It’s Not Your Fault!

There is no shame in mental illness

What is shame? The painful feeling of humiliation or distress that comes from the sense of being or doing a dishonorable, ridiculous, or immodest thing; the feeling that you are less than, unbefitting, or undesirable.

What causes shame of physiological dysfunction and discomfort? History, culture, the disease model of mental healthcare, mental health stigma (MHS), and correlated self-image. 

Why you should not be ashamed. History is crude and inconsistent, culture is misinformed, the disease model is exploitive and archaic, and MHS is generated and sustained by prejudice, ignorance, and discrimination based on misinformation and disinformation.

What are dysfunctions and discomforts? They used to be called neuroses. We all have them. They limit or interfere with our life activities, and impact our emotional wellbeing and quality of life. They distract us from our optimum functioning – from being the best that we can be. The difference is in severity. A dysfunction is a diagnosable condition that the disease model of mental healthcare labels a mental illness or disorder. Discomfort does not rise to the level of diagnosability, but is physiologically disruptive, nonetheless. How did you become dysfunctional and discomforted? Childhood disturbance, the normal vicissitudes of life, and the universal drive towards meaning, purpose, and identity.

It’s a simple but salient maxim: you are not accountable for the cards you have been dealt; you are responsible for how you play the hand you have been given. You were infected at adolescence for some childhood disturbance(s). You did not make it happen; it happened to you. You are, however, responsible for doing something about it. You are the captains of your ship. Recovery programs can provide the tools and techniques, but the onus of recovery is on the individual.

Carl Goldberg described shame as “feeling ridiculous, embarrassed, humiliated, chagrined, mortified, shy, reticent, painfully self-conscious, inferior, and inadequate.” There are many aspects and degrees of shame; volumes have been written about the types of shame and its complexities. Shame is painful, incapacitating, and uncontrollable. Shame makes you feel powerless, inferior, acutely diminished, and worthless. 

Shame makes you want to escape, to become invisible. It elicits self-defensive reactions that can make you feel inadequate or become hostile and aggressive. Shame is unavoidable and impacts every aspect of the human experience.

Shame is not all bad; it alerts you to your irresponsible and irrational actions. Shame can be revealing, cathartic, and motivational, broadening self-awareness, and promoting emotional and spiritual growth.

We are all dysfunctional to some extent; it is a natural part of human development. Dysfunction is evidence of our humanness. Dysfunction is not selective, but a universal and undiscriminating condition, impacting every type of individual. It is not the consequence of childhood behavior; it most cases, dysfunction onsets in adolescence due to earlier disturbance. While behavior over your lifetime can impact the severity, the origins of dysfunction happen in childhood. childhood. It is not a mental affliction but impacting and impacted by the simultaneous mutual interaction of mind, body, spirit, and emotions. Forget what you have been taught by the disease model of mental health and influenced by associated stigma. You are not your dysfunction; you are an individual with a dysfunction. You are not the sum of what’s wrong with you, but the aggregation of your character strengths, virtues, and attributes. 

So why do you feel shame? Because mental illness is historically denigrating and culturally feared and scorned – beliefs perpetuated by the disease model of mental health and reinforced by mental health stigma. These influence your self-image, generating feelings of inadequacy and undesirability.

The disease model of mental health focuses on what is wrong with you. It labels you by your diagnosis, and you cease to be an individual. You are lumped with others similarly diagnosed, and labeled as schizophrenics, paranoids, depressive persons, nervous wrecks. You are  stereotyped by the most descriptive symptoms and characteristics of your dysfunction using terms utilized by the unreliable Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (e.g., incapable, deceitful, unempathetic, manipulative, irresponsible). Then you are branded as personifications of that stereotype.

Mental Health Stigma is the hostile expression of the abject undesirability of an individual impacted by a dysfunction. Studies show that aversion to mental illness is socially hard-wired. Society considers the dysfunctional as unpredictable, undesirable, and dangerous. The public wants to distance itself and isolate you because of its deep-rooted fear of its own susceptibility. The stigma or branding does not need to be valid or accurate; it just has to be believable. Its purpose is to separate you from the rest of society.

What are the factors or attributes in MHS? Mental health stigma is formed and facilitated by ignorance (misinformation), prejudice (fear), and discrimination (false superiority). Stigma supports and is supported by public opinion, media misrepresentation, the mental healthcare industry, and the disease model of mental health. 

The media stereotypes anyone with a dysfunction as an unpredictable, hysterical, and dangerous schizophrenic. Half of the news stories on mental illness allude to violence. A person with a mental illness is either a homicidal maniac, autistic, or antisocial. 

Healthcare professionals are often undertrained and inflexible. You know how your disorder impacts your emotional wellbeing and quality of life far better than your doctor. Clinicians deal with 31 similar and comorbid disorders, over 400 schools of psychotherapy, multiple treatment programs, and an ever-increasing plethora of medications. Utilizing a one-size-fits-all approach to recovery is the normal course of action.

The mental healthcare community is drowning in pessimism. There is evidence to indicate the problem is endemic in the medical health community and universally systemic, which means that it impacts you personally, and the current disease model is the culprit. 

Clients report instances where staff members are rude or dismissive. Complaints include coercive measures, excessive wait times, paternalistic or demeaning attitudes, one-size-fits-all treatment programs, medications with undesirable side effects, and stigmatizing language. 

The ‘defective’ or disease emphasis has been the overriding psychiatric perspective for over a century. By the 1952 publication of the first DSM, the focus had drifted from pathology (the science of the causes and effects of dysfunction) to pathography (the breakdown of your psychological shortfalls, categorizing them to facilitate diagnosis). Pathography focuses on a deficit, disease model of human behavior. Which disorder poses the most threat? What behaviors contribute to the disorder? Are you contagious? What sort of person has a mental illness? It is these attributions that form public opinion, stigma, and your self-beliefs and image. 

The disease model and the DSM’s diagnostic system are under increasing scrutiny for their misdiagnoses, constant criteria revisions, symptom comorbidity, one-size-fits-all recovery programs, and general negativity. The Wellness Model of mental health focuses on your character strengths and virtues that generate the motivation, persistence, and perseverance to recover. A battle is not won by focusing on incompetence and weakness; it is won by knowing and utilizing your strengths and attributes. That is how you recover―with pride and self-reliance and determination―with the awareness of what you are capable. 

Why is your support essential? ReChanneling is dedicated to the research and development of methods to alleviate symptoms of physiological dysfunction and discomfort. Our vision is to reshape the current pathographic emphasis on diagnoses over the individual, which fosters a deficit, disease model of human behavior. Treatment programs must disavow ineffective, one-size-fits-all approaches and target the individual personality through communication, empathy, collaboration, and integration of historically and clinically practical methods. All donations support scholarships for workshops and practicums.

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