Saturday, February 26, 2011

Where Mental Illness Comes From © Megan Snider

"(...)And if you hate me,
Then hate me so good that you can let me out
Let me out, let me out
'Cause it's Hell when you're around."

--Damien Rice, "Rootless Trees" (Click to listen)

Neurologists, psychiatrists, and doctors all fail us. Sometimes they may be able to tell us what is wrong when we tell them where it hurts, but when we point to the brain they are mystified.

I have a firm opinion on the origin of mental illness which I will share with you. I believe that all mental illness is borne of fear, helplessness, and hopelessness. I once recall explaining to someone that if a Schizophrenic runs out into the street screaming, he is not doing so out of a demented urge to hurt another human being—he is doing so out of fear and desperation.

The actions of the mentally ill are scrutinized and scrutinized over and over and constantly labeled incorrectly without any care for the sufferer or the stigma placed on him for his condition.

Nothing is scarier than watching, knowing, and waiting as your whole world shrinks around you, as relationships are ruined, as your mind is attacked day after day for and worried raw for hours on end. Nothing is worse than losing your faith in doctors, science, and medications when they are the only things that can supposedly help you. After a while of seeing all your options fail, you are only full of wailing and wasted dreams. The gleam in your eye slowly dulls and you become a prisoner, wrapped in chains of fear and tethered to walls of agony.

The origin of all mental illness is fear—not perversion, not deviance, and not the ravings of a warped mind. It is unbearable to be so crushingly gripped by terror all the time. Your heart pounds too fast, your mind races, all concentration is gone, and all semblance of a normal life leaves you. Mental illness is an all too intimate acquaintance with terror. The tangles roots of which slowly climb the length of you until you are completely engulfed by them. You are immobilized, agonized, torn apart, labeled by the psychiatric and medical society, and made to feel as if you are an exhibit in a modern day freak show.

The sensationalist media confuses us about mental illness, until we routinely believe that everyone with a mental illness is a violent threat, secretly wanting to kill us. This could be no further from the truth. Words like “psychosis” become misunderstood and overused buzz words. How many people actually know that psychotic people are not normally dangerous—and if they are it is usually first self-inflicted?

All people with mental illness want out. They want out of the confines of their brains which torture and terrifies them. It haunts them and hunts them down. Who wants a life like that? I dare anyone to openly admit they would like to be shut up inside the confines between the space of their ears for an eternity.

I’ve seen bumper stickers that proclaim, “I do not suffer from mental illness; I enjoy every second of it.” This statement was obviously written by someone without mental illness and carries the same stigma and degradation that the mentally ill are used to. They are made fun of and labeled because they are misunderstood.

Making fun of mental illness is right on par with making fun of cancer. Both are uncontrollable and eat you alive. Mentally ill people have to juggle a complex and scary relationship with their own psyches when all they really want is to be let out of their own version of a private Hell with room for only one.

© Megan Snider

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