Monday, August 29, 2011

Some "normal" responses to rather unwell societies

Mental health and society.

There are a whole bunch of stigmatised ingredients, flourishes, elements, and parts of people, in the society we live within. One of those is mental health.

Mental health, or mental wellness is something I’ve struggled with since my late teens. I’ve struggled with feeling a flat-grey-colour-and-joy-leached-hopelessness-no-motivation type of depression, where even just getting out of bed to make a cup of tea and get dressed feels overwhelming.

But another level of struggle around mental wellness for me, is the feeling bad-guilty-ashamed, about feeling down. This is the internalised societal stigmatising and prejudice around mental health. This is feeling that if I could stop being a wimp and just get on with it, harden up, stop wallowing and complaining, things would be better. That I should be stronger than this. It’s feeling like I shouldn’t be feeling like this, because I don’t have it that bad compared to other people in the world.

Luckily a good friend told me that this is a ludicrous notion, because in that projection, there would be only one person in the world who would be “allowed” to feel bad, because everyone else wouldn’t have it as bad as that person.

With my struggle with the dynamics of sometimes not-so-good-mental-wellness, the feelings, and the validity of feelings, it can sometimes help if I think of it as “bad fat arse syndrome” (as opposed to good fat arse, not that binaries are to be lauded, but for the purposes of this demonstration...).

Bad fat arse syndrome: Most of us with pretty basic feminist understandings, know that there are no “perfect” bodies, just billion dollar advertising campaigns. Mass global marketing ideals to aspire to, via consumption, and to maintain and control power via imaging and (mis) representation. However, no matter how much we know this, we still have the odd second, minute, hour, day, week etc, where we think we have a fat arse and think this is a “bad” thing, and wish we did look like supermodels and celebrities, even though we know they don’t really exist outside of photoshop.

This is to be expected due to the constant barrage and thick saturation in almost everywhere, of messages to the contrary. That pretty and handsome people have more fun, are more successful. That it is of utmost importance to have a job, career, perfect job, partner, family, house, car, social life. That good people are pretty and handsome, don’t have depression (unless they are tortured artists or musos and then that’s OK), don’t ever feel negatively about their bodies. That if you’re fat, poor, or struggle with mental wellness, it’s your own fault and you’re just not trying hard enough.

Socialisation cannot simply be read, theorised, talked or argued away. It’s constant and un-ending. So a large part of living in this world and trying to struggle for things to be better, is learning how to live and manage that constant barrage of (often false and misleading) messages. No easy task..