Sunday, April 13, 2014

The Romanticization of Illnesses

Let me ask you a couple questions:

When was the last time you thought that having a cold was cute?

How about the last time you thought a case of influenza was adorable?
What about the last time you thought pneumonia was endearing?

I ask these because I've noticed something for a long time, and it bothers me... And the other night, I had it really driven hope for me:

Several nights ago, I had a nightmare-- a nightmare that I had Multiple Personality Disorder. I was in my body, "conscious", but I had absolutely no control over what I was doing. As dreams go, I have no memory of what I was doing exactly, only that it scared me, a lot, so much that I was sobbing (in my dream), and asking over and over again what was happening to me, and, if I recall correctly, begging for it not to be real.

Now, that was sort of a wake-up call (no pun intended....) to me. Being a writer, I've been guilty of thinking it would be "fun" to have MPD, because hey, I'd be able to get to know my characters even better that way! That'd be great, right? Of course, I never seriously wanted to have MPD, because "cool" as it sounded, I also knew that it wouldn't actually be as cool if I had it.

Obviously, the dream I had really hit me over the head with that reality. When I woke up, I felt a huge surge of relief, and thanked God that I did not have MPD. Despite that relief, I was so afraid of having that nightmare again, that I couldn't fall back to sleep for an hour.

Now, obviously, I'm sure that what happened in my dream isn't an accurate description of what it feels like to have MPD. However, I would submit to you that we do need to reevaluate the way we look at mental illness and disorders, and stop glamorizing them and making them desirable to have. No, we shouldn't go to the other extreme either, to the point of looking down on people who have disorders, or treating them as inferiors. No no no, I don't mean that. There are two extremes, and going off either end is damaging.

Now first, I'll give it to you, media does often make disorders look cool, or cute, or endearing. Take Monk, the OCD, everything-aphobe who bumbles along touching fence posts, avoiding handshakes, being terrified of just about everything, and having to have everything perfectly in order. I will say that the show does reveal the bad side of what he is going through sometimes, but at the same time, those very things endear Monk to us, and make us say, "Hey, I want to be like Monk because he's cool! Guess what!  I'm OCD now, because being OCD is cool!".

Oh, and how about Sherlock? The "highly functioning sociopath"? He disregards everyone's feelings and property, is super smart, and throws out smart quips. Everyone loves Sherlock! And why not? Problem? The hype of, "Oh, I'm a highly functioning sociopath, because I'm antisocial and really smart, like Sherlock". First of all, no, you're probably not a sociopath. Sociopaths are not defined as "antisocial people who don't like people", they are people who have a long history of disregard for other people, often to the point of violating other peoples' rights, and think themselves above everyone else. They do not care, and possibly are incapable of caring, whether or not they are hurting other people. People are there to be manipulated and used, in their opinion. And as far as emotions go, it's a narrow spectrum-- they do not feel a lot. Does that really sound like who you want to be identifying yourself as?

Yes, yes, some people are just joking around about it, sure. But there are some people out there who are serious-- they're not joking when they say, "I'm a high functioning sociopath!" and are simply going off of things they learned on Sherlock and various sources on the internet. There are people who want to be high functioning sociopaths, because it's COOL!  Like SHERLOCK! Duh!

So.... wrapping up this somewhat long post...

Mental illness is not something to be glorified. Sure, I joke just as much as the next person about, "Oh, I'm OCD because it drives me nuts when my books aren't straight, hahaha...", but at some point you have to realize that there is more to OCD. It's not just a, "Yeah, I feel uncomfortable if my books are out of order". It's a, "I HAVE to keep my books in order, or else something terrible is going to happen!". It's irrational, it's damaging, it is life-consuming. It actually noticeably affects the quality of your life.

And having to keep things in order? That is just one aspect of OCD, did you know that other aspects of OCD are having certain recurrent thoughts and images that are horrifying, and you cannot/have trouble with repressing them? Imagine laying in bed at night and having wave after wave of terrifying images flooding through your mind, or horrible thoughts like, "I'm going to badly hurt so-and-so!". OCD isn't cool.

So there you have it. A long, rambling post that may or may not be coherent because I'm writing this at one in the morning because my brain wasn't settling down for sleep yet.

- The Raven

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