Saturday, August 27, 2016

There's Waldo

When you have a mental illness, it feels like your life path becomes limited. As a social misfit with perceived special abilities your career options narrow down to (1) member of the X-Men; or (2) loner shut-in who freelances as a speech writer for Donald Trump.
Natasha Tracey addresses this dichotomy in her article Do the Mentally Ill Have to Be Extraordinary to Be Accepted?

Otherworldly brilliance, extraordinary talent, and creative genius are buffers that soften the Stigma of what it means to have a mental illness. And while some research has shown a correlation between mental illness and certain characteristics attributed to high functioning achievement, the underlying message remains that mental illness is something a person must compensate for. You can't have a mental illness, you're not a rocket scientist. Nice try, Mr. Poe, no one else hears the ravens, back to your padded cell.  

Image result for game where you remove bones and it buzzedImagine everyone was held to the same standard. Suddenly the days of innocent errors such as bad moods, awkward conversations, and social faux pas became redflags of a pending psychological meltdowns. This analysis would be generously provided by friends and family—but only those with the medical training of Hasbro—and don't forget to dilute the Stigma of mental illness with astonishing acts of brilliance so that it's tolerable to the masses. Like checking the clorine level of a public pool.

So get started on becoming the most famous and influential figures in the history of Western art.

And for the truly remarkable, just how do you explain that you've yet to complete a 4th marathon?

What what

That's when I find comfort in the "Where's Waldo" book series. We've hunted for this stripped joker since 1987 having no idea who he is or even his last name. We don't know what he's up to or why he's always so lost, but he coasts contently past giants, gladiators, mermaids, on the beach when he likes, dropping his shit all over the place for someone else to find. Now if that isn't the actions of mental illness, I don't know what is. Waldo could easily be on the lam, owe someone money, or be a poorly dressed, disoriented, serial killer, but there's remained a strange satisfaction in finding him for over a quarter century.

The power, and maybe even origin, of Stigma is that we like finding what we're looking for. It organizes chaotic feelings and issues. So if we can embrace this sketchy wanderer without judgment or prejudice, maybe Stigma can be similarly reprogramed by stripping away the expectations and suspicions and simply viewing everyone as harmless but lost travelers who are just trying to find their way home.

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