Did you know that last month history marked the 200th anniversary of the publishing of Jane Austen’s best known work?
As most will know it’s about love and how irrationally held views and emotions can easily scupper relationships.
So is it much of a leap to find parallels in mental health, where irrationally held views stunt progress and keep matters locked into a sort of emotional stone age, where people go around dragging their knuckles on the ground whenever confronted by mental illness. As young Kevin McAllister was want to say in Home Alone — I don’t think so!
Let’s look at where pride comes in. Well, perversely, given the above statements, pride rests more often with those with mental illness — that is the inability or unwillingness, often based on false pride, to address that one has a problem. I knew I had a problem, though didn’t know what that problem was, and went for around 30 years in various stages of denial. I can’t speak for you, but that denial was not consistently held, and on occasion I would relent and agree something ‘needed to be done’, but that rarely lasted, and I would seek solace in a new job, or new car, or clearing a debt and state with absolute belief that things would be ok now. Pride? Or just dumb ass stupidity? Either way it prevented me from dealing with it and beginning to move forward with my life. Misplaced stubborn male pride! – and it cost me 30 years whilst I treaded water, becoming less and less rational and destroying relationships.
Now what about prejudice? Well that truly rests with the ‘others’ — you know those who class themselves normal and sit in judgement on those who seem to have problems. Prejudice may have loosened its pernicious grip on homophobia, racism and disablement, but its grip remains locked solid when it comes to mental illness. Thankfully throwaway words like faggot or mong, whilst not perhaps being legally actionable, are now seen as disgusting and anyone using them is likely to be scorned or vilified, but I think you will find there are still any number of words that are tossed in to describe any kind of mental issue. Commonplace words are nutcase, or fruit loop, or basket case, or weirdo, or wacko – the list is seemingly endless. And I can’t even say such words are the preserve of mindless idiots. No sir! Even my girlfriends have used them to describe another person to me, never stopping for a second to think what I might feel or think about that. In fact it’s so commonplace that I doubt if they even know they’ve said it. It’s as much a part of their daily lexicon as lunch and dinner. So much so that it’s hard to see how they will stop such language. Maybe it’s because the term wacko could apply to both sexes, any race, creed, colour or religion, any sexual preference and so on. It’s just a universal term.
In Jane Austen’s world she gave prejudice (through the character Elizabeth Bennet) all the clever witty lines, whilst making pride dull and wooden (through Mr Darcy ) by comparison. And life it seems mimics that –where prejudice thrives on witticisms and one liners. Sadly, saying ‘the lights are on but nobody’s home’ always raises a bigger laugh than ‘he’s normal guy’.
Quite how we break that down without being pedantic and overly PC I’m not sure, but one lives in hope.