How/where would I be if I did not tussle with my mental health?
It’s a question I’m sure many of us have asked ourselves.
What kind of job would I work if I could hold a job?
What kind of people would I meet if I understood conversation?
What activities would I take part in during the day if I weren’t spending the majority of my effort swinging my feet to the floor and getting into the shower in the midst of negative thoughts?
How many more classes would I be done with if my social anxiety didn’t take the reins on my decisions?
For all the days I wasted with suicidal ideation and self-harming, would those days have been replaced with something positive?
How much sleep would I get without health anxiety, paranoia, and intrusive thoughts?
I think those are relevant questions for many of us, regardless of diagnosis differences.
Whenever I start pitying myself, these are the types of questions that swirl in my consciousness, and although they appear to be questions which harbor negative answers and negative ideation, I’m a logical mind highly capable of understanding there are two sides to everything. If there is a negative answer to a question, there is also a positive answer.
If there is a north pole, there is a south pole.
If the sun rises, it’s also going to set.
If you die in a video game, your life will restart. Don’t believe me? Play Bloodborne and rage your life away.
One person’s death may spark life in another.
90% of the situations I can bring to my consciousness at the moment have their positive and negative opposites because life is about balance. We ride the plank high and low and trample over each other in attempts to get as close to the center as possible.
You’re never going to reach a perfect center; it’s not logical. Our physical life is much too randomized for you to be in perfect harmony 100% of the time. I accepted that many years ago. It teaches you to cherish the moments in which harmony and happiness do exist, but to not cherish it in a way that indicates you’ll never feel those feelings again. Life has a haphazard way of imitating circular patterns and yet veering off at the most inconvenient times into the unknown. It’s like it watches your every move and plans a silent attack.
The harrowing thing about depression, anxiety, and many other unbalanced responses to the world are that they are both necessary and disabling.
The brain is a prime example of the center of a beam. It thrives on balance and moderation. If your electrical activity flies off the handle, you very well may end up with a seizure.
It adapts to new situations. If you’re a cab driver, your hippocampus will shrink in the front and grow larger in the back to hold street and navigation memory.
It has little hiccups though, it’s not entirely centered. Nothing can be, remember? You can hear voices without ever having Schizophrenia. You can feel immense sadness for a few months and never develop a depressive disorder. You can have bad mood swings that aren’t indicative of a Bipolar disorder or Borderline PD.
What are mental health disorders? They’re not solely chemical imbalances. They’re not brain abnormalities. They’re not a reason to hate yourself. They may be disorders–because we label them as such–but they are also unbalanced humanity. Many of them are normal reactions to simply existing as living beings, and we label them abnormal because the reactions are either above the average person’s reaction level, or below.
I can remember feeling anxiety and uncomfortable outside or around loud noises the strongest around the age of 4, or 5, so although I’m only 20, I’ve dealt with it for many years and I’ve had the opportunity to attend mental health conventions with professionals and interact in other settings with people who label themselves sick, who label themselves broken, who label themselves “uncurable”.
And I decided years ago I don’t want to be one of those people. What am I going to cure? My humanity? How the fuck am I going to do that?
My anxiety wasn’t solely birthed through some trauma or bullying as a child, like it is for many, mine was just there. And the further I coursed through life, the more the symptoms accentuated and tuned me to the frequency of the wreck I am today. While most people get nervous doing, say, a public speaking event, and they sweat and practice for hours in front of the mirror, I’m worrying of it a year before I have to do it.
I did that my freshman year in high school over a two minute presentation we were told we wouldn’t have to worry about until the end of the year.
I’ll ruminate over what could happen and will happen and when I get in front of people my Amygdala is “hijacked” and I forget every word I also spent hours practicing for. I read into the expressions of the people around me and see pure hatred and disrespect, negativity, I see it plain as day, even though it’s not there. It’s like a hallucination: only I can see it and when I ask other people if it’s there, they say no and look at me like I just tore up a winning jackpot lottery ticket. Then I spend years reminding myself how stupid I looked and sounded and how many people still laugh about it every day.
That is a normal response accentuated. That is this “disorder”.
I understand fully the breakthroughs of neuroscience and research psychiatry, I’m all over those articles the second they come out in the journals. And I understand there is a lot of validity behind chemical changes and differences. My problem is with categorizing a myriad of humanly differences into one, abnormal category. My problem is with soley blaming our chemicals, our bodies, for symptoms of something we call “disorders” when in reality life is full of reasons for why people act the way they do. Yes, medication helps even out those who jump between the severely manic and severely depressed. But don’t forget Cognitive Therapy helps them learn their triggers and how to cope with stress; how you think influences your behavior, whether you’re disordered or not.
Genes play a part. Chemicals play a part. Cells play a part. Environment plays a part. Society and Religion plays a part. Why do you think people in certain places of India hear voices that recite positive words day after day, have voices that claim they are “God” who tell them “hey, good job on that” and here in the western part of the world, voices heard often much more violent?
Our brains respond heavily to the environment we’re in, regardless of genes or predisposition. I wish I had the source of that article, but it’s been a few years since I’ve read it.
If you’re wondering, yes, I do think many (NOT ALL) people are misdiagnosed and I think many disorders being added to the DSM year after year are starting to diagnose normality.
It’s pretty arrogant, if you ask me, to think something as complicated as human behavior can be summed up with one or two neurotransmitters.
So when I start asking myself those questions from the beginning, I remind myself that part of my “disorders” are just me being human. Yes, I struggle, yes my functioning is impaired by them, yes it’s horrible, yes, blah, blah blah, whatever!
I like myself. I like my personality and I can’t keep comparing my lives to other people’s.
It meant the world to me that my boyfriend today acknowledged the fact that it’s okay that I have my anxiety (among other, ha, issues) and that he can see I’m making progress, however small, and that it’s not easy. No one’s ever said something like that to me and for a moment I was in shock. I didn’t actually realize the depths of his words until a few hours ago.
I know I’m not perfect (who is, right?). I know I have things I want to work on and I know I have a personal goal to reach. I know I’m not sick, or stupid, or held back by anyone but myself. So honestly, I don’t care what kind of job I’d have if I didn’t struggle as much as I do. I don’t care who I’d meet or where I’d be, or how fast I’d get through my classes. None of that matters because hypotheticals are useless. I only care who I do meet, what classes I do take, and what kind of job I’ll eventually have.
I could give two shits less about my non-existent twin. She can go be extroverted and whiz through university and work at amazing places by herself. I like where I am and what I’m learning.