ON MENTAL ILLNESS: Validation and Invalidation

Jack Bragen
Friday December 07, 2018 - 02:04:00 PM

People with psychiatric diagnoses are denied decent, gratifying existences. This, in part, is a direct result of being disabled. If we are unable to work, and/or conform to the expected social norms, it is very hard for us to live in the human environment as it currently exists. 

Today's society is all about wealth. And, if mentally ill, it is likely that you don't have wealth. The wealthy are respected, and being disabled puts us in the category of social lepers. We are excluded. 

People with psych disabilities aren't offered much. We might get a nice sandwich for lunch. We might get some happy pills that make us comfortably numb. We might be able to get a cigarette on the front patio of our residential care home. And we will doubtless get plenty of television. 

Therapists might help pacify us by paying compliments to us of how well we are doing under our circumstances. Therapists can be supportive. When they get home at the end of the day after working at their high-paying, satisfying therapy job, to their big house in Walnut Creek, they might sit in their jacuzzi on their back patio, eat some gourmet food, and drink a glass of white wine. 

If someone offered me a chance at wealth, I wouldn't turn it down--not based on "becoming one of them" and almost not on any other basis.  

Validation, if you are mentally ill, is offered when you are a good enough victim. Treatment professionals are in the business of preventing us from becoming a nuisance or a threat. The system is intentionally designed to keep money out of our hands, and to keep us segregated--by means, in large part, of economic mechanisms. 

When we seek validation of the concept that our anger is real, we will be analyzed and neutralized. But when we seek validation of the idea that we are hopeless and helpless, there are numerous boxes of Kleenex to cry into. 

And, why should we not be angry? Many people in the world are angry concerning wrongs that have been done to them. On the other hand, anger should not lead to violence or aggression. Instead, it should lead to the resolve that we will do better. 

If we seek success, we are undermined. If a mentally ill person becomes successful, persons in the treatment system perceive it as a threat to the status quo. Yet, at the same time, they may have us blocked at all angles. For one thing, there is medication. Trying to perform at a job while on psych medication is a near impossibility at a position that has any sort of demands. Yet, if we went off of medication, not only will the brain go haywire; the treatment system will exclude us until we reach a point of an involuntary hold. 

I am not recommending going off medication; and especially, you should not go off medication if you've been on it for any appreciable length of time. Doing that will cause you to become substantially more impaired, including when back on medication due to the ensuing relapse. 

When mentally ill people seek help from professionals, our information is disseminated, we are put in categories, we are analyzed, and we are computerized. The best ways to keep us contained are found. We are subject to being brainwashed. That's part of the transaction of being helped by the system. It's not perfect, but sometimes we have no choice. 

What choice do we have? I suggest navigating within the system and taking advantage of the parts that provide help. Find parts of the mental health system that will help you in your objectives, and that will validate you for a job well done. 

Being a professional victim is no way to live. This isn't to say that people are not victims. This is to say that victimhood should not be a source of fulfillment. 

As people with psychiatric disabilities, some of us may have to choose less ambitious goals compared to non-afflicted people. Or, we may have to learn better ways of taking care of ourselves, such that we are competitive enough to be big fish in bigger ponds. 

In part, this depends on age. In part, it depends on how much we can handle. There is no rule that says a person with a diagnosis of mental illness can or cannot handle a particular amount of stress and responsibility--some can handle more and some less. Overall brain condition is a factor.  

I do know that when we see green rectangles of paper in our wallets, it is validation.