Stigma against those with mental illness runs deep in modern day culture. Commit a heinous crime? Mentally ill. Take another life? Mentally ill. When in all honesty, this all encompassing overused term will also describe the kindest of us. People who are usually, statistically the victim of most violent crimes. Those with mental illness are kind, loving people. Only off medication, they become lost in their own brain chemicals, due to stress. Do we judge diabetics when they need insulin? Those with illness can be easily manipulated. As we see from statistics they are more likely to have aggression towards them than to be the aggressor.
How can one adjective describe the complete opposites of human characteristics? Mentally Ill, this oxymoron of an adjective is frustrating to most who are lumped up in this description. We all recognize, the poor views that come with the label “mentally ill”. Abnormal Psychology, describes the standard deviations of characteristics. The 0 and 11 on the 1-10 scale. These are the extremes of human personalities. Abnormal Psychology, If diagnosed by itself, would be: limited insight with narcissistic tendencies. In layman’s terms? That bitch that talks shit.
So, as I sat in my abnormal psychology class, I started to realize what this class actually achieved. A negative stigma of those with mental illness. The book we were learning was called DSM IV (Doctors Stigma Maker). I struggled though every class, leaving with ill will, and a defeatist mentality. Maybe because of her teaching style, I was lost. Lecturing, and an underwhelming chalkboard, with the Doctors Stigma Maker ( DSM IV) held high. This was 2006, we had the technology. no need to bore us with archaic tech. Back to my point, The Doctors Stigma Maker ( DSM IV) did nothing to inform students of people’s true nature. This particular class let us get acquainted with the worst of people in the worst of times. Never revealing the paradoxical nature of those with mental illness are not to be feared, rather cared for as what we are human.
The course became so depressing to me, and irritating that I pulled out a horrible test technique. I learned in 2nd grade from a learning disabled classmate. Just a warning, this won’t get you on the honor roll. It’s called the ABCDABCDABCD…. Don’t judge me! The DSM IV provides enough of this judgement. Looking back, I probably should have just dropped the class as soon as I had seen a chalkboard.
All I’m hoping to convey with this to Survivors is that no one can fit in a box. Most of our personalities color outside of the lines of such discriminating boxes. The DSM IV is not important. Even a diagnosis could matter less, and will not tell you your true capability as a contributing member of society.
For my college industrial organizational class I found a way to volunteer for a day at the local hospital psychiatric unit. Asking my teacher if this could qualify as extra credit, and calling the hospital to receive permission. I was granted one day to see how the professionals worked.
Did I have a special interest in volunteering?… maybe.
Had I been there before as a Psych patient ? … I plead the 5th!
Elated, I received permission from both the hospital, and my college professor. Even bought a fierce new nurse uniform for the occasion. not every day an EX- patient gets a chance to break in… AND WITH PERMISSION.
This was an amazing day for me. Becoming more compassionate to the struggle of a professional who spends 40 or more hours keeping their own sanity, All in while, trying to help others build or find their own peace. 15 minute room checks, procedures, and medication, were all explained to me. However, as I sat with the clients, and nurses around a meeting table. The charge nurse made a comment that stuck with me.
“You have to love people to do well in this field.”, Then she said that phrase.
“We love you.”, In her eyes, I could tell she meant this, in the most caring way.
As time passes, I recognize how she was right. One has to love people to encourage them. Find that one good attribute, and expose it with love, and patience. The caregiver must realize time, patience, and love are key to support. Sometimes just being there is all that is needed.
That same day I encountered my then current Psychiatrist. While I was reading the white board behind the nurses station. My unsuspecting doctor turned the corner, and as he’s eyes arose from his file. I could see him process the situation. He literally jumped out of his skin when he encountered me. Who thinks he’s been reading the DSM IV too much. MUHAHAHAHAH!
Thankfully, my B grade point average was not affected too much due to Abnormal Psychology. I excelled in Sociology, Developmental Psychology, Anatomy, and Industrial Organizational Psychology. Earning mostly B’s and a few A’s. I enjoyed my time in school. I even conciser myself, a born- again nerd. Yet, for some reason Intro to Psychology was another nemesis.
Next Blog topic? Why are we Learning all these Crusty Guys’ Ideas?
TO BE CONTINUED?……