December 14, 2019
Since the first caveman said “Ugh” wrong and the other cavemen laughed, people have been marginalized, mocked, and even persecuted for being different. Or at least different from what a majority decides is “normal.” But we are all different, in actuality. We all say and do things that are considered “abnormal.” So who determines which people don’t fit in? What is normal, anyway?
They call it mental illness. It has been called so much worse. There is a giant diagnostic book for specialists that is full of conditions, disorders, and lots of other words to describe how some people’s brains work differently than other people’s brains. At the end of the day, most everyone could be categorized and labeled under one or more of those conditions. Yet because they are not aware, and their symptoms haven’t raised any red flags within society, they turn their attention to others.
We are called anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, ADHD, OCD, ODD, ASD, and more. We are also called freaks, losers, geeks, weirdos and worse. In reality, we are all human. We are all the same. Those of us who have diagnoses of mental illness are simply more aware. We are aware of our strengths and weaknesses, and we are aware of our fellow humans and their sufferings, too. It can be hard to live life with a label, but even superheroes have labels. And if a label helps us to learn more about ourselves, to make our weaknesses into strengths, and to see others more compassionately, then who cares about labels? They can only hurt us if we let them.
The first step for us is to be aware. We can be aware of the things that make our lives more difficult or that we struggle with. We can seek professional help, ideally voluntarily and before we lose control. We can learn to self-monitor our minds and bodies to know when we start to struggle and to self-regulate our sleep, food intake, moods, and more. This will help us to be more aware of ourselves.
As we do this and show people that we can control our own lives and be aware of our minds and bodies, we naturally help create awareness of mental health. As we openly share our struggles, defying stigma, we help others to be aware of their own mental health and to learn that all of us are human, we are all here as part of the human experience. Soon, we not only raise awareness, but we also help to create enlightenment. Our efforts bless not only ourselves, as we gain empathy instead of judgment, but we also help to humanize mental illness.
Someone once coined the phrase, “What you don’t know can’t hurt you.” But actually, it can. Understanding how our minds work and learning about mental health makes us better able to function. The brain can be fascinating to learn about, and scientists are learning more all the time about how our brains work and how we can help them work even more efficiently. If we live in fear and stigma and focus on a label of mental illness, then that is how we will function. However, if we read and educate ourselves about mental illness, then we empower ourselves with knowledge and tools to make our “weakness” into a strength.
Likewise, we can educate other people. Most people who mock or bully other people who they perceive as “different” simply lack the education about mental health at all. When we boldly stand up and talk about mental health with others, we take away their power to point fingers and single us out. We also empower them to look at their own mental health and perhaps analyze what makes them need to single people out or point out differences. It really is a win for all of us when we educate ourselves and others about mental health.
With education comes understanding. We can understand ourselves and others who have mental health diagnoses. We can help others realize that all of us have quirks and behaviors and things that can be considered “abnormal.” In fact, the more scientists learn about the human mind and behaviors, the more “abnormal” is the new normal. When people understand this, it eradicates stigma and creates an environment of support for one another. When there are support and understanding amongst humans, then we can all find more mental health.
This begs the question once again, “What is normal?” Depending on the people around us, normal can be stigma and ignorance and criticism of things they don’t understand. Or it can be people like us, who are creating a new normal of people who are educated, compassionate, and empathetic of all people and all conditions. Normal is what we are willing to accept. Normal is what we are willing to change, and what we are willing to inspire others to change, too.
Normal is realizing that labels can have a purpose: to help us become healthier. Normal is realizing that we can choose not to wear the negative labels that others try to place on us. That we have control over stigma and bullying and all of the abnormal things society tries to inflict upon us. Normal is finding mental health and living it.
Choose to redefine normal by finding mental health. Call Potomac Programs at 1-855-809-0409 today. Change the narrative and change your life.