Health is all about symptoms.
Chances are if you have ’em, something’s going on!
Take my hand. About three weeks ago, I fell and broke my right (write) hand, remember?
Idiot me, I ignored the symptoms. Swelling, bruising, pain, disappearing knuckles, pain.
Just bruised it, says I. Nothing they can do about bruised hands.
What do I know?
Nothing, as it happens.
After much cajoling by people who know far more about broken hands than I (namely mothers of sons who play hockey and other sports) an x-ray showed something.
Broken fifth metacarpal, a splint and things are going swimmingly in the hand department.
Turns out my symptoms signalled that there was, indeed, something going on.
Then there’s your mind.
Symptoms are a little different with minds.
Minds don’t swell. (Heads, maybe, but not minds.)
Minds don’t turn black and blue, and bruise. (Depression may feel black and “the blues” may feel bad and sad, but no one can see your mind bruising. Signs of emotional and mental pain can’t be seen on an x-ray.)
A mind doesn’t break like the bone in my hand. That’s a mixed metaphor, but it’s time to clean up the language and reconsider what mental health and wellness is all about.
It ain’t just about symptoms. Everybody experiences emotional and mental well-being differently. The same can be said about mental distress. It’s not hard science. Not detectable under a microscope.
It’s subjective. A matter of opinion.
I have a hypomanic personality. I’m exuberant. There have been times, not lately, when I’ve been a little too exuberant. High. Manic.
I remember once, many years ago, in my office, I became pretty excited about something. Very happy.
I was talking very fast. Probably too loudly. I do, when I’m excited. I think fast and talk fast. One of my colleagues, with all the best intentions in the world, said, “Maybe you should take a pill.”
There’s a difference between happy and high. I know the difference. My husband knows the difference. So does Dr. Bob. Most people who don’t know me that well, think that when I’m really happy or excited, when I talk too fast, there’s something wrong with me.
They think I’m getting manic.
They say, “Calm down. You’re sounding crazy. You’re sounding wild.”
They’re wrong. Because when they say those things, I can take a deep breath and slow down. But it drives me crazy. I have a psychiatric history – and it’s history as far as I’m concerned – so people think they can spot my symptoms, diagnose and prescribe.
Mental distress and mental health don’t work that way.
These are symptoms, if you like, but in someone without my history, I ask you, would they be told they’re crazy and wild and should calm down and to take a pill?
Think about it.
Most psychiatric patients are given three or four different diagnoses before doctors can settle on the "right" one.
We all have symptoms – signs or traits that make us the unique human beings we are. I choose to interpret those signs or traits to be neutral. Characteristics. Traits. Features. They can signal something good or not so good. Or nothing much at all.
In most cases, my “symptoms” work to my advantage.
After all. I’m a “glass half-full” kind a gal. An original cockeyed optimist.
It's all a matter of opinion!