For All the Crazies (yes, you)

May is mental health awareness month.  So how are you feeling?

Here are some thoughts I’d like to share if this month’s “theme” feels like one you just don’t get:

Mental Health is a spectrum. Like physical health. There are the people who run marathons, the people who join gyms (and actually go!), and the people who have to be  chainsawed out of the house and lifted into the ambulance with a forklift. There’s the people that “have never been sick a day in their life” and those that catch every virus “going around”.

On one end of mental health there is psychosis and on the other end…well, I don’t know about that other end because the spectrum changes.

So there are types of bipolar from people considered moody or volatile to people talking to themselves and not sleeping for three days. People who we’d say are “downers” and people who can’t get out of bed for the crying and exhaustion.

All of our brains are capable of breaking. Our brain is the most mysterious part of our bodies– holding intelligence, creativity, the ability to control the other bodily functions and learn to play a musical instrument all at the same time…and it’s fragile. A change in chemistry, puberty,  an injury, deprivation of the essentials (blood flow), life events (e.g., trauma, war, grief) can change our brains.

And our place on that mental health spectrum.

And the spectrum can change less dramatically in what passes for normal life. An off day. A day where you’re angry for no reason. A day where your mind races and won’t stop.

What I am trying to say is, we’re all on that spectrum. Just like we all have physical health in some degree, we all have mental health. Just like we all have one or two things off about our physical self, well…I’ve been meaning to talk to you about that weird…just kidding.

There’s a book called the DSM that lists all the mental disorders. This book is reissued as more disorders/illnesses/whathaveyou are discovered or debunked  and it’s about 5 inches thick with 8 pt font. It’s HUGE.

We’re all in there.

And that’s why this month does apply to you. The stats are 1 in 4 have mental illness. Well, I’m not sure about that. I’d actually say it’s 100% and it’s just how well you pass for normal.

As my favorite saying goes, normal is just a setting on the washing machine. Who is normal? It’s just how you “pass”. I fit right in certain places and not-so-much in others.

The stigma around mental health in this country is a horrible problem. Tragic really. It causes people to not seek help. It causes people to reject helping those who need it. It causes lack of services and lack of funding for research. It is clear that mental illness is tied to neurology. But when I asked a neurologist about this, he reared back like I’d asked a chef to eat mac & cheese from a box. You study the brain but find it insulting to suggest you’d be studying “those” brains?

Stigma.

I was stunned into silence. And if you know me, that is indeed stunned.

And stigma cuts both ways. The advocacy groups against all forms of isolation, pharmaceutical medications, and anything that suggests a moderately to severely mentally ill person may need more intervention than they realize and most likely more help than they’re able to admit to is ridiculous.

There’s so much we don’t know. It’s shocking. And sad.

All of this is to say, if you or someone you know is suffering from an illness that is centered in their brains– it is no less worthy and essential to seek care than an illness centered in your lungs or heart or big toe.

Mental health needs funding, research, and expanded resources like the other most serious of health problems.

Mental illness- like physical illness- is no less deserving of care and compassion.

Take care. Of you. Of each other.

More info on mental health: https://www.nami.org