Recently I have applied to participate in an experimental study of our gender studies department. What they wanted was a woman without a history of emotional illness (I use the term emotional rather than mental, because I find mental illness misleading, as it has a connotation of mental retardation or damage) who is not on hormonal birth control or pregnant.
They won’t find anyone- I am sure. What “emotionally healthy” woman that is not on birth control is not pregnant? That’s right, a lesbian. However, the probability to be diagnosed with some sort of mental disease is much higher for LGBTQ+ people! (that leaves infertile heterosexual women before the infertility causes depression…) Also just being female increases the chances of being diagnosed with some sort of mental disease- maybe because mostly men were involved in shaping our society and the definition of mental illnesses? A penguin in the desert probably feels really shitty, but he is not sick (at least not right away), he should just exist in radically different conditions!
I personally have been in treatment and was even diagnosed emotionally disabled over a decade back. But was I really sick? And what do we consider “sickness” to be? Certainly I experienced a lack of joy that made the continued experience of existence unbearable. I experienced a level of isolation that I could feel as a physical pain unrivalled by any other experience.
What is a sickness? Is it not healthy to feel pain when you are beaten? But the resulting injury then is a sickness. As Injuries sometimes do not heal correctly and the previous state is not restored, the occurring permanent health restrictions would be a chronic condition. If I use this and transferred it to emotional health I have to say that the judgment of “mental illness” is quite unfair.
When we are in a bad situation it hurts, we are not sick, we have a healthy reaction to unfavorable conditions. If only those who were still suffering after a sufficient time for healing after the removal of the cause were considered “mentally ill”, I think doctors would be forced to label a lot of people “healthy”!
Now I have friends and a daughter- I have learned to influence the way I judge and receive experiences. I can step back and watch my thoughts from the outside both sad and joyful ones. It is amazing how much our mood is influenced just by our mind. Recently my employee informed me that I can probably get an extended contract and therefor do not have to go through the hassle of finding a new job in April. I knew this might happen even before the conversation, but after it I felt completely free of worries and ready to make plans again.
My situation had not changed, only my perception of it.
I still know that ultimately we are all alone. We all die alone. Nobody can ever truly share our experience, because if they did, it would just be us. But this isolation also contains the potential for joy. We can touch others and allow ourselves to be touched.
So am I “sick” or “healthy”? Who knows – however, I am probably too different to be a good subject for any study…
Have a wonderful week:-)