Originally published on my Medium page
Pick Your Poison
Between anxiety, depression, bipolar, PTSD, ADHD, and all the other “D’s”…
The DSM has done a great job of classifying all sorts of deviant and abnormal behavior — but, what does it mean for how we exist in our day to day?
1 in 8 kids are suffering from at least one of the aforementioned illnesses, and the rate seems to be increasing.
We fail the up and coming generations by offering band aid solutions while refusing to acknowledge the root of the issue, that being;
We exist in a society that systemically places profit over personhood.
Like personality, mental illness is a defense mechanism acquired to help shield oneself from reality. The world is scary, and at times our only protection against the barrage of lies we’re exposed to is by internalizing them as maladapted coping mechanisms.
Yes, trauma is real.
But in many ways, our response is realer.
Unlike personality, mental illness falls outside the socially derived norms of a culture.
Essentially, you are an anomaly — and in order to subdue your potential to wreak havoc on the system in place, you are classified as crazy.
Recognizing this label as one rooted in fear can give you a clue as to what you could become. The goal should be to harness and redirect your peculiarities, and transform your unique take on reality into a strength.
So, you don’t fit in?
From my observations, it’s the powerful that need to be tamed.
Normal people are predictable, easy to influence; almost by definition.
Many today willingly ingest the poisons of popular culture no questions asked. These are the same individuals who are considered ‘healthy’ for doing so.
And yet, to be well adjusted to a sick world is no indication of mental wellness.
“It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.”Tweet
On the other hand, to be ‘crazy’ is to be internally maladjusted to it.
And that’s okay. It means you’re being yourself.
“Name one genius that ain’t crazy”
Psychology and Power
I wrote a bit about power in a medium post from January.
It touched on how its definition has been warped in our current age to be somehow aligned with evil or bad intentions.
My opinion, is that it has more to do with an ability to create order from chaos than it does with a propensity towards malevolence or destruction.
What does this have to do with mental health?
Well – the common dictionary definition for mental health is suspect at best, and as the title of this post implies, I believe ones disorder can become a source of power if understood in a proper context.
But, according to Merriam-Webster…
A mental illness is “marked primarily by sufficient disorganization of personality, mind, or emotions to impair normal psychological functioning”
“Normal Psychological Functioning”
…except, in order to have be dis–organized, there has to be some overarching degree of order everyone is being measured against, right?
This order is what I’ll call the illusion of normalcy.
It’s the false reality we live in today. And please be sure, it is false.
Because normalcy is a façade.
Everyone on this planet is unique, to deny this is to deny your sanity.
Only, we manage to do it all the time; and in my view, the DSM is a fundamentally flawed book which hinges on the assumption of everyone needing to achieve some arbitrary semblance of ‘normal behavior’ in order to be ‘healthy’.
Though in reality, ‘normal’ is a function of what is acceptable, not what’s good.
And what is deemed acceptable changes all the time. We all know this.
And that’s my problem with psychology – it’s highly subjective.
“The younger a scientific field, the more it responds to the human, subjective elements of chance; the older, well-defined field has less room for open-field running, requires a more disciplined, objective conscious effort.”— James H. Austin Chase, Chance, and Creativity: The Lucky Art of Novelty
There is not enough scientific literature available to make conclusions when this is a field still relatively new.
Even hard sciences like biology are in a constant state of revision, so to proceed with diagnosing patients at any degree of certainty based on what to me constitutes a primitive understanding of the human psyche at best
…is a dangerous display of hubris.
They call a doctor’s office a “practice” for a reason.
When psychologists claim to ‘know’ something, they really mean to say, “I’m making an educated guess based on less than a century of research”.
Which is fine for brainstorming solutions or creating guidelines to facilitate further research.
But, it is not fine when proclaiming the mental state of a human being and simultaneously determining the remaining trajectory for their life.
I’m just saying.
The DSM has been amended 8 times since its introduction in the 1950s. Meaning, experts can literally rewrite the rule book at will.
What if, a decade from now, some researchers decide that we were completely wrong about schizophrenia “back then” (today) and create a whole new framework with which to analyze the next generation of madmen?
That sounds pretty crazy to me.
But it’s the world we live in.
Back to power —
i.e. the ability to create order from chaos.
A person who thinks differently from others has a leg up on the competition in this department.
You effectively create from a set of experiences most wouldn’t even consider. It’s akin to having a mega box of crayons while everyone else is stuck with the 10-pack.
You see the world differently, and unfortunately — that scares some people.
Don’t worry, it’s opportunity disguised as hardship.
Want to know who else sees the world differently?
