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The Self Indulgence of Mental Health

One of the most pernicious aspects of poor mental health is how others don't understand. How can they? Unless you live with these feelings, for example, you cannot know what it's like any more than I can know what it's like to be born a fish. People tend to think, in my opinion, that the sufferer is merely feeling sorry for themselves; at worst they are being selfish.

It isn't like that at all. For example, though I'm not entirely, sure I believe two people I know are planning on getting married. My friend, who would be the groom, doesn't know about the issues I face (even words like that are misconstrued, though what else can we use but words). We have never spoken about mental health and I have never raised these issues; it's not something one blurts out in conversation and, while he's a nice guy, he's not the sort of person who'd really understand. That of course is a judgement, but then, again, what else can we do to negotiate our way through the world? We have to judge situations, current and future. Sometimes we fail, sometimes we don't. Unfortunately poor mental health affects that success rate.

I'm assuming that, depending on the nature of the event (i don't see it being a church do, but then it's not up to me), he will invite me; either to the full thing, or to some kind of reception. To most people this is an exciting proposition and a kind gesture. To be invited to share someone's special day is what most people regard as an honour. I accept all that.

Unfortunate it also stirs up an inner tumult of dread. While I care about his special day and wouldn't under any circumstances want it to be anything but perfect - I'm not a monster nor, in my opinion, am I selfish - the thought of mingling with people leaves me utterly cold. I don't feel I have anything in common with the other people (to be brutally honest, I don't really think much of his partner, she's rather small minded and even a bit racist, but that's a subject for another day). The idea of sitting in a party room full of people I don't know except for a few, expected to perform the usual social role intended and generally be 'normal' sends me into a complete panic. 

I don't know why I am this way, I can't reasonably articulate it, and that's why I say people who have no experience of this cannot understand it. You either get it or you don't, and, thanks to the popular ignorance of mental health, which has persisted for far too long, most people don't. Consequently my need to consider my own well being will be seen as self indulgent at best. Since I will be seen as not having any physical - that is to say 'genuine' - restriction my behaviour, should I bottle out, be seen as totally selfish. But it's not like that at all. How can anyone convey the crushing weight of intense feeling? No matter how smart or 'grown up' you are, you cannot know this without experiencing this. 

You cannot reason it away. This is my biggest problem with treatments like CBT: the idea of using reason to de-construct negative mental health sounds rational and practical. But in practise it is a catch 22: my experience was that, in order to use reason one must separate oneself from the effect of negative thinking and feeling. If one could do that then there'd be no problem in the first place!

Ironically, and to conclude, what could be more self indulgent than a large blog post where one person whines about fearing a social event that may or may not happen. That of course is the problem. I could waffle on for page after page about this, but if you, dear reader, do not understand this by now, then you never will. Of course that sounds equally arrogant and horrendously narcissistic. I can't help how mental health problems are perceived; we live in a society where, still, depression is seen as a lack of self discipline and a well of excuse making; not the black dog those who've experienced it know it to be. 

It is like trying to explain colour photography to a person who cannot see except in monochrome. Even then, all the analogies in the world are a poor substitute for the lived experience of mental health. Given the desperate state of our austere society there is little hope of this changing.


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