My partner recently texted me the following article:
It's a good sentence-a-paragraph article that highlights a bunch of the contradictions our society faces as it tries to come to terms with mental illness and personality disorders.
Here's thepassage that stands out most to me:
Stigma accompanies all mental illness to some extent, but in recent years, certain mental illnesses have been getting better press than others. Depression, for example, has been frequently covered in the mainstream media, from webcomics to feature-length documentaries.
It makes sense. We have these blatant contradictions that we cater to and idolize: we hate narcissists, but raise them up to lead our companies and parties; we hate psychopaths, but read books about them and follow them in art.
It's a sort of "othering" where we fetishize unconventional behaviour. It's a sort of At least I'm better than that, or I wish I could do that, but I'm so glad I can't. It's some messed up stuff.
The thing about these sort of mental health definitions is that they are culturally dependent. I don't think narcissists in the West are necessarily narcissists in the East, for example.
Nonetheless, some cultural compassion is needed for those we've pushed into cultural boxes. I, as a teacher, know full well that plenty of these ADHD-diagnosed kids are victims of the school system, its culture, its rituals. Their diagnosis would be unrecognizable outside the regimented strictures of the classroom. They might just be seen as creatives, shamans, warriors, or some other sort of specialization. With the ADHD label, driven by the classroom, they end up miscreants.
I've been listening through Mark Goulston's Talking to Crazy and it's been an eye-opening experience for me. The book articulately makes the case for my own communication problems, which for years I had generally set aside. I already knew that I'd backed myself into corners, that I'd let "my own crazy" get the better of me, but I had no idea as to how I did it. I was clueless. But now I can see how my own desires to please people or counter everything with logic were in themselves irrational. I think I'm starting to be able to determine the differences between logic and rationality, between empathy and sympathy, thanks to this latest round of reading..
And it's giving me a new appreciation for articles like the one above, which try to help people sympathize with people who suffer from mental illnesses, as we define them in our culture.
I don't know if I have any sort of diagnosable mental illness beyond depression, but I do know that my own mindset has exacerbated the people around me. I may not have a mental illness, but it doesn't mean my mental health has been up to snuff.
One step forward. And another. One step at a time.
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