Friday, March 28, 2014

Day 235 of 365: Chill Out About Mental Health

I was chatting with a friend recently about addictive personalities. I talked about how I find I have very impulsive/compulsive behavior (meaning I get the impulse to do something, only to feel compelled to do it; one of the many reasons why I avoid retail as a way to feel better about whatever is bringing me down) and how, if a therapist told me that my behavior is actually indicative of an addictive personality, I would believe it. Given my family's history, given how I am about certain things, I wouldn't be surprised in the least. It wouldn't change my day-to-day life, but it wouldn't come as a shock.

This surprised my friend; most people wouldn't be so flippant about potentially having something "wrong" with them like that. I went on to say that people are so quick to focus on all the negatives on certain personality "disorders". Yeah, if you are diagnosed with an addictive personality, there are certain things you should probably avoid, like, say, heavy drinking, drugs, retail therapy, and so on, and so forth. But I think that impulsion/compulsion is the reason why I've been able to accomplish what I've accomplished. I don't halfass things that I enjoy. Come up with a book idea; write said book. Decide I want to run a marathon; train like a motherfucker. Find joy and inspiration in teaching tai chi/doing yoga; start making a living doing it. Get the idea to make the writing version of a 365 Blog; get to Day 235 in one piece.

To be blunt: we need to get the fuck over the taboo of mental health. Our brains are the most complex part about us, and yet we are made to feel shame if it glitches in any way -- if it does anything that even hints at it being a factory defect. If someone said they were born with bad joints, but did certain exercises and visited their doctor on a routine basis to help balance that, no one would bat an eye. If I suffered a nasty knee injury during training -- tear up my ACL, completely destroy my MCL, knee cap basically hanging on by a tendon -- again, no one would bat an eye if I admitted that there was something up with my knee and I was doing something about it to get it healed. In fact, in an ironic turn of events, I would be labeled crazy if I tried to do what so many people do about mental health: deny, deny, deny, refuse any help or treatment, and pretend like my knee isn't bending in the opposite direction when I walk.

A separate friend, who is now a few months sober, has been dealing with addiction and mental health issues for years now. And she makes no bones about the fact that we all cringe and hide about any mental disorder, any personality disorder. She was actually the first one I ever knew to call bullshit on stigmatizing certain diagnoses (and at the tender age of 16, no less), saying that some things aren't as black and white as "sane" and "insane". And now, especially in light of Philip Seymour Hoffman's death, is incredibly vocal on understanding addiction and its effects on the brain.

In short: we need to chill out about mental health. End of story.

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