Thursday, 21 August 2014

Fighting the Good Fight Against Mental Illness

A select number will, but the vast majority of readers will not know that I actually have a mental illness.  Maybe that's not such a big surprise considering my abnormal behavior and uncommon way of speaking.  Some of you are probably quite chuffed because, "I knew that weirdo was crazy all along."  Good for you, not only have you successfully shown your ability to be judgmental and conceited, but also your ability to be stone-hearted.  You are willing to make demeaning judgments about another person from the distance, but you most certainly do not have the bravado to try and reach out and help the person in question.  We would appreciate that fare more than those stares, thank you!  Faith without works is dead as one of my guiding lights would say, not that I am glittering example of works, but still.

I was "diagnosed" (the psychologist did not officially write out a document stating this, but she did say it verbally) with mild Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD) in June 2013.  It came after concerns from my parents that I am not being the best person I can be or, in my father's words, I am not letting my light shine before the world as I am more than able to do.  When your whole family has consensus about something about you, maybe you should give ear, they normally only want the best for you.  I know at first the SAD diagnosis was a tough thing for my mother, because she felt she was directly at fault for my shortcoming as a person.  I on the other hand was actually glad to be able to label the anxiety I sometimes experience when in conversation with other.  Being able to name something and confine it, in a way, takes some of its power away from your life.  In the past, the extent of my fears, its origins, its triggers and all of its long term repercussions were unknown to me, but the diagnosis and labelling gave me the power of knowing.  That old saying "Knowledge is power" couldn't be more truthful in this case.  I could fight back.  I could attack the problem more effectively, because now I know who my enemy is.

Many people out there would brush off mental diseases as not being real diseases.  I mean, the person is not visibly vomiting, the person is not visibly burning up from fever.  Eyesight is possibly one of God's greatest gifts to mankind, but it also hampers us from seeing that which is not obvious from sight alone.  You don't see the tear stains on my pillow from all the nights I have cried because I just can't utter a word to a girl, you can't see the monumental weight on my shoulders from worrying about whether I could actually make friends in this new place, you can not feel the anguish and feelings of being defeated because I ran away from another conversation.  These are the unseen.  These are the battle wounds and scars that blot our souls.  Only those who are willing (and I can testify that there are very few) to delve deep into the often barricaded and much restrained hurting soul of ours, will feel our pain almost as we feel it.  Maybe then you won't refer to us as cowards or pussies anymore.

As for me, diagnosis with a mental illness as a teenager has been a transformative experience.  I am still light years away from being a conqueror of SAD.  That said, I also learned that SAD is as part of me as my foot or my nose is.  It has made me the person I am today, it has helped to take me to places all across the world and it has helped me construct and open and thinking mind.  I will never truly divorce social anxiety and, you know, I am fine with that.  When all is said and done, I am still an ambivert leaning mostly to introversion.  I should not denounce the introvert side of myself simply because society values extroversion above introversion.  Oh no, don't let them ever do that to you. 
We are introverts and we are as important to society as those who stand upon the Godlike pedestal of extroversion.  Our contributions are done long after the curtains are drawn and the performers are off partying.

I thank my God, for all that has transpired since diagnosis.  If there is anything you can take from this, know that mental illness sufferers are all around you.  They are your coworkers, your peers, your mailman, your brother, your best friend maybe even your mother.  Turn your heads up from your electronic screens and see the wonder and majesty that God has placed all around you.  There you will find us, a face in the crowd, with pain in their hearts waiting on someone to just say hi and talk more than what the weather is like or what this or that sports team did.  Ask us what bothers us, whether we believe in fantastical creatures and what existence means.  Before you know it, the barriers guarding our pained souls disintegrate and you can see a world untouched, untrodden as no one has ever seen it before.  Then, my friend, you can SEE!

Run the good race, fight the good fight