An essay by Brian McLaughlin, Advocate
Mental illness is a liar and a thief. It will look at the afflicted and society with unblinking eyes and lies. Sometimes the lie is passed on by the din of modern media seeking the bizarre, the sensational, or the entertaining. Other times it is passed on in the form of fearful glances or hushed whispers, person to person. Perhaps the cruelest of lies are inflicted on the self. When persons with serious mental illness, like society, start to believe that persons with mental illness are their illness, the deception is complete.
Why is the lie so powerful? Maybe it is because during a bout of illness a person is robbed of their true self. It differs for many, but often a person's real personality, and temperament is taken. Access to unique talents, and intelligences are hindered by symptoms. Relationships are strained, or completely vanish under the stress of the illness.
My experience with serious mental illness has revealed to me the following: When I get ill I am lied to and robbed. In depression or mania, I become painfully paranoid and feel, no believe, I can read peoples minds. It is painful because the experience is so vivid and the thoughts are so cruel. The closest of friends and family become rogues, plotters, and thinkers of evil thoughts. The condition of the moment robs me of my true nature. My mind, emotions, and my usual way of relating to the world, suddenly become unreliable companions. I say and do unreasonable things. I think, act, and react in unreasonable ways. Therefore, for good reason I am seen as unreasonable by the world. The truth of the matter is that I am not merely judged unreasonable, or ill, but simply, "crazy." The deception is so complete that even when the symptoms have gone into a quiet remission, I start to believe I am "crazy," and amount to no more than my illness.
Clearly, the hardest part about being a person with a serious mental illness is being true to your self. As a matter of survival, a person's true self is forced to pick up the jagged little pieces of their lives. Again and again, a person with serious mental illness must reach out to family, friends, the world, and the self in an attempt to rebuild the image of the true self. Each time wellness returns, a person is left hoping that their illness has not totally robbed them.
In conclusion, I assert that professionals, families, friends, peers, and, above all, persons with serious mental illness should never let the true self be permanently pilfered or deceived. "To thy know self be true." No child, adolescent, or adult, should be left believing they are no more than the sum of their fleeting symptoms. Or suffer so much damage, that the jagged little pieces don't one day fit back together again.
Brian Patrick McLaughlin MS/CPS
MH Consumer Advocate
Erie County, PA.
P.S. To those closest to me: Sometimes "sorry," just doesn't say it. Some times a guy must make a more elaborate attempt at an apology and attempt to rebuild his true self in the eyes of his friends, as well as, himself.
© 2016 Mental Health Association of Northwestern PA