As I was sitting in the nail salon recently I overheard a woman in a pedicure chair talking to her nail tech about mental illness. At first blush her comments were somewhat entertaining until I realized her views and then I found myself shaking my head at the ignorance that was so blissful it was on display. Others in the salon could hear her commentary and like myself were taking it in silently. As I left the salon I was still shaking my head at her commentary and hence a blog is born.

Her comments after marinating on it made me realize that we are still climbing a mountain of understanding to get Mental Health to the mainstream. In her words “there are so many “crazy” people in the world today”. In my mind this is the equivalent of calling those that get annual exams “hypochondriacs”. I am no more “crazy” for having a therapist than I am a “hypochondriac” for getting an annual mammogram. The second is understood as “preventive medicine” and the first is simply incomprehensible to her.

As she told her story she went on to exclaim her shock about being asked “mental health questions” during a recent medical visit. She joked that she gave the doctor a hard time and would not give him straight answers to questions such as “Have you ever thought about hurting someone or yourself?”. Additionally, she went on about how “crazy” it is that we now have counselors in our schools. The reality is that there have been counselors in our schools for as long as I can remember and quite frankly with the incredible rise in mass shootings it clearly is not enough. We need more counselors, we need more doctors asking the questions that no one else has the courage to ask. We need to heal this nation one “crazy” person (her words, not mine) at a time until at which point asking these questions and seeing counselors in schools becomes the norm.

Her comments made me think back to when I was in school and while I knew there were counselors in the school I was not sure why some kids had access to them while others, like myself, did not. Further exploring this thought I think back to how much I could have benefited from counseling in those years. How could they know what I was going through? There were so many distractions at home that made paying attention in school a task beyond measure some days. I certainly can say that it felt “crazy” not having the tools to cope.

I am intrigued by this woman’s ignorance as I immediately acknowledge that at no point was she attempting to be offensive. This was truly a point of view from someone that was raised in an era where they swept it under the rug, kept a stiff upper lip and carried on; regardless of how miserable and uninspired they found themselves. Her generation was where a “woman’s’ place was in the home” and that “woman” was expected to “serve her husband” and whose place was always last behind everyone and anyone that needed something, anything. Forgive the assumption that some of this “crazy” that exists in the world today is a result of her generation “Mommy Dearest”. 🙂

I do not begrudge this respectable woman as this is her view which is clearly defined from her lifetime of experience. My Mom was also not a believer in therapy and did not fully accept mental health as I do. Our views differed greatly and we debated many times over the efficacy of talking with a therapist. My mother was a very private person and did not like to talk, in general, let alone when she was wrestling with her thoughts. My Father is also not a proponent but certainly does not begrudge others. Theirs is a tough generation. This is indeed the era that believed in a stiff upper-lip perfectly defined as ” displays fortitude and stoicism in the face of adversity, or exercises great self-restraint in the expression of emotion”.

I am not “crazy” nor are the millions of people that suffer from mental illness. We all have the ability to be mentally ill. Some suffer with mental illness more than others; no different than those that are more susceptible to a physical ailment more than others. The love of the era in which we live in now is that mental health is as easy, if not easier, to attain as any mainstream medical care. There are Employee Assistance Programs (EAP), hotlines and medical insurance coverage typically offers mental health as well.

So flipping the script a bit I want to thank the CRAZY lady at the nail salon for getting my attention and reminding me that there is still work to be done. But even more importantly I want to thank her for also confirming that our society is indeed changing; we do have counseling in schools, we do have better access to therapy and most importantly we are checking on our mental health as diligently as we do physical health. I will take it, one crazy baby step at a time.

Life CRAZY as a loon – L.

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