Helen Keller, Steve Jobs, Elon Musk, Leonardo DaVinci, Albert Einstein, Marie Curie…
These individuals were all crazy to some degree or another, and because of this — they were also trailblazers. Free thinkers. Mavericks. Change makers.
Rebels who can extract value from places unseen by the masses.
Willing to diverge from common practice, and in so doing — create their own way.
Don’t get me wrong, it doesn’t always work out well.
This probably isn’t politically correct, but most billionaires could have probably been serial killers if the market decided it was a more lucrative career path.
I’m not saying money is bad.
I’m saying it requires a certain level of obsession. An obsession that could be easily characterized as sick, depending on the context and the bank account.
On the flip side, many could also have just as easily become victims of suicide.
We handle the disparities between our inner and outer worlds differently.
For some, inner worlds have become wildly divergent from social norms, so they simply exist as they can before being feels too much to handle.
One’s power to do good is directly proportionate to their ability to do evil. It’s ultimately up to them. They can actuate as they please, so it’s no wonder that most use their sense of authority for personal gain, its the status quo.
But, in a world that is increasingly connected, the way forward is not to fight your way to the top, or to wallow in apathy at the bottom.
The goal is to successfully engage those around you, allowing them the freedom to become themselves.
This is the superpower of those with different perspectives.
Sure, we can use this level of exceptional understanding to “win” at temporary games of money making or womanizing.
We can successfully deploy our ‘illness’ upon those around us — giving ‘normal’ people a chance to see their world in new ways, and waking them up in the process.
It’s a nice sentiment — but, anxiety still sucks.
I get it.
Here’s the thing.
You fundamentally recognize something about the world that nobody else seems to grasp, and I feel you.
Our social constructs, rather than pushing to extract your perspective for the greater good, have decided instead to deny them, and to label you.
Don’t believe me?
Turning to self destructive ends may feel like the only remaining motive for living. It seems that to believe yourself, involves rejecting the world. But that’s not true.
You can be good, and still remain powerfully engaged at the same time.
Unshackle yourself from others expectations, and begin to live life on your terms.
Not moms, or dads, or your friends, or your boss’.
To hand over autonomy to is to relinquish freedom.
To relinquish freedom is to cede responsibility.
And today, we tacitly endorse a system of mass insanity — where individuals attack, ignore, and abuse one another all in the name of appearing normal.
That in itself is enough to drive those on the fringes off the deep end, and yet we can’t seem to comprehend that we’re capable of stopping the madness at any moment.
Instead, we hand over our independence to a flawed illusion of normalcy, usually out of fear, and in hopes that someone else might have the answer.
(Hint: they don’t.)
Only you know, but you don’t even trust yourself.
The system would collapse if everyone began to do so
And be sure, this is a good thing.
It means we the people, have the power.
It means we can ascend to a place of self-rule.
It means we don’t need to be scared anymore.
Despite what our neocortex tells us, that pesky limbic system continues to reign supreme, keeping us mired in fear.
It seems that millions of years of evolution compounded with a bit of 21st century marketing has proven a difficult egg to crack.
Mental illnesses are like our ancient brains on steroids, maladapted to the current world order and unable to figure out healthy ways in which to cope.
Your anomalous existence is evidence that things are not right…
Like a clue from your real self to your fake self, begging for the truth to be set free.
Most people have yet to reach a point where their fake reality is threatened, so they continue living as if nothing is wrong.
Honestly, I feel for such people.
We crazies on the other hand, have no excuse.
We already know much of this world is a lie, which means we have the opportunity to be different, and to begin building out the infrastructure of one based in truth.
Of course, we still have to exist in the world as is, (for the time being), and this presents a problem for some.
They would rather acquiesce to the system in place, becoming semi functional parts of a machine bent on its own destruction.
And who can blame them?
I get it.
We are creatures unsure of our potential, yet filled to the brim with doubts about our ability to function.
Which is why cynicism can be easy.
What I’m asking you to do is difficult.
I’m asking you to have faith in what you already know deep down.
And then to pursue that thing, regardless of how people look at you.
Maya Angelou said this;
“There’s nothing more sad to see than a young cynic, for it means they’ve gone from knowing nothing to believing nothing…”
To have faith in something requires commitment.
To bear out your cynicism requires …well, nothing.
Like being in a dark room, eyes tend to get adjusted.
So, deciding to step into the light can feel like an act of rebellion.
Once we accept His gift of grace, we in turn become beams of light to a world currently drowning in darkness.
Just means to be real.
The only way out, is through.
I think it’s time we begin believing in ourselves again.
Because, we are superheroes.