“I think the reward for conformity is that everyone likes you except yourself.” – Rita Mae Brown
In 2006, at the age of 33, I was diagnosed with clinical depression. I have been taking an anti-depressant (SSRI) since then and it has helped me to be more functional in life.
Or has it?
It’s been almost 10 years since my first diagnosis and although the anti-depressants have helped reduce my suicidal tendencies, I have not been functioning well lately. Actually, I was doing okay until 2012, the year my mother was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. She died 3 months later in August. I was barely hanging on, but was able to slowly continue on with my life, thanks to friends and family. But, perhaps dealing with their own grief, my aunt (my mother’s sister) and my cousin stopped speaking to me and my sister. The next year, one “friend” stopped speaking to me altogether. He relayed his hurt feelings through my best friend at the time, never giving me the chance to make it right. And then in 2014, my “best friend” dumped me and left me stranded, never speaking to me again (except for threats). No forgiveness. No benefit of the doubt. The end.
This experience of loss has left me feeling jaded, disillusioned, disposable, and absolutely disgusted with people. I’ve always been leery of (American) society, but I tried to get over myself and live my life. But the older I get, the more bullshit I see with the things we are taught. I have simply been brainwashed for the past 42 years and I’m angry about that. I’ve always felt this unease, like something’s not right, since my early twenties. But I (and everyone else) just chalked it up to being a young adult learning the rules of society. However, now that I look back and react to the expectations put on me by other people, I had and have every right to be angry.
I have a constant feeling that the life I am living is not natural. I can feel it. But now I feel trapped.
I came across an article by Martijn Schirp, co-founder of the website, High Existence, titled “Turning the Problem Around Mental Health in a Sick Society”. It talks about the over-diagnosis of mental illness, when a person can’t conform to the society in which they live. Is it mental illness or simply trying to cope with the bullshit?
A quote from the article [emphasis by the author]:
“Because what is a sick society? It is a society where the norm is more important than the people it should protect. It is a place where what is considered normal is decided by corporations that see people as means, not as ends. It is a place that always externalizes the problem. It’s never the system, the schools, the economic system or the structure of government. It’s you. You aren’t a symptom, you are the cause. But as we have seen, this is just one perspective on the situation.”
There’s nothing inherently wrong with wanting to work 40+ hours a week, with climbing the corporate ladder, or being perfectly fine with life ruled by money, profit margins, and “success” . But if that’s not how you choose to define your life, why is that seen as defective? What other options are there besides the “school-work-die-in-debt” paradigm?
So what is it that I want to do? Well, here’s what I don’t want to do:
“I don’t want to sell anything, buy anything, or process anything as a career. I don’t want to sell anything bought or processed, or buy anything sold or processed, or process anything sold, bought, or processed, or repair anything sold, bought, or processed. You know, as a career, I don’t want to do that.” – Lloyd Dobler, from the movie, Say Anything
What I want to do is simplify my life, while I still have one. I am currently purging useless shit and it’ll take awhile – I’ve got a lot of shit to get rid of. Hopefully, as I get rid of the bullcrap (which includes not just objects, but also obligations, extreme negativity, unnecessary stress, etc.) I can focus more on my living environment, including my home, which is my sanctuary. I am not a person that does well with stress, especially on top of dealing with depression. And close friendships? Fine, if it happens. If not? Oh well.
In short, this year I need to focus on my health and not just my physical health, but also my mental health. Despite the stigma around mental illness (which is awful) I need to own my feelings and deal with them. Writing this blog post is one way to do it. If it makes people uncomfortable or annoyed then again, oh well. If writing helps my suicidal thoughts to subside, I’m going to do it. I may feel like dying, but I’m not ready to go yet.
Another website that I highly recommend is Mad In America. There is a more in-depth article about mental illness and conformity titled, “Why Anti-Authoritarians Are Diagnosed As Mentally Ill”, by Bruce Levine, PhD. This article goes more into the science behind mental illness and the results of those affected, trying to be “normal”.
Remember, you do not have to suffer alone. You don’t have to hide your illness to make others feel comfortable. If they’re “tired” of “dealing” with the existence of people affected with this disease, they can fuck right off. If you’re a sufferer, please know that you have an ally in me. No matter what people say, you have value as a human being. There has never, and never will be, anyone like you. Love yourself. Own your individuality.
Do you or someone you know struggle with mental illness? What methods do you use to cope?
Love & Shimmies,