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What is Mental Illness?

I find this time of year difficult, especially this year. Last year I was (coming to the end of) claiming ESA. Little did I know that it would end on the 14th of January this year, though I was convinced it would end sooner rather than later. There was no way ATOS were going to let me through - especially as they now don't care about people on chemo. So here I am writing blog entry after blog entry, more often than not, now, as a coping mechanism. It's also practise as a writer, which is something I enjoy, though these blog entries aren't revised and redrafted (perhaps they should be).
So now I'm finding myself, in the forced introspection Winter invokes, questioning what my problems are. I've mentioned them before, along with my belief that the answer - or at least diagnosis - is Aspergers. If not that then 'something similar', if indeed there is such a thing. To put it simply, I don't feel like I fit into this society at all. I simply do not feel comfortable, and haven't for the majority of my adult life. To paraphrase Brian Wilson, I was not made for these times!
I'm sure to most that's a flight of the most self indulgent fancy.
I remember even as a kid being plagued with strange feelings and sensations even. About twenty years ago I was diagnosed, after a fashion, with Agoraphobia. I was sent to a stony faced counsellor who's response (about the only thing she said) when I said "my doctor thinks I have agoraphobia" was that there was a simple cure involving dumping me in the middle of town and leaving me to my own devices. Sink or swim, in other words. A philosophy I have no time for as it seems as potentially effective, at best, as it is dangerous. I'm not looking to drown.
I find dealing with the systems of society, which I have been on the periphery of for a long time, never really fitting in(which is probably a feedback loop contributing to the problems), like speaking a different language. I just don't understand them. The way the Jobcentre wants the unemployed to act in respect of what society expects people to do - ie work for 10 plus hours daily - just doesn't ring true with how I think people are, which is based on how I am (since that's the only experience I know). I don't think I'm necessarily opposed to working, but I find the idea of being forced into wage slavery abhorrent, almost physically so. You couldn't get a more extreme reaction if you invited me to the feast that Indiana Jones sits at in the Temple of Doom (ah, chilled monkey brains!)!
So nowadays I find myself occupied by thoughts of dread: I dread dealing with the jobcentre. I dread their control over my life to the point of penury and consequent starvation. Even the doctor thinks such a consequence is outlandish, but he can't tell me how one feeds themselves without money to buy food. I'd have to hope a charity can help me out. But even that would maintain a dire status quo, never mind providing me with the means to pay my bank charges each month (and I'm sure they'd listen!). I dread even turning up to the place. Even though it's relatively clean and, for the most part, I've had no real tribulations (aside from last Friday, which really pushed me too far, emotionally). I dread the future in this society. This cannot be a healthy way to live, but it seems these days that unless you have a very serious - ie visible - complaint you are doomed to be regarded negatively by the wider society.
Yet that's how my mind works. These feelings overwhelm at times. I have always found it difficult to deal with certain things, particularly if I feel I'm being overwhelmed. I find it very easy for things to get on top of me. I just cannot help that (who'd choose to function thus?). If i was in a busy work place god only knows what would happen! In such situations my mind withdraws and I can't engage with people properly. The Jobcenter have seen this (they saw it last week), but it means nothing to them without some kind of official stamp. This level of 'overload' dulls my emotions and I find myself incapable of thinking of anything else.
Some say Cognitive Behaviour Therapy is good for this, but my experience was that it was very very difficult to get into the space to step outside of your problem thinking in order to engage the requisite critical faculties that help deconstruct such negative thinking. That's the trick of CBT. It also doesn't help that, while trying to do it (something referred via the doctor, though off my own back, they didn't recommend or suggest it, as ever), I was still having to deal with the likes of the DWP. Consequently it's like trying to clean your hands in dirty water.
So here we are. The question I ask is what is mental illness? What constitutes a real problem and what is merely that which 'most people' call the stresses of everyday life, and is there a difference. We are expected to cope because we have to go out and earn a living and thus there's no alternative. But that doesn't help me; it's a statement that changes nothing that's merely an admission of the status quo. We can see that status quo isn't healthy because lots of us feel stressed at the very least. These days, as I say, people need to have an official stamp of their problems in order to access what help there might be, if any. I don't need an aspergers diagnosis for any other reason. Even if it came back that I have aspergers it won't be something that can be cured. In fact it might be something to be celebrated in that everyone is unique and these things comprise our personality and shouldn't be vilified. But in order to function in the society we now endure, such labels seem a necessity.
So I wonder if I'm mentally ill, emotionally ill, feckless, a scrounger, or just the odd man out!


  1. I feel the dread of the job centre, and this training, it has on occasions made me want to throw myself in front of a bus to get out of going. I dont like people i find them to be obnoxious, stupid and a waste of time.

    I too have felt lost in time, when the past was easier. You are not the odd one out there are many like this out there.

  2. What is needed is a nationwide movement, advocacy for the unemployed as well as the sick.


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