding, and understanding what makes those you love, sick, can produce the empathy and support they need from you.
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So, did I make my case? Leave your comment or give it a like. Thank you.