From time to time I get a bee in my bonnet about the general terms used around mental illness and mental health.   Not for any other reason than to me, they don’t really describe what’s going on in there.

Try this: Mental images.  Mental powers.  Mental patient.

Did I engender a concept or concepts in your imagination?  Are you now thinking of the amazing things you can do with your mind?  What it would be like to be a mental patient?   You see when I say “mental” it’s natural for you to think “mind” which seems to be where the misrepresentation starts.

Can you remember the old “nervous breakdown” term?  It took on some negative connotations when people thought it described them as not being able to cope.  Nervous exhaustion was a pretty nice one.  It seemed to mean you’d reached the edge of your ability to cope but when extrapolated further went on to mean that you weren’t able to cope!   They were the days when it was all about our nervous system.  Now we’ve moved on to the “mental system”.

The great sense of failure that I struggle with every day is in some way due to the labeling of my symptoms.  I use the term “Post Traumatic Stress Disorder” (technically that’s the diagnosis) as often as I can because it gives me the ability to distance myself from the cause of my symptoms.  In a way I’m saying I did not do this to myself.  I do not choose to be this way.   I make this distinction, because I worry that using the term “mental” suggests I have an intellectual impairment or an intellectual stimulus that means I am somehow not as smart as I could be.  After all, if I were smarter I would just get over it.

However, I’m not mentally impaired.  I might worry excessively over things I can’t control.  I might feel exceedingly vulnerable.  I might continually seek reassurance.  I might have to suffer through inexplicable anxiety and recurring tearfulness.  I may feel worthless, useless, insignificant and afraid, all of which to you, may seem illogical.

However, logic determines that if my biochemistry behaves in a particular way then I will display particular symptoms.  And, just because the symptoms may in themselves appear illogical doesn’t mean they are any less real or that I have created them to piss off everyone around me!!

The question for those outside looking in is; if I’m mentally ill, then could I also perhaps be mentally deficient, mentally challenged or mentally broken?  After all, I’ve been known to make the odd bad decision.

Perhaps I struggle with failure because I can’t explain my illness or because I’m broken and I don’t know how to fix it or maybe, because I’m scared.

Whatever the reason I’d like to think that my value lies in who I am rather than my endocrine system’s inability to perform reasonably.

Deb Shugg is an awarded business woman, wife & mother, author and a sufferer of depression and anxiety.  To contact Deb click here.

If you need help to deal with your symptoms see your doctor.  If you need to talk to someone NOW call Lifeline on 13 11 14.

http://www.lifeline.org.au