People who have a mental illness, and particularly people who write about their mental illness, are often locked inside their own head trying to figure out triggers, trying to figure out symptoms, trying to communicate to others what it is like to experience mania, depression, psychosis, etc. Although I think it is necessary to spend the time to become self-aware and educating people about the thoughts and experiences of the mentally ill, it can also make your world very small, and too focused on the self.
Being a part of something larger than ourselves can increase our happiness and it can diminish symptoms by not being so hyper-focused on them. When I am having a really hard day – struggling with anxiety and paranoid thoughts, and I write an article or essay about those thoughts, it is helpful in terms of educating people about the mind of someone who has schizophrenia, but it also keeps me locked in those thoughts much longer than I may otherwise be.
I find that I am the happiest when I am writing letters to my representatives in congress about issues involving treatment for the mentally ill, or if I am shining a spotlight on mentalism, or psychophobia, or stigma in our culture. I find that thinking about all the mentally ill who have limited access to treatment, or who are medication resistant, or who are in prisons, or who are living on the street – thinking of how it could be me in any of those situations if only I had zigged instead of zagged – it is that easy to imagine being in a less fortunate mentally ill person’s shoes. I know I could easily be without treatment, on the streets, or in prison.
I don’t want to discourage anyone from writing about their personal battles with mental illness, but I would like to encourage more people to stretch your reach – write to your representatives, volunteer time at a homeless shelter, instead of spending a few bucks on a coffee every day, donate that money to a soup kitchen, write letters to producers or media outlets that sensationalize or stigmatize mental illness. Try to open your world up and see the big picture of people who want to be in the same bus as you, but can’t afford the ticket.
When things get better for one of us, they get better for all of us. Let’s help each other up the ladder and to the first floor where the rest of society is standing. We deserve to be on equal ground not two to three floors below.
I’m giving my hand to someone to help them up, now they can give theirs to the next person. It’s a chain reaction and it starts with us. Ready? Let’s go!