mental-health

roobs vs the physical health bias

May 21, 2018 Roobs Leiser

i read a really gross article today (BY A PSYCHOLOGIST) that said we shouldn’t treat mental illness like physical illness unless there is a biological basis for it, because otherwise it just gives mentally ill people a free pass to continue being mentally ill and an excuse to continue indulging in what are really just ‘behaviour problems’. he argued that most mental illness was actually just learned behaviours that left us helpless, a burden, and unwilling to help ourselves.
and before i get into, let’s start with this - tbh he’s sorta right. eating toast for every meal for 2 weeks *is* a learned behaviour. but it’s a behaviour you ‘learn’ because your depression leaves you physically incapable of doing anything else. in the same way that sleeping downstairs is a learned behaviour when you break your leg. or avoiding dairy is a learned behaviour if you develop lactose intolerance. psychologists like to use ‘learned behaviour’ as an insult. but, actually, when you apply it to physical illness, it’s not only logical, it’s just the only option. 
and what this self-absorbed, self-righteous psychologist clearly fails to understand is that, if a mental illness physically prevents you from doing something, then it *is* a physical illness. your brain - although stupidly complex - is still just a part of your body. just because it can dream and imagine and think and create, doesn’t mean it isn’t just another part of this mad walking, talking meat bag that is our vessel. it still exists in the physical realm and - just because modern medicine/science hasn’t found a way of *seeing* most mental illness yet - that factually doesn’t mean that ~something~ isn’t going wrong. anyone who looks on mental illness as a learned behaviour just simply fails to understand how it really works - or chooses to see sufferers (in his case: PATIENTS!) as anything other than self-indulgent lazy melodramatic wasters. 
what he is essentially saying in his piece is this: when we break out in a cold sweat and lose the ability to take a breath, because panic grips us for no real reason, that isn’t a symptom of an illness, it’s a *behaviour* that we are in control of, and that we are choosing to indulge in because we don’t have the strength to tell our minds to stop. and here is the problem: yes, these are technically behaviours that we have 'allowed' to continue in a vicious cycle. when i pick the skin off my flesh til i’m bleeding and bruised and scarred, am i engaging in a behaviour that i am technically physically in control of? yes. of course. it is my arm, my hand, my nails doing the damage. when we counter the intrusive thought with a compulsion, is that a behaviour we’re technically physically in control of? yes. but how callous, how cold, how lacking in compassion and understanding and decency, do you have to be to blame us for it? if a person gains 5 stone in the aftermath of breaking their leg, do you give them shit for being lazy? tell me how it’s different as the result of someone with agoraphobia? or contamination OCD that keeps them in the security and cleanliness of their home all day every day? or depression that turns seconds into minutes into hours of lying trying to convert the emptiness in your head into something meaningful enough to make you get out of bed? or is the difference really just that it doesn’t show up on an x-ray?
you think mental illness doesn’t constitute a physical issue just because we haven’t been able to understand yet just HOW our brains can punish us so unrelentingly? we don’t blame our bones when they break. why are our minds any different? the ‘stop acting depressed’ when you’ve got depression chat is honestly just ultimate 2013 bullshit. we’re not uneducated and flippant about mental illness anymore - so why are the medical professionals? if i went to the doctor with an infection in my throat that was making me nauseous and feverish they’d give me an antibiotic, but when i went (literally, this happened) to the doctor with anxiety that makes me feel nauseous and feverish and like i'm gonna shit myself on a daily basis, i got told to go for a walk. 
maybe treatment options are the issue? maybe if there was a week-long prescription for something that would cure anxiety like an antibiotic cures a throat infection, i wouldn’t be sitting here writing this. if you could put a plaster cast on depression and when it came off in a few weeks you’d be good as new, this wouldn’t be a discussion anymore. if cutting certain foods out your diet would fix OCD, then things would probs be all ok. maybe the issue is that GPs and psychologists and psychiatrists and mental health nurses, don’t really know how to fix this. yes therapy is great, and medication is great, but they don’t work the same way as a plaster cast for a broken leg. a cast is the same for everyone. bones all get fixed the same way. brains don’t. and maybe that’s the issue. maybe it’s not that we don’t have a ‘real’ problem in the first place, maybe it’s just that for all the money and all the smartness and all the fancy degrees and fancy offices, not one person has a one-size-fits-all cure for even one single mental illness. not one. they don’t even have a ‘plan A or, if that fails, we’ll try plan B’ strategy. if penicillin doesn’t work, we can try amoxycillin. that’s fine for sore throats. not so much for brains. 
but imagine having the audacity to disguise a lack of cure, as a lack of ‘real’ issue? imagine blaming us for something that they can’t even cure. show me a failsafe solution or two, and i’ll make something other than toast for every meal. 
xoxoxoxoxoxoxoxox


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