So for the first time in over 7 years, I started therapy again this week. Not physical therapy, but rather physiological. I hesitated and refused therapy because of the socially negative impact it would have on my life. For some reason, there is a stigma against therapy or mental health in general. I personally was brought up to believe we buck up and just deal with our issues on our own. We sweep anything negative about ourselves or our families under the rug and pretend everything is okay at all times. We do this because image and perception to outsiders mean more than anything else in the world. After all, we would not want to slander the family name and ruin our reputations.
People who seek out, need or attend physiological therapy are perceived as being unstable and unaccepted in society. They are passed over for jobs, friends & family avoid them, spouses argue with them and don’t even try to understand what they are going through, and if single, nobody wants to date them. They are outcasts in a world of unforgiving brutal social classes where they reside at the bottom.
If I tell you it was hard for me to accept my place dwelling at the bottom and admitting I needed help, it would be a gross understatement. Life has not been kind to me. I could tell you hundreds of stories that lead me down this path but those are for a different day. I want to keep the focus here on what it is like to seek out therapy when you know the consequences of that will be your shunning from society.
Don’t believe me? Think I am exaggerating? All one has to do is look around them, read a newspaper or watch a news broadcast. Almost every one of the mass shootings we hear about is linked to a mental illness, a loner, an outcast in society. A person who has been so beaten down and devastated by their social surroundings that they have quite literally snapped inside.
The first thing we ask after one of these incidents is what medication are they on? We assume automatically they are on medication. Next, we ask the question about past or current mental illnesses they might have. Are they currently in treatment or getting help? Have they ever gotten help? When the answer to any of these questions is YES, it’s like the entire world shakes their head in a nod of agreement as if a light bulb came on in their heads and they ‘get it’. If the answer is no, we cannot accept that. We wonder how they could have gone years without anyone picking up on or noticing anything different or off about them. Then we do everything we can to dig into their personal private lives picking apart every single detail in order to prove our theory of mental illness.
It’s like this, say there are two jars of jelly that have been bottled and labeled at the factory then shipped to be put on a store shelf. During stocking the shelves at the store the clerk notices that one of the labels has come off the jar. He puts the jar on the shelf anyway and discounts the jar for a sale price of $.25. The normal jar that still has the label is marked $2.50. Customer after customer comes in and purchases the jar with the label rather than the blank jar even at the remarkable sale price. We do this because, in our minds consciously or sub-consciously, the jar without the label must have something unknown wrong with it.
Where am I going with this, what do two jars of jelly have to do with the human social environment? Quite simply put, we as humans in today’s current society have to put labels on EVERYTHING!!!!! We label, then sub-label, then sub-label the sub-label, then sub-label the sub-label of the sub-label…. get my drift? If someone or something does not have a label, we work really hard to classify them or it. We don’t stop… it is an obsession. Then once someone is given a label, that label sticks for the rest of their life.
Examples of this are everywhere. Say your old high school football coach for one. Even once he retires, he is always called Coach and remembered fondly as a coach. The neighborhood mom whose house is the gathering spot for all of the neighborhood kids. She is often thought of by the kids fondly with all of them calling her mom. Or the ‘uncle’ from church that is not really an uncle but everyone calls him uncle Joe. These are all positive examples of labeling that lasts throughout a person’s entire life.
But what happens if that neighborhood mom reveals she has a mental condition that requires her to be on medication and seek out treatment? Suddenly, the environment changes. Viewpoints on her change. Parents no longer want their kids around her. People avoid her at all costs, although polite when communicating with her (most of the time). What if it was the uncle at church? Again, the perception of him changes. Outside of church hardly anyone communicates with him. They let him continue to lead youth groups and services, however, it is now with a close watchful eye as if he will someday snap or do something wrong. We have already in our minds determined that these two people are bad and we need to be wary and stay away or fear them.
Now let’s say it was the Coach with the mental illness? He is well respected, thought of highly in the community, brings home the state championships each and every year leading the teams to victory. Hmmmmm….. in this case, suspicions rise, watchful eyes go up, but for the most part… the mental illness is ignored and he is still thought of in an elevated manner. The community rally’s around him giving him a huge support network to rely on. They may even start a non-profit organization to raise awareness of his illness. Now, I am not saying that his experience is bad. It is awesome that people would step up to support and help him. However, I do wonder why he gets the special treatment over the uncle or the neighborhood mother?
Now let’s say this was a teenager in High School. You know the one who is relentlessly bullied by their classmates, has to sit alone at lunch every day, gets picked last on the gym teams, no one wants to partner with for class projects, they never get asked out to the dances or events, ect., ect…. life is tough for them in a time where they should be enjoying their youth. Instead, they lose their dignity, self-esteem, trust, and happiness among other things. OF COURSE, it is natural for them to become distressed, anxious and extremely depressed. Thier peers have shunned them. Add the fact that we as a society, instead of stepping up to rally around them, sympathize with them, and offer our support, guidance, and love … then label them as needy, difficult, mentally disturbed, unstable, or any of the other widely used terms to suggest they are just mentally ill.
We would rather as a society play the blame game or pass the buck when that disaster strikes. We act shocked that such a thing could occur in our neighborhoods, schools, concert venues, and theaters. We rally together after the fact to help the victims or victims families. We talk about it for a week or so, then we forget it and move on as if it never happened. But it is only the end, until the next time and at the next time, again we blame the person who snapped for being shunned by society and having a mental disorder.
Never once do we consider the fact that we are to blame for turning a blind eye to the way that person has been treated leading up to events. WE, yes I said we, as a society, have bred, nurtured and fed this negative side of the person. We have all but verbally told them they are worthless and disposable to us by ignoring them and their circumstances.
When is enough… enough? When are we going to open our eyes and see that we cannot keep passing the buck? If we continue to pass up that discounted jar of jelly sitting naked and vulnerable on the shelf in favor of the bright shiny labeled one that catches our eyes, things like this are going to continue to happen in our world. If we continue to shun, ignore and avoid the issue of bullying or those deemed a little different than ourselves, never accepting them into our social circles or teaching our children to do the same; then nothing is going to change.
I say we are ALL, every single one of us… that naked jar of jelly sitting on that shelf. At some point in each of our lives, we have been hurt, let down, disappointed, had difficulties in life, been vulnerable to our circumstances and needed some sort of support to help us get through those tough times. In this way, we have all been mentally unstable at some point in our lives. We have no basis for judging another for reaching out to get help. We have no just cause for labeling a person as unstable or mentally ill if we have ignored the events in their lives that led up to the breaking point. Or even consciously or sub-consciously helped manifest the behavior which gave us that conclusion. If we as a society keep picking and choosing who is or is not worthy of our personal focus and help, things are only going to continue to decline rapidly.
We are focusing our attention and efforts in the wrong direction. We must wake up and realize that every single action we take has definite and severe consequences for another human being. We need to stop and take notice of everyone seeking help and reaching out, not just a select few. We need to rally around ALL of them, offer support, guidance, and love. We need to help them understand they are cared about, wanted and needed. That they have value to us and this world. We need to breed, nurture and care for the positive before an incident occurs, instead of noticing the negative after the fact. If we can do this, slowly our world will become the place we all dream it can be.