The Stigma around Mental Illness

There’s a lot of stigma around mental illness.  Society stigmatizes mental illness a lot.  Whether it is because society in general thinks that it is a matter of “only trying harder”, “he/she is making it up”, “he/she is weak”, or what-have-you, there are a lot of misconceptions floating around.

People with mental illness are any more crazy or violent than the “rest” of the population.  This is just stigma that has been perpetuated by Hollywood and what-not.

I am here to tell you:  Mental Illness is real, as real as cancer or diabetes, and recent studies point towards this direction.  It is not cured by “trying harder”, just like cancer doesn’t go away by trying harder.  Mental illness is not something that we sufferers make up.  It is as real as a doorknob and as dark as a starless night.  Also, it is not a sign of weakness as much as having cancer isn’t a sign of weakness.

Mental Illness and Religion.

However, among some christian circles, mental illness is deemed a “demonic possession”.   And while demonic possessions are very real and in many cases similar to mental illness, there are clear distinctions between demonic possession and mental illness.  I am not qualified to make these distinctions, but This Article from CNN explains some differences (TL,DR; This psychiatrist can’t explain certain things that have happened during exorcisms that just don’t happen with mentally ill patients.)

So, please, please, I don’t know how to start this “campaign”, but don’t equate mental illness to demonic possession – let a qualified priest or doctor make the distinction.  Don’t equate mental illness as a sign of not wanting to be healthy enough or some sort of weakness, because it is not.  Let’s stop spreading misinformation, and care for one another regardless of illness experienced.

Religion and Mental Health

When religion is important to the person suffering mental illness, religion can be a great step in the right direction.  I practice my religion and use it as part of self-care.

So the hubby lost part of the deal on his job, but not all is lost.  At this point, things are back to normalish.  I was worried he would appeal into a depression, but I was worrying about nothing.  He doesn’t have major depressive disorder. I do.  And while anyone can fall into a depression, that doesn’t make it true that any adversity will bring someone down to the clutches of depression.

I talked a bit about seeing him blinded by the options laid in front of him.  To analyze, to a certain point, he was catastrophizing, thinking in all-or-nothing/black and white mode, and predicting.  People with mental illness fall into these thinking patterns way too often, myself very much included.

What is catastrophizing?  Everything reasonable somehow gets to the conclusion that will be the end of the world.  All or nothing?  Pretty self explanatory.  Black or white. No gray zones, no in between, no fine print or choices.  And predicting, well, unless you’re a very gifted clairvoyant, you just can’t predict what will happen.  And these ways of thinking magnify our worries and driver us nutty.

I did it too, you can read on my previous posts.

Stop pursuing perfection

If there is one thing I have learned in my recovery process is to stop pursuing perfection. No, it doesn’t mean I’m giving myself a chance to be mediocre; it’s giving myself a chance to breathe.

Very often I find myself overwhelmed by things as common as everyday life. And I come to a complete paralysis: need to clean, to work on the website, to take the kid to school, pick him up, dress him, feed him, call the plumber, respond to the teacher’s notes, etc. You get the picture. Everyday life things that need to get done, and your junk mail somehow keeps piling up.

Perfection is elusive at best

Why does this happen? It took me years to figure it out, but in case you were wondering I’ll share it with you: “I’m afraid of things not getting done 100% right, or at least see them through from beginning to end.” So, with this in mind, I am able to tell myself that I’m not going to let the anxiety-provoking perfection to take over and take control over what I can.

I probably can’t go through all the junk mail, but I can definitely do about half of it. And this is perfectly fine. I don’t have to see it through from beginning to end today. So I will address the rest at a later time. Right now it’s more important to go pick up the kid from school and prepare something to eat. The junk mail can wait. It’s ok to not finish the junk mail.  It’s okay not to be perfect.

The never-ending quest for perfection

stop pursuing perfection - benches in the fall

benches in the fall

Perfection is unattainable, but here we are, trying to attain it.  Because, sometimes, the interminable to-do list makes you think that you just have to see the project through, or you’ll just have to keep adding it to the list, and never finish. It’s ok. I can hear the voices in my head telling me that I can’t even finish what I started and what a loser I am for not being able to finish what I start.

What I have to keep in mind, though, is that my physical and mental conditions pretty much force me to do things differently, and feeling overwhelmed doesn’t help. I’m not a loser.  I just need to stop pursuing perfection.  I just have to keep the eye on the prize. Even if takes three days to sort the mountain of junk mail, or put away all the clean clothes.

I can’t tell you how pursuing perfection has overwhelmed and paralyzed me, but now that I can accept myself in imperfection, reminding myself that nobody and nothing is perfect (except God, but I won’t get into that here), I’m able to get more stuff done, and that, ironically, is more perfect than being overwhelmed and paralyzed.