― Margaret Mead
Following this definition, I hereby award myself an Accidental Doctorate in Mental Anthropology. I've had the somewhat rare opportunity of standing outside the culture of the Land of Normal and gazing back in from the culture of the Flinders Psychiatric ward. This is my qualification for what follows.
Three things I've learned from this outside perspective:
1. It's not a pretty sight.
2. Much 'mental illness' is trauma based...'mental wounding'.
3. You may think you're not in any way affected by Mental Health Oppression. You are wrong.
EVERYONE is pretending, stuffing, numbing, hiding, distracting, imagining things, hearing things, dissociating, self harming, depressed to a greater or lesser degree.
Ever felt like bawling your eyes out at the cinema but 'couldn't'?
Ever felt you might be laughing too loudly?
Were you ever shamed for or distracted from releasing feelings of frustration (otherwise known as tantruming)?
Did you ever get the message loud and clear that you had to stop crying no matter how much it felt like you needed to?
Did you ever get frightened and have it belittled or not noticed by even the person closest to you?
Did you ever get the message that your feelings came second to someone else's?
Were you ever hit by a person more than twice as big as you?
Did you ever get the feeling your thinking didn't count or wasn't very good?
Were you ever bullied at school?
Do you ever feel you are all alone, and not in a good way?
Ever been told you should be 'over' grieving someone's death by now?
These are ALL aspects of mental health oppression. It is clear to me that, for the people who end up in the Land of Psychiatric Wards, the only difference is that, where you might have mild experiences on the continuum, they/we had extremely traumatising, pants-wettingly terrifying experiences way down the other end of that same line. We have all grown up in a traumatising culture. Authoritarian parenting is traumatising. Classism, racism, sexism, ableism, mental health oppression etc are all institutionalised in our culture and we are traumatised by them from the get-go. We are all, to a greater or lesser degree, raised by parents affected by (read:traumatised by) wars. It's not that the severely traumatised are crazy, it's more that everyone is steeped in trauma and oblivious to it.....In my eyes, THAT'S the craziness.
The ones you call 'mentally ill' are simply the canaries in the coalmine, chirping like mad because they can smell the gas.