Mental Illness: Why don’t we talk about it?

Mental illness. Why don’t we talk about it?

There have been a number of taboos in society over the years, and one by one they have slipped (or been forced) into mainstream conversation. Sex, alternative lifestyles, birth control, racial equality, etc. But mental illness has somehow remained elusive.

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I recently listened to a scary, heartbreaking, and ultimately uplifting tale of mental illness, Brain on Fire, by Susannah Cahalan. In the book, Cahalan describes her “month of madness,” detailing how she slipped dangerously close to coma and even death due to a rare autoimmune disease which caused her body to attack her brain. Although she has no memory of her month-long hospital stay, the then 24-year-old compiled an amazingly detailed recollection based on doctor interviews, family journals and medical records. Per Callahan, this illness is now considered to be the source of “demonic possessions” throughout history.

  

I appreciate Cahalan having the courage to write this memoir and relive this terrifying experience. It was amazing to see how much about the brain is still unknown and how dangerously close this young, bright journalist was to being committed to a lifetime of institutions and being written off as psychotic.

Reading (or in my case listening) to a book of this nature is disconcerting, because it forces you to come to terms with how precious life is. One day we’re experiencing life as usual, then suddenly we’re falling off a cliff with no parachute.

Maybe that’s why mental illness is still such a taboo subject. It makes us uncomfortable because of how little we still understand about so many mental illnesses and how quickly we could end up in an institution.

That’s why I admire people like Elyn Saks, who came forward to discuss her struggle with schizophrenia in a TED Talk. Watching Saks detail her struggles to cope illuminated just how difficult mental illnesses are to deal with, especially in a world that still shies away from the subject. (For more TED Talks that will stretch your mind on mental illness, click here.)

While we continue to research and learn about mental illnesses, we need people to continue to come forward with their stories of heartbreak and courage. They will help us all to see that mental illness can be the subject of conversation, and ultimately answers.

What are your thoughts on this subject?

Have you come across any other wonderful resources? If so, please share! We can all benefit from learning more about this subject and educating those around us.

Photo and Susannah Cahalan’s Month of Madness video courtesy of her website

Elyn Saks: A tale of mental illness — from the inside courtesy of TED Talks

Be grateful!
Jaime

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From the Bedroom to the Boardroom: Why You Should Listen to the Introverts in Your Life

I recently finished a book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, by Susan Cain. Have you ever read a book that was written for you? Now I have.

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking

I’ve long known that I’m an introvert, and for just as long, thought it was a weakness, something that I needed to work on. Why? I figured out early on in life that those who made the most noise generally got what they wanted.

Our culture made a virtue of living only as extroverts. We discouraged the inner journey, the quest for a center. So we lost our center and have to find it again.
                                                         -Anais Nin

The book discusses how introverts struggle to be heard in a country that heavily promotes the Extrovert Ideal, which directly affects how we educate our children, position our workplaces and gauge success. There’s pros and cons to both personality types, so it makes sense to have a mix in your workplace and social circle. Why?


Bill Gates named “The Power of Introverts” as one of his all-time favorite TED Talks.

First, based upon studies, one third to one half of Americans are introverts, whether you realize it or not. “If you’re not an introvert yourself, you are surely raising, managing, married to, or coupled with one,” says Susan Cain. So it’s helpful to understand this personality type to have more harmonious relationships, manage employees more effectively and tap into the positives of an introvert’s personality to apply to your own life.

Second, research has shown that introverts and extroverts can make a great team. In fact, introverted leaders are generally a better match for proactive employees while extroverted leaders are better coupled with more passive workers. Depending on your industry, you can gauge how your workforce leans and what type of managers would be more effective. Remember that you likely have both introverts and extroverts represented, so it’s a good idea to seek feedback from all types of employees.

Buzz is JFK’s Camelot,  but it’s also the Kennedy Curse.

-Susan Cain

Interestingly enough, research has shown that effective CEOs, not necessarily the most well known, often have little or no charisma and have little use for it. While charismatic leaders may be effective, their charm may also be hiding the fact they’re not performing.

Face it: where would we be without some of these introverts?

  • Rosa Parks
  • Craig Newmark, founder of Craigslist
  • Albert Einstein
  • Bill Gates
  • Theodor Geisel, aka Dr. Seuss
Theodor Geisel aka Dr. Seuss

Theodor Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss, was an introvert despite his catchy rhymes and delightful writing.

As some of the aforementioned successful people know, you can stretch yourself to fit a certain situation, but only so far. For example, an introverted college professor can handle (and appear quite fluent) at delivering lively, enthusiastic lectures on a subject close to his heart. However, if he spends his entire day lecturing, socializing and networking, he won’t have any down time to recharge his batteries and will eventually burn out.

The secret to life is to put yourself in the right lighting. For some, it’s a Broadway spotlight; for others, a lamplit desk.

-Susan Cain

That’s why it’s so important to figure out what you love and do it as much as possible. You’ll be happy and ideally situated in the comfort of your personality. Yes, sometimes it’s necessary (and exciting) to step out of your comfort zone, but there’s a reason it’s your comfort zone. If you live outside of it, you can burn out quickly and affect those around you.

We all write our life stories as if we were novelists, with beginnings, conflicts, turning points and endings.

-Dan McAdams

Understand who you are, so you can write the best life story for you.

Are you an introvert or an extrovert? Does your life fit your personality or are you constantly stretching to be someone else? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Image credits: Quiet book cover, Theodor Geisel

An introvert (who’s finally comfortable in her own shoes),
Jaime

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