Throughout this global pandemic, we have discovered that our health is not something that we should take for granted. It is not just our physical health, but our mental health that has taken a battering over the last two years. We have become even more isolated than before and it is not so easy integrating back into a society that has been forever changed.
Coupling this with the stigma surrounding mental health issues, it is no wonder that we are having problems reconnecting with the outside world. Even in the mental health industry, there is a long history of trying to fit everyone into neat little boxes – where the so-called ‘normal’ is an unreachable fantasy. Normalcy is a fine thread that we strive to keep together in order to fit into a society that has been imposed upon us. Who here would have actually chosen to live in a world where the system continues to reward the rich and there is a huge majority starving and suffering due to the insatiable greed of the 1%?
People still talk about illnesses such as schizophrenia in terms of the definitions that were given over 50 years ago and there has not been any real progress in the treatment of the more severe cases. Could we not do with an overhaul of the mental health system? Given the broad range in symptoms and the spectrum of characteristics of schizophrenia, is it not common sense to update our definitions and see that schizophrenia is really an umbrella term for a number of separate disorders – each requiring an individualised treatment? It is the human way, to try and find patterns and build models in order to explain things – however when it comes to disorders of the mind, does it not make sense to treat the individual?
Our brains have approximately 86 billion neurons. They are extremely plastic – making and breaking new connections every moment of their existence. One neuron can be connected to more than 10,000 other neurons. There is no possibility that two brains are exactly the same – even monozygotic twins do not have the same brains. Brains are akin to finger prints, we may all have whorls and swirls, but no two are the same. Our brains also have common structures – V1, FFA, etc. however the way the connections are wired in our brains is what makes us completely unique.
Therefore, there can not be a normal. We are all neurodiverse. We all have our own type of ‘strangeness’ and this is nothing to be ashamed of. It is a sliding scale and rather than striving to find some kind of ‘normal’, we should be working towards a way to understand each other and what makes us all unique.
I always thought that there was something wrong with me. I tried to keep everything in order, I would count all of my steps, I could only perform certain actions in a certain order and I would find myself having very intense obsessions. Worst of all, I would often drink too much in order to control my thoughts. The only time my mind would stop running, was when I was drunk – it was very effective – most of the time. Last year, it wasn’t and I found myself hurting someone that I care deeply about after I had way too much to drink, trying to calm my racing thoughts.
Luckily enough, she was very sweet to me and she opened my eyes up to the fact that I needed to get some help. I had always avoided it. I have had a lot of trauma in my life and I have always managed to fight through it and getting help had always seemed to be a cop out. I didn’t want to show weakness. All of these negative thoughts about therapy had been put in my mind over the years through negative comments from friends and family about mental health. This negative picture that we are subjected to is flat out wrong. We all have struggles at one time or another and there is no shame in getting the help that you need.
It turns out that I have obsessive compulsive disorder – which in retrospect is quite obvious – however because my symptoms didn’t present as they do in the movies, I just assumed that I was broken. I am in the process of getting treated for this, but there is no cure, only ways to manage it and to decrease the rumination, intrusive thoughts, checking to see if I turned off the stove and locked the door, the endless re-run of past events and future predictions that are constantly playing through my mind. It is going to take time – but I’m finally getting help and I am on my way to a better me.
Rather than beating ourselves up about things that we cannot change – wars, pandemics, climate change – we should try to focus on the things we can. We can reconnect with each other, try to be more understanding, not just of one another, but also of ourselves, we can get the help we need and encourage others to seek it out if they need it. I will be starting the 2pm check-in next week – posting a short video at 2pm everyday to see where I’m at and where I’m headed. It’s the midpoint of the day and even if the day has not started well, it doesn’t mean that it’s not going to get better. Together hopefully we can change the world’s view on mental health…….