As a species we really adore concrete things. We like to have hard lines; we like our tables to have edges, our doors to have frames, and a lot of the time that’s practical and necessary. I’ve noticed we also like our thoughts to have the same uniform structure.
Our brains are there to make sense of everything and when something doesn’t make sense we must make it make sense and to do that we find a perfect little box and if we can’t find a perfect little box, we create the broken box; if something doesn’t fit the standard box, that something must be broken. The broken box is where mental health issues lie.
We often call ourselves broken, ill, sick, all these negative connotations because that’s the box we’ve been given, and we feel broken, ill, and sick.
Within the broken box, there are three more little soggy boxes in the rain: mild, moderate, and severe. They’ve been around for a couple decades now, could use some time out in the sun and duct tape on the sides. In the mild box, you won’t find much help or understanding. Maybe you get anxiety every once in a while, or in specific situations. Maybe someone’s poured an ounce of depresso in your coffee and you have that annoying “blah” feeling, but you never miss work, you never want to die, and you function well.
The moderate box is a little less full. Your anxiety is constant. You get two ounces of depresso each morning and miss work once in a blue moon because you just can’t take it anymore. You think about finding a therapist, but draw the line at psychiatry until someone convinces you otherwise.
The severe box is the smallest, but that’s supposed to be good. Your anxiety won’t let you leave your house–not for the last three years. Your depression fills your cups of coffee, all four of them, every morning, and you don’t leave your bed, let alone your house. You can’t think straight, you’re spouting words which don’t exist on earth and God’s been talking to you, really talking to you this time, and you’re the chosen one. You can’t work, you can’t shop for yourself, and help is forced, not chosen.
So, for those of us who don’t fit in the soggy boxes, where do we go? We float in the ether.
Sometime I’ll talk about the most broken areas of the mental health system, and that will include the closet they keep all these boxes. But in this post I wanted to talk about variation.
I’ve never considered myself mentally ill, or to have a mental disorder. That’s not because I’m in “denial”. It’s because I don’t see myself as ill. I was in therapy at 6 for not talking. All of school was trauma because I still didn’t talk, I didn’t make friends, anxiety made me cry every five minutes, I was homeless for a few years and then also hormones. I think puberty should be considered a trauma. In high school I got depressed, was deep in self harm already, got on medication and into therapy. Neither helped.
In college, I solved Ebola and cured anxiety with frequencies. It’s a long story. Then I questioned things. People didn’t seem to hear the same things I did, or notice patterns I did. For some reason this didn’t frighten me. It startled me, but it never frightened me. I only got frightened when I was dragged into hell, trapped by demons, and then caused the Las Vegas mass shooting.
Obviously I didn’t cause the Las Vegas shooting, but I thought it was because of me.
And the things I heard: it was strange. It wasn’t just people outside talking to me, or talking about me, they were in my head too. Like, really lodged in there.
When you read this post silently to yourself, you have that mini-you voice. They were not that. They were similar as I didn’t hear them outside of my head, but they were differently pitched than my mini-me voice. They said random things (my favorite is “Put that burrito on reservation”), commented on things, and overwhelmed me when I sat in class. I dropped a lot of classes during this awakening period.
It never felt appropriate calling these voices because I knew it’d be dismissed and so when assessed I said I heard externally ones occasionally and they didn’t always say a lot, I didn’t know them well, and one just screamed.
Again, I didn’t fit in any box. I had periods of grandiosity, of depression, but also of consistent, unbreakable, delusions, regardless of my mood (sometimes). I’d seen things others didn’t. All I was missing to really put the dot on their fucking I’s were consistent, mind-numbing external voices.
So I read some papers. It was thought just a little over a decade ago that internal voices weren’t a thing, and then when they were, they were considered less severe than external ones.
And then I found this 2016 gem.
And felt oddly validated. Strangely validated. Horrifyingly validated.
Because now I fit in a box. And that feeling has plagued me ever since.
I don’t want to fit in one of those soggy, disgusting, abandoned closet boxes. But if I don’t, my struggles will be invalidated and dismissed.
So, I created my own box. Not a sick, diseased, ill box, but one which harbors a variety of human experiences and calls them just that. It’s not really a box at all, it’s just a flat piece of cardboard on the floor with no ceiling, no walls, and you can stretch your arms and breathe fresh air. There’s no duct tape or shipping labels or clumsy shoving of your limbs.
In the abstract of the above article, the researchers say they found those with internal voices to be more aware of where the voices come from. And that makes things easier, I think, because when I do hear things externally, I usually believe it’s someone in the building or outside of the building commenting on me or hating on me or whatever, and that’s a lot harder to work through.
Maybe it’s the awareness that dilutes the fear. It doesn’t dilute the stress.
And their internal nature doesn’t mean I believe they’re coming from me. So, do with that information what you will.
My point? We are human. Humans have experiences. Humans have varied experiences. And to call an experience, even a terrifying one, even a disrupting one, even a repetitive, life shattering one an illness like cancer is an illness, an illness like high blood pressure is an illness, is some kind of twisted medical logical fallacy.
You want mental health to be treated like physical health?
It already is.