What do mental illness and porn have in common?

Are you normal? Is anyone? Does normal even exist?

The answer is yes. The answer is also no.

There is a range of normalishness. And so, with this wide range of what qualifies as normal, is there really such thing as mental illness?

The answer to that question is yes! Mental illness exists, but the range of mental illness is has a wider range of ishy than the ish in normalishness. Mental illness can be really hard to understand, identify or describe.

Sometimes, defining and identifying mental illness is a lot like determining what does or does not qualify as porn. I mean, you KNOW porn when you see it, but sometimes it’s just so hard to explain. And so…I like to explain the concept of mental illness vs. range of normalness to people using the normal curve as an example. Please don’t hate me. I can’t very well use porn examples to do this, now can I?

The Normal Curve. Learn about it. It's actually interesting!

The Normal Curve. Learn about it. It’s actually interesting!

Image via Behavioral Statistics in Action

Most people fall inside the range of the curve with regard to their individual levels of thing-ness (I realize this isn’t a word, stay with me) that are measurable and classified within a range of normal. I’m talking about stuff like height, weight, I.Q., income, education level, number of hot dogs inhaled in an eating contest, etc. This stuff is all very cut and dry – standard measurements apply. It’s not unusual to weave in and out of different ranges within the curve with regard to anything and everything measurable.

Sadly, this just isn’t the case when it comes to measuring and classifying mental illness. Weaving in and out of the range of normalish emotions and even outside the curve is NOT normal and that’s just what happens when a person is mentally ill. The instability becomes measurable, because it’s far out of the typical range.

NAMI’s definition of mental illness is magnificent and as complete as it can be considering the nature of the thing it’s trying to define, which is an immeasurable cluster of somethings that aren’t measurable using standard measures.

“A mental illness is a medical condition that disrupts a person’s thinking, feeling, mood, ability to relate to others and daily functioning. Just as diabetes is a disorder of the pancreas, mental illnesses are medical conditions that often result in a diminished capacity for coping with the ordinary demands of life”

NAMI

This diminished capacity can and often does look completely different from one person to the next. Likewise, the definition of ordinary is different for everyone.
 
There are an infinite number of variables in play here! Too many to even begin to isolate in order to create a definition of ordinary that works across the board. And so we use the concept of range. Ordinary is such a vague concept. Just the definition of the word stinks of confusion, because the word NORMAL is the entire damn idea behind ordinariness!

GAH!

Mental illness presents itself differently in each person because each person has different genes, environment, experiences, stressors and a gazillion other variables that come together in extraordinary ways to make each human’s experience complex and unique. It’s exhausting really, because the uniqueness of a single person’s emotional and physical capacity or range of ordinary-ness is nearly impossible to measure, so how can anyone possibly identify and measure what range of normal is normal for them?

Shit. I guess I DO have to use porn as an example. I had a feeling it might go this way.

It’s like identifying porn! When a person sees it, they just KNOW. When a person has a mental illness, there is an uncomfortable, awkward and a little (or a lot) uncertainty about what the feelings mean and what to do about them. It can feel bad, good, strange, exciting, shameful, and on and on and on, you know, depending on what it, and by it, I mean mental illness and porn, looks like. How explicit are the feelings and experiences? Like porn, mental illness offers a lot of variety. Yeah, there’s something for everyone!

My point?

Nobody has to feel bad about having mental illness, but until a person KNOWS that their bad feelings and experiences are a symptoms of mental illness, they are usually feeling really, really BAD and might have been feeling this bad, not normalish-ness for a very long time without knowing why. And what I just described is, unfortunately, the normal and typical experience of a person with mental illness.

These bad feelings are the ordinary and incredibly sad experience of every single person whose capacity to cope with the range of normalness in life lessens every single day that they aren’t getting help for something that truly IS just as normal and typical and ordinary as any other something a human can experience.

Mental illness is more normal than abnormal, more typical than atypical, more ordinary than extraordinary. Understanding and accepting this reality helps keep us all in range, close enough to reach out for help when we are feeling bad, even if we don’t know exactly why.

And unlike porn, which we all know is not typical or normal at all, it’s the good kind of reaching out for someone. I mean, seriously, who has sex with the plumber and the nosey neighbor five minutes after their husband and kids leave for work and school? Even horny, adventurous housewives with insatiable libidos prefer a cup of coffee and Facebook over putting on make up, and high heels just to have five minutes of choreographed, uncomfortable sex.

Image found on The Masculine Heart.com

Image found on The Masculine Heart.com

Image found on The Masculine Heart

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