Mental Health Athletes

I greatly appreciate writers who share ideas for attracting readers, for example, at Twitter: #amwriting #amreading; and at Google+: the Saturday Scenes and Writers Discussion Group communities.

Here are thoughts that I would like more authors to consider when sharing what they write about mental illness.

I often perceive an “us and them” way of thinking, for example when a writer claims, “it’s very easy to tick them off.” I suggest that we all have triggers that are easy to spark; people with a specific issue aren’t unique in that regard. The quote conjures visions of a herd of people with the issue, wound tight like springs, ready to attack. With this image in mind, I can see why some people try to keep a wide berth between “us” and “them.” Remember that all people are people. Attackers attack, resilient people bounce back, doormats are trampled, and so forth, regardless of specific issues.

Attack

Fiction can be better at building understanding than nonfiction. Novels can make challenges and solutions vivid for the readers. I’m thinking of Hamlet and Don Quixote, Sybil, and more recently Cut, and The Silver Linings Playbook.

Mental illness is like cancer, heart disease, and diabetes: all can be addressed with preventive measures and therapies, and all are invisible to most of us.

A person who is not dealing with a mental health issue, but is writing about a character who is, is like a male writing about a female, or a European writing about an Indian. It is like being a real person writing about someone who is not. A key is getting feedback from people who have similar characteristics.

The most enthusiastic readers might be those who recognize something in common with at least one of the main characters. Therefor, reaching out to people who have an illness that is similar to the fictitious condition should be effective. However, main characters have more to them than just one issue. Draw on those other similarities as well.

Consider that the only difference between someone who has a mental health issue, and someone who doesn’t, is that one is seeking treatment. Everyone deals with mental health; the people who are working on their mental health issues are like athletes who are working on their physical health issues.

Healthy-Athlete

We are all working on putting our best foot forward.

P.S. I found more guidelines for writing about mental illness, for people who are looking for more specific advice. What are your favorite resources? Which resources have you discovered recently?

 

Image credits:

Woverine vs. Hulk, by Marcel Trindade.

Fields Squats, Fields Prosthetic, and Fields Runs 200, by Tim Hipps, FMWRC Public Affairs.

All images used under Creative Commons License by-2.0.

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5 thoughts on “Mental Health Athletes

  1. “Consider that the only difference between someone who has a mental health issue, and someone who doesn’t, is that one is seeking treatment.”

    Thank you so much for this “portrait” …..i am not sure anymore in the societal surrounds how any one wouldn’t struggle….thank you for the “us/them” illusion….after 30 years working with families in all variables….i continue to meet valiant, kind people whether diagnosed/labeled/or not….if you visited us here in the Corners i am sure we would look quite different to many/writers….how we live, what is important, the inheritance of the overuse of resources without regard to the “people.”

    So thank you again and again !!!!! Kindness is the ultimate wisdom….your writings inspire.

    me and all the clans

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Judith, dear friend, I am delighted that my writings inspire you. I honor your uniqueness, and that of those in your extended family.

      I continue to look forward to someday visiting you and the Corners. What is working well for keeping your mental health sustainable?

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I like what you say in this. I’ve been on both sides of mental health. One thing I’m aware of is the stigma of minimizing the effect of the illnesses on the lives of the people who have to live with them. All things are not equal. All pain is not even, even though all pain hurts. Just as it would be silly to treat a stubbed toe with Oxycontin so we are foolish to decide that a disease process does not exist because we don’t want it to.

    In the course of my life I want to be where you are.

    But in order to do that I believe that I need access to a system that recognizes and treats mental illness.

    My goal is to do what I can to make this wretched stigmatizing system of false equivalencies
    accountable and to bring as many people into this as are willing to fight.

    My goal is to do what I can to make sending the mentally ill to die on the streets unacceptable.

    Thank you for your kind responses to me. If I sound angry it’s because I am.

    Like

    1. So true, Robert: all pain is not even. I battled with psychiatrists who insisted that I comply with their ideas of appropriate treatment, disregarding what I experienced and valued. I continue to build paths to systems that define and treat my mental illness in ways that feel healing to me.

      How is your anger helping you to reach beyond the disfunctional resources that you have been accessing? The power of anger can harm, and it can energize. I hope that you are harnessing its power.

      I’d like to read more about what you and others are doing to disrupt the sending of mentally ill people to die on the streets. Please feel free to share links here.

      I continue to wish you the best.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank you for your reply. I believe in the power of political activism. I know that dedicated people can change the system and correct injustices. You are right when you say that anger can destroy–but anger can energize.

        When I first encountered the stigma of mental illness from the patient side I thought I was imagining it–when I realized that the institutions that I depended on to help me to recover weren’t even really interested in learning about the illness that derailed my life I experienced a second political awakening. I use my blog to give expression to it.

        Thank you again…

        Liked by 1 person

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