Like many of my fellow Bipolaratti and friends with other assorted serious mental and/or chronic illnesses, I’m wary as fuck of mindfulness. Hell, I wrote a piece with that exact subject line last month. So unsurprisingly, I am less than impressed that it’s the theme of this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week.
I only really took notice of this annual event last year, which was themed on anxiety. Great! Anxiety is, as far as I can tell, a commonality for anyone with a serious mental illness. It’s hard to be anything but when your brain is trying to kill you, and you cannot even trust the good times to be genuine. And while I felt the scope was too shallow to actually express to people outside the realm of mental illness the depths of how crippling anxiety can be, I thought it decent primer. It’s something that pretty much everyone will go through at some point or another, after all.
Now, stepping back — I know that those of us with serious mental illnesses are the minority of the 25% of people who have mental illnesses in a year. We are the 1+1+1 (etc)% (or upwards of 5%, some think). I am aware that reaching out shallowly and broadly with topics like mindfulness can potentially help a larger chunk of people better their lives. However, I would argue that most of those people have temporary problems anyways. That doesn’t make them any less severe — anyone’s bad is a valid bad, even if it’s less bad than someone elses’. They are as deserving of help and support as anyone else. Unfortunately, because of that, those of us who are constantly dealing with illness are chided for not ‘trying hard enough’. After all, if it worked for Person X, why doesn’t it for you? And we all know that sort of evangelist, whether it be mental illness, or weight loss, or whatever — I did it, so you can too. Oh goodie, let me tell my brain that Jane Doe fixed her short-term depression with positive thinking — that’ll suddenly make it fall in line. OH WAIT. *cough*
Does that make me sound bitter? Probably, but I don’t really care. As cheerful and positive as I try to be for my own sanity, I don’t believe I owe the world the Happy Cripple act. And it’s also exhausting when people put a sticking plaster over the whole of mental illness because it increases stigma. I know — the point is to reduce stigma and ‘get people talking’. But when the reach is so shallow (or so one-sided as to only focus on extreme cases), it neglects the bulk of us that fall between. Yes, I know I said above that those of us with serious mental illnesses make up the minority, but what about those with the ‘minor’ problems that make up most of the annual 25%? When we’re told over and over again that something like mindfulness and/or CBT is a magic bullet and it doesn’t work, that brings on feelings of guilt, and probably further depression too. There’s the risk of doctors (who may or may not be neurotypical) branding a person non-compliant because these things do not work for them, which then makes it even harder to get needed help.
Anyways, if mindfulness is useful for you, two thumbs up. If you want to share it around, by all means — just understand that some of us have been trying to magically cure ourselves with it for a long time and it doesn’t work in all cases.
As usual, I’d love to hear what you guys think, and I hope everyone is doing well!