May is Mental Health Awareness Month. What does it mean to be disabled, compromised in some way that differs from what is considered to be the “norm”? A wheel chair can be seen, an amputee is apparent, schizophrenia, borderline, bipolarism, depression and the like are considered disabilities that are not visible but yet, still exist. Many undergo in their minds by themselves the shame; humiliation of a label; the perception of outward indifference; the perceived notion of judgement toward them by others; and the perceived compromise of a “whole” self. Everyone has their own filter that allows one to distinguish what is acceptable and what is not, simply because of their own filter and the way they perceive themselves and their role in the world. This acceptance of self and one’s perspective is necessary for self-esteem; confidence; a sense of belonging. Identity; self-love; self-respect; self-care; are essential aspects to thrive and overcome. The person who experiences the dilemma of mental health issues on a daily basis can sometimes lack these essentials to health. Sometimes, they don’t realize that their thought processes are extremely varied and no one else has a clue of their daily struggle. This silent imagination and dialogue becomes an unstated commonality among those who endure a life different from the “norm”. However, once made known to others by overt difference in communication; social etiquette; a diagnoses or label stamped on your person like a sign or a reason that now makes sense; a life style or a preference. The no longer Imagined judgement of others becomes reality and overtly apparent. One will notice the quiet conversations or whispers; the denial of employment; the end of a group discussion when one enters the room; and the gaze from across the room when one arrives is not one of welcome but rather intolerance; ridicule and misunderstanding.
The judgement of others and the negative connotation that accompanies mental health issues is not ours to own. It belongs to those who formulate judgement with regard to those of us who are considered to be different from them. We are challenged daily to navigate a system that has explicit standards of “appropriate” behavior and processes. Anyone who deviates from that standard of “appropriateness” is considered to be lost; thwarted; broken in some way; compromised; out there; problematic or the like. We are considered the “unsuitable” for employment; we are the ostracized; the black-balled; and the maladjusted. Mainstream society through their ignorance; lack of understanding; education; empathy; compassion and tolerance will pose a new threat by not dealing with us. It is not my or our shortcoming but rather the society in which we live, in which we belong and are said to be a part. They opt not to aid or support those of us who are misunderstood and who are said to lack the necessary social graces that make one acceptable. Some countries revere those who are different from themselves, not so, in ours.
Discrimination in the work force is said to be lawfully prohibited yet, more often than not, we are not given any protection. Frequently, protection put into place is dependent not on the laws that govern advocacy for a disability for those with anomalies, but is based rather on the avoidance of violations and consequences that would bring attention to indifference. It would seem that if we are far removed from the norm we no longer enjoy the inherent rights to provide for our families or live an improved quality of life through employment and possible promotion. If we work hard enough as individuals with other support systems we eventually learn how to “act right,” thus, earning the right to regain credibility in the workplace. I wear my difference like a badge of honor. I consider the past I have lived and endured as something necessary in order to create the dynamic victor that I celebrate today. I am accomplished; exceptional; intelligent; compassionate; competent; articulate; eloquent; direct; outspoken and unafraid. These are all attributes that most would be proud to possess. However, the journey to self-understanding and acceptance is riddled for many of us and as it was for me with unimaginable chaos; fear; confusion; mental disorganization; shame; self-criticism; self-injury; and self-contempt. Extreme emotional and mental anguish are a part of life that one learns to live with. For some this journey ends in suicide; self-harm; addiction or self-medication. Possibly a psychiatrist who will try an array of psychotropic drugs to pull “it” into some kind of rational perspective or order to pacify the mind and society for a period of time. Until the treatment no longer works or tolerance of the given drug regimen becomes a deterrent to the original benefit. Mental health is a part of who we are as human beings, we are unique, and our psyche; experience and our past is our own. We as individuals are equated to fingerprints unlike anyone else’s. We are uniquely our own. In essence, we are all compromised because we are varied and one of a kind. Therefore, there are no two alike.
May is Mental Health Awareness Month. Those of us who are able to see outside ourselves and find understanding; let’s also find the compassion and empathy necessary to be cognizant of our part in the hurtful unnecessary judgement and intolerance of others. Please consider support and a helping hand rather than harsh criticism that would cause further harm. Understand that we all have preferences that are uniquely our own and that define what we value and who we are as individuals. It is society’s maladjustment; fear; indifference; intolerance; misinformation; ignorance and limited understanding or perspectives that continue to stigmatize those who would otherwise ask for help and not continue to suffer in silence. A society’s character can be judged and evaluated by the degree of compassion that is put forth to those less fortunate than themselves. It is our responsibility to become accountable to those who need our help. Make it easier for differences to be accepted and celebrated. Allow all of us a society in which we can thrive; survive and truly make a difference.