This post originally appeared on my friend Jad's Facebook and he's since turned it into a blog post on his new blog. The timing couldn't have been better and I thought it was a great reminder that mental illness "isn't something to toss around" and that in order to erase the negative stigma associated with mental illness, we need to work towards educating ourselves, change our vocabularies and show increased compassion for our fellow humans.
I realized today that the fact that I've been able to break some pretty crazy sounding OCD habits effortlessly myself on numerous occasions is proof enough that I am not in fact OCD and should show more respect to those who's lives it actually affects daily in severe ways. Mental illness isn't something to toss around like a human ego ball. It affects people's lives in ways you can only understand if you are inflicted yourself or have family/friends who are, that you've taken the time to educate yourself about and show compassion to.
If your life seems to include little hiccups of behaviour that mimic any number of conditions like ADD, OCD, bipolarity etc...and someone you know has been diagnosed in one or all of those categories....take a minute and ask yourself if these conditions you believe you also have are in any way debilitating and life altering. If you're able to get by alone and without anyone's guidance and professional help, then you're more than likely fishing for a little attention. The expression "well, everyone's a little ADD or OCD" said to someone who in fact IS and being treated or needs treatment, is like saying "I've got it too and I'm dealing with life, what's wrong with you, you must just be weak, lazy, stupid"......which is what people with the condition have been saying to themselves since they can remember and all you're doing is enforcing their shame. ADD for example, isn't a bunch of funny little tendencies we happen to all have. It isn't a funny little term like the one we choose to throw around when we're forgetful. That's not the definition, sorry. And is certainly not the true weight it possesses. It's not a bunch of light, little anythings!! It's one of the things that destroys and many times, ends lives.
Most of us are only beginning to scrape the surface of learning about mental illness and even more slowly, peeling away the layers of shame involved. I ask you to take a minute and think of the human brain like any other organ in the human body. I'd even be pressed to say that it's more fragile than any. Why is it then that we're able to have more sympathy as a human race for someone with a broken leg that will heal, than we do for someone with a broken brain and most times a broken spirit and a broken life...or one, for that matter, that is wired in ways we can't understand...or quite simply, differently than our own!?
Long overdue is the day we stand up and take responsibility within all our developing societies (not limited to developing countries) for our brother and sisters who just need the veil of shame to lighten and lift so that they can begin to heal. Remember, not everyone wears their mental illness on their sleeve. Society has made sure we learn (not everyone is capable of this) how to conceal it and put on an acceptable face that caters ever so carefully to our surroundings. I believe as human beings our job is to live the best inner life we can possibly live in this short life we're given and that can only happen if we make it safe for our brothers and sisters to live their best life too. Love.