Today is world mental health day… To be honest I’m not sure what I think about that. In Hastings town today there is a big event going on but I will definitely not be attending, mainly because I am persona non grata in various quarters of town, ironically because of things that happened due partly to my mental health problem. Even more ironic though is that many of the horrible stuff that happened was far more due to the mental health problems of others interpreting said actions, including a number of people totally oblivious to the fact that they are mentally ill themselves.
It’s hard trying to get a functioning definition of what mental illness as it is so hard working out exactly what sane is most of the time. Being sane is most commonly defined as functioning within the parameters of a set of social and cultural norms defined by the place and time we happen to live in. The main flaw with this is that at various points in time, human beings have done and continue to do some some pretty crazy things. We have subjected members of our own species to mass slaughter throughout history on the grounds of which made up deity we choose to believe in to stop ourselves going insane through the knowledge of our own death and oblivion, we polute the world and starve people based on dancing figures on a computer screen dictating the ownership of shares and the value of made up currencies in corporations that often have better defended human rights than actual humans and from the bonfires of the vanities in Renaissance Florence through to the destruction of the treasures of ancient Babylon we wipe out our cultural legacy at the behest of the deluded. Sometimes to be described as mad is to do little more than being the one person left speaking common sense to the real crazies, being mad or being sane is often no more than a point of view. Sometimes though, being mad is, well, being mad.
It’s strange being mad, in my case recurrent depression (it used to be called chronic depression but it has been rebranded for some reason) anxiety plus assorted neurological issues, what nobody bothers to tell you is that however much you are losing the plot you experience your actions as being completely normal. However bonkers the thing you are doing at any given moment is, it will seem totally reasonable to you. In my case though, I have spent an awful lot of time working at not being mad, decades in fact , and have developed many coping strategies to check my equilibrium and to be aware if I’m going bonkers. I will never be cured, whatever that means, but I can function with it and work around insanity should I need to. The problem is though, once you are out as suffering from mental health problems people have a tendency to use it as a stick to constantly beat you with and a get out clause for unacceptable action by them or other people.
There are two sorts of mentally ill people in this world, those that can function in it and those that cannot, the ones that can often go undiagnosed as they never come into direct contact with mental health services as their particular malfunction enables them to thrive in the modern world. In the past couple of years I have been in contact with a number of people in this category and it hasn’t been pleasant. Narcissists and in particular , malignant narcissists, positively thrive in modern society, lacking any real sort of of definition of right and wrong, they find it easy to manipulate others, feeling no guilt at the way they treat people. They have an inflated sense of their own abilities often deluding themselves that they are far more talented and able than they actually are, they often react violently to anyone who questions their authority, knowledge or abilities. They function excellently in the world we have built for ourselves, using their delusions and lack of humanity (but their ability to convincingly mimic kindness and empathy when it suits them) they are often a magnet for people with low self esteem, who they exploit ruthlessly, happily taking over their lives and using them as an extension for their own. They are attracted to professions where they have power and/or control over other people including politics, government, social work and ironically areas of the caring professions anywhere they can take pleasure from manipulating people into doing their bidding.
The sad problem I have experienced though is my own version of the Cassandra Complex where, although being able to spot such people, it is nigh on impossible to convince anyone else. As is often the case, when highly manipulative people get their claws into someone, the affected party will often fight tooth and nail to remain stuck and often will remain that way until it is too late. You just can’t tell people. Ho, hum!
So the problem this, however aware we are of mental health problems, what can we do about them? When the most in need of treatment and doing the most damage never get it and those that are suffering the most are being failed by an underfunded and understaffed health system and a social security system that has been set up in such a way as to actively do them harm. We can be aware all we like, but seriously, what help can it be? However mad a person might be, the world they live in is far madder.