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Readers Respond: What Does "Mental Illness" Mean to You, And Why?

Responses: 25

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Updated February 11, 2014

stigma

I know for a fact, we are stigmatized. This illness runs a large gamut. The real cause unknown, just theory. I refuse anymore to say to Health professionals, I am Bipolar. You then are subject to their interpretations of insanity. B/c that's what that title states. I like--'neurological disorder.' It lets you blend in, without the stigma. The 'crazy' stigma. It's enough we suffer in silence, let alone be divulged with the private lives we try to lead. We can lift our heads up, with this name. It's ambiguity, distracts the busy body, nosy whoever that might want to know EXACTLY what we have, by its sigmatizing given name. It's outdated, debasing, and too much of a "blanket" term. I'd rather say "I'm nuts, how are you?" That's what the current name implies, anyway. And we could be talking in a bus, and you wouldn't even know what I had. Lose that term, it's way too broad.
—susanilj

"Mental Illness"

When someone asks me why I am retired on disability at such an early age, I reply I have a brain illness or a chemical imbalance in my brain. This takes away the "mental" reference and places a physical reference instead. Still I don't feel comfortable sharing why I have been hospitalized for a week.
—Weejo

What Does "Mental Illness" Mean to You,

Musikmama's response resonates within me. Thank you! The term "Mental Illness" is a misnomer. These are disorders in the organ of the brain. It is an organic disease involving the chemistry in the brain. To me, it means sometimes daily acceptance of having this lifelong condition. It means working every day in my recovery and knowing that I cannot do this alone. I need a circle of support, including a psychiatrist, medication, weekly therapy, support groups, supportive friends and family. It means letting go of those people in my life that are toxic to me. Instead of asking, "Why me?" I ask, "Now that I have this disorder, what meaning can I make of it for my life, and how am I going to let my life be of service to others?" This is a lifelong journey, and I want to make the most of my talents and knowledge. My illness does not define me. I am a person "with" brain dysfunction. I am so much more than my diagnosis. I hold on to hope and borrow it from others when I am overwhelmed.
—passmyway

What does Mental Illness Mean to You,

Having to be very careful to take my meds, avoid stressful situations, negative people and crowds. Why? I don't act differnt than "Normal" if I follow these few rules, most of the time. Why? I wish I knew why I have BP but more important is what I do to be responsible for myself and my behavior.
—Guest Rigidflexibility

define mental illness

Mental illness to me means that one's brain is just not reacting correctly to the world around them. Correctly might not even be the right word...differently??? I think that being mentally ill is not the worst thing in the world. Taking pills suck but I am a very creative person and many people in history who are/were mentally ill are creative. I think of it as a gift really. I wish though I had known I was bi-polar earlier. I wasted many years drinking and drugging to medicate my illness. Not that it didn't make me creative but there was a lot of hurt and missing brain cells. I am not drinking, or doing drugs. I am creating visual art, writing a play, making an animated movie and so much more. All be it hard...my life is very fulfilling these days.
—Guest Jo

Mental Illness

Over the years, even before being diagnosed Atypical Bipolar, it appeared to me Bipolar and mental illness are at odds with each other. As I understand it: When an individual experiences physical pathology, I have never heard a doctor or patient refer to the medical diagnosis as a 'physical illness'; the medical or physiological diagnoses is referred to as a disease or syndrome i.e. Restless Legs Syndrome, Upper Airway Resistance Syndrome. As Bipolar mood disorder is a physiological, organic pathology, it seems to me it should be referred to as a disease rather then mental illness.
—Fanndancer

It's physical

I have a physical illness that makes me act different. Chemical imbalance in my brain is something I have no control over like someone who has cancer.
—Guest irregularbird

Mental Illness

Mental illness is such a broad term that affects people in so many ways. Many have tried to define the illness in ways that people can understand more clearly. Each mental illness has its own shop window. However, if you look in one shop window you will see red shoes and in another you will see black, some will be high heels other will be flaties. We can all try to describe our own definition but still fail to be clear. What we need to do is gain as much information as we can and be compassionate about what the information tells us. There will ALWAYS be the people that do not understand or even wish to understand, that is why human beings are so unique. Without compassion there will always be exploitation, whether it is governments, police or neighbours. This does not mean we should forget some or all of the experiences that we have or the person with the illness shows. We also have to protect others from some of the fall out from these episodes. Some episodes may well be a one off.
—Guest Oldsoldier

By Any Other Name...

I don't like using the term mental illness to describe my situation. I'd rather say sick and let them friends and family wonder. For instance, I've been collecting SSDI benefits for about 23 years and whenever I tell someone that I'm on social security, I don't like being asked what my disability is. It's really none of "their" business. On those rare occasions that I do 'fess up and say "mental disability" I get that usual yet obligatory big sigh. What the heck does it matter to anyone that I collect SSDI because of a mental disability? Beats me, but that term has been seriously and severely given a stigma that is hard to get rid of!
—SuzyScorp

"Mental illness"

An illness that is lifelong, that affects the way a person sees the world and his/her place in the world, and that affects every relationship a person has.
—musikmama

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