I wonder what other therapists would say if I told them I thought I worked in a haunted building.
Would they breathe a sigh of relief, smile as their bodies relaxed and validate my observance?
Would they, as a therapists, ask me to tell them more about that? Would them have an open mind or a mind looking for reasons to prove that I might be crazy?
Or if I told them, I talk to my ancestors and spirit guides. Would they think I am crazy or acknowledge I am spiritual.
Mental heath has stigmas. We have ideas of what we think crazy looks like. The filthy homeless person shuffling down the street wearing at least five layers of clothing in ninety degree weather. A bottle covered in a brown bag, begging for money and smokes. And when not begging talking, perhaps even yelling at some invisible entity.
The depressed person curled up in bed, unable to move. Immobile by their sadness, because they are always sad.
The anxious person, shaking and clumsily knocking over stuff because they are so nervous.
While I dislike stereotypes, and at times become angry with Hollywood’s portrayal of the mentally ill, adding to the misconceptions. I appreciate them, they are starting a conversation. Giving those of us who can, a chance to advocate and change the stigma.
And, I am guilty of playing into stigmas. Forming my perception of someone before hearing their story. I am usually humbled once I get to know the person and bit embarrassed by my judgement. We are all human, we all make mistakes. Best to learn from them, then to beat ourselves up over them.
People with mental illness are as normal as you and me. Yes, they might have to take medicine. Or they might have to try a bit harder to appear normal. I’d like to challenge that thought, with what is normal, really? Who created the standard? And why do we still adhere to it?
Most people I know who struggle with mental illness, you would never know. Because that’s how well they cover it up. And I question this. Why do we have to cover it up? Why can’t I be depressed, anxious, moody?
Our society, has decided that to fit in, we pretend to be happy. We complain our life. We overwork ourselves. We over extend ourselves. We are a society of do-ers. I feel we need to be a society of feel-ers. Giving ourselves permission to feel whatever it is we feel. To freely share this with others without fear of being judged, abandoned or unloved. Feelings are universal.
Now, what about those mental illness stigmas? To learn more about mental illness stigmas, check out Mend the Mind, they did a great job of breaking some of the most common stigmas.
Spiritual stigmas are usually based in misunderstanding and not enough education around the spiritual path or tradition. Before you jump to conclusions and assume someone is crazy, ask them about their beliefs. I always love learning something new. And find different paths of life fascinating.
Here’s to our differences. Here’s to being human. Here’s to following the beat of our own drums.