I don’t think it takes mental illness to be delusional. I’m certainly not delusional in a DSM-IV (the book that categorizes mental illnesses) sort of way but have had periods where I lived in utter oblivion to certain facts. I know now after rather painful lessons that Mini-me’s father is a narcissist because, well, he’s messed up; I cannot pass pre-calculus because I have a learning disability; and my feet require wide-width shoes because they are small but mighty.
But I realized my biggest delusion only recently. It’s still blowing my mind that I didn’t know. My friends and family are rolling their eyes and whacking themselves, or me, in the forehead.
I have curly hair.
Honestly, it’s of no consequence whatsoever whether my hair is straight, curly, or anything in between. It hasn’t dented my already cracked self esteem. Apparently the bearded gentleman already knew so it doesn’t bother him either. Other than having to buy different hair products and put in marginally more effort, this revelation hasn’t rocked my world. It’s the delusion that gets me.
For nearly 35 years, having straight hair has been part of my identity. Recently, I made the decision to go natural in color which hasn’t been done in about 20 years. I also had to take a bit of length off because my shenanigans had damaged my hair pretty extensively. The results were awesome. Not only do I look like an adult, but I feel pretty. And that’s a feeling a woman should be able to latch on to every day.
The next day, after I showered away the beautiful salon blowout, my hair curled. With tenacity. I was pretty damn surprised. The bearded gentleman wasn’t. Had I really not known? My delusion had begun to crumble.
Luckily, unlike mending a broken heart or having to choose a new career path, figuring out how to manage curly hair was pretty easy. Thank goodness for YouTube and WikiHow. But the realization that I was living with a delusion has thrown me into a bit of a spin. Are there other delusions lurking in the corners or under the bed? If you’ve read my past two posts, you probably realize that I see a therapist. In fact, I see the grand master of the therapy hierarchy, a psychologist in possession of the amazing Ph.D. It’s probably something I should discuss with her. She could plug me in and run a virus check but she’s on vacation this week. Plus, writing to the interwebz is cheaper.
The events of this week, namely Robin Williams’ suicide and making my own mental health status known have gotten me thinking about the delusions we carry around in our pockets or pocketbooks (or other places if you’re a nudist). We all do this. We make assumptions about our lives. We make assumptions about our friends and family. Perhaps worse, we make assumptions about people we don’t know. Often it’s the people we see on the street or celebrities that get the worst of it. And it’s one of our collective delusions to think that it is acceptable. I’m no angel so I’m not immune. I do it all the time.
But what would happen if we could look that delusion in the face, that thought that says it’s okay to make assumptions about others, stick some dynamite in there and explode it like the cartoon characters did when we were kids.
I think we would see an amazing shift in our culture. We can never know what is going on in someone else’s head, or often even in their lives. My experience in hospital psychiatric units has taught me that what you see on the outside rarely matches the inside. I am one of those people who very frequently gets told by psychiatric professionals that I look like I’m doing great when the exact opposite is true.
When it comes to keeping people out of my private world, I’m an expert. At a young age, I learned from a turbulent family that “what happens here, stays here”. My secret world, which is largely mental, is a post-apocalyptic hellscape where cruel sentiments and crushing blows get dealt long before kind and gentle thoughts dare to come out of hiding. Much like a video game, in my mental world, I have a baseball bat with spikes and must take out the bad guys before I can get my feel-good reward.
On more occasions than I want to count, an unexpected hug or text message has given me a power-up and the ability to go on. Other people had no idea the gift they were giving to me simply by inviting me to lunch or remembering some small detail about my life.
In the wake of Robin Williams’ suicide, there has been a lot of attention in social media about how to get help if you’re living with depression. I’ve seen less about how to help other people. This is the advice I would give: remember that everyone has a secret life, either physical or mental, that you know nothing about. You can’t possibly know the impact an extra measure of kindness will have. It might save a life.
I’m not naive enough to believe that everyone considering suicide can be saved by a simple act of kindness. I only wish the world worked that way. It doesn’t. Sometimes the world is just a cruel place to be. But what if I do my part to remember that you’re a human bean (that’s not a typo, it’s a SARK reference) and show you, however small the gesture, that I appreciate you. What if you could do the same? There’s no way of knowing how much despair might be averted.