Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Let's Talk About Validation or V is for Validation


Fantastic art from
Healthyplace.com

Are you mentally ill and feel like your problems are not valid? Does it seem like your feelings are brushed off because you have "issues?" Are you struggling to prove that you are not over-sensitive or a "faker?" Are you reading this in the voice of a late-night infomercial narrator? If so, you're not alone.

Feeling like your complaints are not valid is common for the mentally ill. Society has this idea that emotions are things we should be able to control; if you can't, you're weak, not sick. There are people who think their feelings feel the same way your mental illness does. They think the only difference is how you handle it. They're wrong, but that doesn't stop this misconception from bleeding into your psyche and making you feel like less of a person. Fuck that. You probably spend enough time making yourself feel invalidated without dealing with the opinions of the uninitiated. 

Here's what got me thinking about feeling validated in terms of mental illness. I'm a mental checker. It's my main compulsion. I have a habit of checking to see if I'm "really" ill, and of doubting my findings. I think I'm faking, and when everyone else notices, they'll abandon me. I am worried about that because I am sick. I not only need a support system in my life to function, but I also have symptoms that are out of my control. No, these symptoms aren't average emotions. They are malfunctions of the body/mind. I wonder if everyone who makes themselves feel invalidated knows that.
When a person thinks about mental illness, they may imagine people sobbing, acting out and otherwise behaving oddly. I think that's part of why some people think the mentally ill are just acting like dicks. Some of us do behave oddly, but that's all tangled up in what's going on in our bodies, which includes our brains. The rush of symptoms related to mental illness is wildly different from average emotions. In short sad =/= depressed. Anxious =/= stressed. Energetic =/= bipolar. Getting angry =/= mood swing. You might feel little onslaughts of emotion that give you a taste of what anxiety, depression, etc. are like, but until those things come on for no reason and last longer than they should, you do not have a disorder. So, don't invalidate a mentally ill person because you can handle traffic and therefore think they should be able to handle panic disorder. It's not the same. If it were, my life would be very different. I know, because I've been mentally healthy most of my life.

I'm not a scientist. I can't tell you all of the intricacies of the brain that add up to mental illness. However, I can point you to a relatively simple explanation of how the brain works. In case you don't want to go here to read about it, I'll try to sum it up briefly. There are chemicals and communications made by and within the brain that affect our behavior and emotions. Like any other function of the body, these can go ass over teakettle. When they don't work properly, you get mental illnesses. 

I don't think people will stop invalidating the mentally ill anymore than they'll stop calling people with other illnesses fakers when they feel like. I also don't think the mentally ill are going to stop invalidating themselves. They grew up in a society that told them they're sensitive crybabies. However, that doesn't change the facts, and I hope those facts will eventually sink in to society as a whole. With so many people suffering from mental illness, it's a wonder empathy hasn't caught on.