How Facebook Changed My Mind About Mental Illness

Broken Boulevard_Marc Falardeau

Before you write off Facebook, stop: The person on the other end be more complex than you think. 

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I think we should create a social media platform where you can begin a discussion on one topic and then the conversation becomes wildly inappropriate and stupidly personal. And the longer you stay in a conversation, the more people lose focus, concentration and brain cells.

Let’s call it Facebook.

I swore that Facebook should be renamed to Assbook, but Dave changed my mind.

This morning, I shared an article, The 12 Gifts that Will Help With Your Holiday Sadness with a writers group. Dave responded. Here is how it began:

Dave: “Talk to me im bored.

Me: (Inside my head) “This is stupid… I want serious people to read and comment on my piece.” I ignored Dave.

Dave: “Not many are listening. I’m a writer.”

Me: (Inside conversation) “Really?? I’m up early on a Saturday morning, trying to write an article about Mental Illness. You’re up early and talking how bored you are?? Just get writing!” Again, I ignored Dave.

Dave: “Im schizophrenic. With major depression active alcoholic and some days suicidal if that helps. No one but my cats.

Me: I stopped writing because Dave caught my attention.

What is it Like to Live With a Mental Illness?

Here I was, ready to conclude that Facebook should be renamed Assbook because someone actually was being honest. I went cold with shame. So I messenged Dave. He told me that he lives with Schizophrenia.

Dave shared that sometimes he finds it difficult to know what is real and what is not real. I have a story that shows how you and I can relate to Dave’s experience.

In Canada, The Brick is a furniture and electronics megastore. They employ stupid advertising campaigns with slogans like this: “Boxing month sale at the Brick.” I know Boxing day is just one day. The Brick is lying and boxing month is not real. My mind says, “The Brick is stupid.

My mind says it one way, but my heart says another way: “I want a new 72″ TV. That will make movies so much better!

Which “voice” is real? I think that both are real. You and I can choose to ignore the Brick and keep our money in our pockets. I guess I get what Dave is feeling. Different sides of a conversation going on inside your head and and at times you are a little uncertain.

That’s schizophrenia. No danger, no craziness. We all can have a divided mind on things.

In some cultures, people that hear or see unusual things are given special roles, spiritual roles. In our culture, we give them medications and we won’t let them work in important jobs. How does this make sense?

When I asked Dave how he knows about what is real and what is not, he says “Just requires an open mind . I mastered it . be careful what you let in.” And later he said, “The problem with an open mind is that you offer space for evil to invade.

What I Learned about Mental Illness From Facebook

Dave is brilliant. How is it that as soon as we hear someone is mentally ill, Schizophrenic, we write off everything they say? I thought about this question in a previous post, “Mental Illness is Undiagnosed Verbal Disorder.”

Our labels are not big enough to define us… not even our business cards.

Dave is more than his label. It’s a brilliant lesson that we sometimes ignore: You and I are way more than our labels. I am more than my depression or anxiety, the substance user is more than their addiction, the mother is more than her grief and the father is more than his job.

Dave is damned smart. Thanks Dave, you reminded me to slow down and not let my mind convince me of things that I know are not true. You reminded me that we should use our Editor before we speak. Couldn’t agree more.

Facebook can still be called Assbook, but before we write people off, we should listen a little. I am almost 50, married for 18 years and a trained counsellor… and yes, I have problems with listening. It happens. Counsellors are human, just like Schizophrenics, alcoholics and people who shop at The Brick.

You and I, we have a great deal in common. Your mind is not much different than the mind of a person who lives with depression, panic, PTSD or Schizophrenia. When you and I hear a personal story of mental illness, that story can change us and help to eradicate stigma. The person is no longer their disorder, no longer their label.

Sharing stories of lived experiences with mental illness is where transformations happen and stigma is erased.” Dave Grauwiler

Keep it Real

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Photo by Marc Falardeau

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