conditioning, depression, employment, essays, expectations, jobs, magazines, media, mental health, mental illness, messages, mind, productivity, schizophrenia], sleep, social media, success, television, writer, writing
Recently, there was an article on a major website, and the message was, getting out of bed is the most we can hope for on certain days, or in other words, on some days success is measured just by getting out of bed. The premise of this article sounds reasonable especially for those who suffer from depression, but I want more for my life and expect more from myself.
If getting out of bed is the most we can hope for then our treatment isn’t working and needs to be adjusted. Some of us have symptoms on a daily basis, and some of those days it is too difficult to accomplish much. Not accomplishing anything isn’t acceptable to me, though and that is why I keep looking for a part-time job that I can manage.
Just because someone has a severe mental illness doesn’t mean they don’t have the same conditioning as other people in this society. Television, social media, magazines, all of these things condition us into thinking productivity defines our lives. We are also conditioned to think things about beauty, success, and happiness.
I think this conditioning is particularly hard for people with a disability. For example, being thin is considered beautiful, and most of us on anti-psychotic medication are battling with side effects of weight gain (along with high sugar levels and high cholesterol). I go through periods where I don’t watch my weight, and I can easily gain twenty pounds. I get a warning from the doctor, and I go back to watching my weight, and I am usually able to get it under control, but it takes effort, discipline, and self-awareness. Not everyone who is living with a mental illness can follow their treatment and make sure they manage their weight at the same time. One of those things is hard, add them both together and it takes real strength, organization, and many other skills.
Even though we have a mental illness, we are not immune to the messages or conditioning of society. Some of us can’t function at the same level as others, but it doesn’t stop us from feeling pressure to do so. It isn’t just weight gain and productivity that can get us down, though. We frequently don’t have the same amount of money as others because we have to pay for treatment or can’t work so we also don’t have the same material items that others consider mandatory (like an iPhone).
I wish I were evolved enough to say that none of this matters; being thin doesn’t make you happy (and isn’t the only standard for beauty), and neither does having the latest smartphone or a cool job. I have to admit I am not evolved, though and the thing that bothers me most and is the most difficult for me is productivity. If I get to the end of my day and I haven’t accomplished anything I am so disappointed and almost disgusted with myself.
I know that many of us are not capable of holding down a 40 hour a week job, and there are few part-time jobs that are flexible enough to manage (I keep looking for them) but even though this is true, many of us still feel the need to contribute and to be productive. It would be great to be happy binge watching television (I never turn it on before 6 pm) or just lying around, but I don’t know anyone who is happy with a life like that. On bad days when I have a hard time with symptoms, I still feel like there was still time for me to produce something. For some people that something may be cleaning their house, cooking, knitting, or painting. For me, it is writing. I need to write every day to feel as if I have been successful (that doesn’t mean I can write every day, I can’t, but on those days that I am not able to write, I feel miserable).
I wish that article about how sometimes just getting out of bed is considered a successful day were true (it would make it easier on the egos of those of us with a mental illness). I don’t think it is, though. I can’t imagine that conditioning and the messages from society don’t impact most people in the same way they impact me. We have to struggle to undo those messages, and as hard as I struggle, some of them (productivity) seem to be wound tightly around my psyche unwilling to unwind.