We do with mental illnesses what we do with the impoverished and other groups, we avert our eyes and push them into the corner, stuck on the edges of our reality so we can avoid these really difficult questions. The truth is, our social structures and lifestyles are
designed for people who do not have disabilities, including mental illnesses. It’s also designed, more specifically, for a certain person of the right race, gender, sexual orientation, and socioeconomic circumstances upon birth, among other things. We call success “pulling yourself up by your bootstraps” but then we utilize a system that only gives certain people bootstraps and if you don’t have them you’re SOL.
It reminds me of that scenario where they talk about how in social experiments if a man is laying on the ground seriously injured and just calls out generally for help, nothing will happen and people will walk right by–because they can assume (knowing it won’t happen) that somebody else will take care of it. When he specifically calls out to an individual however, that person is significantly more likely to respond.
It’s easier to call people with mental illnesses lazy and entitled because it’s less daunting than trying to determine an efficient and effective means of helping them to function, in a way that is humane, while also not taking anything away from anybody else. I don’t know what the answer is. As somebody with a mental illness, I have little else to add from my own experience because, as is the problem, I can’t even figure out my own experience.
It just seems we have made life too complicated and too hard. Too fast and too expensive. Less fulfilling, meaningful, and connected. All of those things make it more likely that people who are differently-abled and whose needs aren’t compatible with the ways our world works will struggle. It also makes it feel like a greater burden on friends, family members, or society in general to help because they feel pulled in more directions.
People are dying. Paradoxically, for me it feels like dying die over and over again and that I’ll die over and over again for as long as I am living. And yet we have made our lives so urgent and serious that there isn’t time to acknowledge how broken this system is for all of us. How adulthood is synonymous with martyrdom and misery. Settlement and resignation. We’re only happy and embracing life on Instagram and our happiness wilts after the last hashtag (or like Scooby Doo in reverse, it takes off its beautiful mask and is just a blob, which is what most Scooby Doo villains are like anyways).
If we honestly look in a mirror and realize that a stifling majority of adults are genuinely unhappy (and children are only happy because we convince them they have a whole world before them and slowly begin closing doors as they age), can we honestly look at people with mental illnesses and say happiness is a choice? If we can’t what do we do about people who are sentenced to relentlessly struggling in society and, maybe, even failing to support themselves?
I think our current answer is you draw your lottery number and hope it isn’t you. If you don’t get a mental illness or other disability, you focus on living your life. If you do get one, you can only really talk about it with people who are drowning about as much as you are and, because it isn’t a book club, none of you have answers and it’s a hard problem to solve in a world where pretty much everybody acts like what’s right in front of their eyes is invisible.