ON MENTAL ILLNESS: It's Okay to be Mentally Ill, But You're Not Allowed to Act Crazy

Jack Bragen
Saturday February 10, 2018 - 04:55:00 PM

An acquaintance with bipolar is having a manic episode, and one of his reasons for distress is that people aren't that kind toward him. They cannot handle his behavior, and some of the people he deals with are downright condemnatory, because of how he is acting. People continue to expect that this person will follow social norms, and will behave in a manner that is accommodating toward them. This man points out the fact that people sorely lack adequate understanding of his problems. And this includes people who really ought to be helpful, such as fellow mental health consumers, and mental health professionals. 

Most people can not deal with "crazy." People are taught to be organized, to be conformist, to be "normal." When someone behaves in a manner outside of what is expected, they are subject to ostracism, and they are subject to other repercussions. 

The nearly universal expectation is that everyone behaves according to the accepted norm. People could often be considered mentally ill for merely being different, or for behaving in ways that people don't normally behave. This is aside from people who are gravely disabled or who pose a threat. Going into a drugstore and being confused isn't against the law. However, there are laws against "disorderly conduct." If we are seen as a nuisance to people, it may not go well for us.  

Society has rules and expectations. If we decide that society is wrong and we're right, then we are not going to get cooperation, and we will end up in a bad scenario. While some people may actually "know better" than the rest of society, it is necessary to realize that society is bigger than we are, and we need to act in a way that is expected if we are going to exist.  

Certainly, I want to bring up that it is unjust that most of society has too many expectations and doesn't tolerate uniqueness enough. However, a lot of this has to do with how we package things. Almost any weirdness is palatable or even popular if we give it the right packaging and present it in ways that are deemed appropriate. This is just how people function. 

Even being a delusional schizophrenic can be put in packaging that allows others to tolerate, or even embrace. When we buy food at a grocery store, or when we buy a book or an electronic item, impression is everything. When we get dental work or cosmetic surgery, much of it is about how we perceive ourselves. We could have dental flaws or body flaws, and if they don't cause pain, it may not be urgent to get them resolved. If they present a problem in appearance, many people would find it distressing.  

Another thing is labels. If we act "crazy" in public, we become categorized as weird. If people commonly acted "weird," it would lose the "weird" label, and would be an accepted mode of behavior. If acting weird made people wealthy, it would automatically be acceptable.  

However, as it stands, when we are symptomatic, many people do not want to deal with us. This is harsh, and it causes suffering. What can we do about this? Maybe we can cultivate more patience, and become more non-assuming. Other than that, if you see someone who is apparently down and out, just mentally put yourself in his or her shoes. Try to think of how you would feel if you were in that situation. This could cause you to have compassion, something that today's culture has all but abandoned.