Fighting Stigmas, Enforcing Changes, Passing Classes

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The Philosophy of Mental Illness


What is a mental illness? A scientist will say that is may be brain chemistry (or that is may be something else. They really don’t know). But more essentially, is mental illness a state of mind? Is it a set of emotions? A note on a chart of an insurance code?


And how should one relate to his or her illness? Is it a fog to see through? A dragon to slay? Or is it a character trait list smart or funny? Or even more fundamental like height or gender?


Psychologists like to talk about mental illness, depression in particular, like a fog. But with all due respect to them, they generally aren’t the ones living with it. Fog can be a helpful metaphor. It disempowers mental illness and turns it into an external force that seems to be, at worst, a hindrance. But some find the dragon to be a more appropriate comparison. After all, the concept of a treatment plan is that mental illness is something to be overcome. That leaves the person a scrappy hero, armed only with determination and some medications, to face the dragon’s sharp relationship-destroying teeth and a tail that can leave lives in ruin in one fell sweep. Others see mental illness as a trait integral to who they are. Like short people struggling to reach the top shelf, sometimes it is annoying. But it is not to be changed.


For me, mental illness is a collection of superpowers. As superman must manage his super-strength lest he carelessly squish Lois Lane, so must I manage my mental illness. But, harnessed correctly, it can be a powerful force for good.