More people I encounter either have been or feel they should be given a diagnosis to explain their feelings. A reason why they feel they experience the world differently to how they believe they are expected to. A name given to not ‘fitting in’.
Does living with a diagnosis help or hinder? Does it aim to describe someone or prescribe how they should be responded to?
In my experience the issue rarely boils down to a name, though a label can be a heavy weight to carry.
The issue is about experiencing their individual function as dysfunction, their personhood as some how disordered. That they are wrong, a square peg for a round hole, a potato that’s the wrong shape for the ordered supermarket shelf.
Diagnostics are a relatively new phenomena. We lived largely without them until the organisation of medical science 300 years ago when doctors coined the Greek work Psyche to address illness of the soul.
Perhaps it is not coincidence that this roughly coincides with the reorganisation of work and society through the industrial revolution, when the concept of the clock, punctuality, the working day and the nuclear family became the social norms.
With this came a new set of rules to fit in and modern society has evolved its own unique systems of pressures since. Could it be that this then is a societal disorder that doesn’t deal well with different human functionality? Alvin Dueck, a Christian therapist, accused psychology of “…helping to create the pathologies it simultaneously promised to treat.”
Before the industrial revolution we don’t encounter an ADHD blacksmith, an OCD ploughman or a priest on a spectrum, we see people instead as different characters in the life of a community.
Mental Ill Health
Mental ill health is often the product of not being valued for what we bring to the table but being judged for being different.
Functioning differently only becomes dysfunction if it damages or impedes us, but when that damage or impediment is the responsibility of others, the responsibility to change should be put back on their shoulders, not ours.
Taking mental health seriously is not about accepting every pathology placed on us because we are differently functional, it is often best addressed by accepting and valuing who and how we are and deciding to thrive in that context. Changing shape too much to fit in with others may occasionally squeeze us through the round hole but will invariably leave us unhappy