There may have been a time in your life where you asked yourself if you were mentally ill. Maybe you were exploring new ideas. You didn’t know quite how to integrate them into your daily life and then got called mentally ill. Really you were a thought leader, which made others uncomfortable. You may have even asked yourself, “Am I mentally ill?”
If you are a thought leader, you will have many “followers” who are hungry for your thought, who are kept alive by it. You must keep thought pioneering for them and for the thoughts themselves which are screaming for space in the world. As your thoughts take up more space in the world, there’s a bit less space for follower thoughts. These are the sort of non-thoughts we hear from those who only follow thoughts but never lead them. Thought followers may never ask themselves, “Am I mentally ill?”
Even those who only follow thoughts still choose which ones to follow, but being a thought leader and putting your own original thoughts and-even more importantly-life experiences and synthesis of them, out there for others to follow (or unfollow) is a much braver task. You find yourself asking, “Am I mentally ill?” It requires more courage as you are consistently being followed or unfollowed.
I need to remind myself all this or I will get entirely discouraged about what I am doing. I will sincerely ask myself, “Am I mentally ill?” and why don’t I just post one liners about beer or the World Cup. (That’s not to say a very original and meaningful one liner about either of those topics is impossible.)
Being a thought leader you are also a thought follower, but you follow thoughts a lot farther, while leading them too. You are in devoted partnership with thoughts, working things through, talking them out, you are committed, you sit still and listen when something comes up, you see it through to its completion, for the time being. You actually care about your thoughts, which is strangely rare in our world, it seems.
Caring about your thoughts can result in asking, “Am I mentally ill?” more often because your focus is on exploring your thoughts. You are exploring new terrain in your mind frequently, which is on a different frequency. If others don’t understand, it can be uncomfortable or even scary.
The crisis we are looking at in “mental health” is one of too many thought followers and not enough thought leaders across the board in society. Now, the truth is, everyone is a thought leader. Everyone who gets a mental health label is a thought leader. Everyone who asks themselves, “Am I mentally ill?” is a thought leader. Everyone diagnosed mentally ill is a thought leader; some are robbed of that position or scared of it, or a combination.
The current mental illness model reflects all of the challenges and resistances that thought leaders have in a world that seemingly would like to keep thought stagnant and still like a dirty pond, without movement. This system would like everyone to ask themselves, “Am I mentally ill?”
Leading thought changes reality; the more thought leaders we have the better. Whenever something is freed a zest goes around the world (Hortense Calisher quote), so if everyone were to free their thoughts consistently as thought leaders, life would be zesty all the time for all of us, like a crisp salad with delicious dressing.
Rather, we are drugging the minds of thought leaders. To call someone, or oneself, by a mental illness label, is to be a thought follower, yet there are many many reasons to shy away from leadership. I could deny the complexity of my own mind and emotions and their relationship with a thought and feeling phobic culture and call myself schizophrenic, paranoid, anxious, depressed, or any other label, depending on the moment. I could constantly ask myself “Am I Mentally Ill?”
Or I can do the harder but far more rewarding task set out for me and synthesize all of my experiences and perceptions into a meal others can feast on when they are hungry.
Thoughts are like food. Many people only want the same old same old Burger King burger and fries with a cheap apple pie, only want the cheap, mass produced, bland or sugary sweet. If a cook makes a beautiful meal with home grown vegetables and an original recipe, many will reject it and say, “yuck,” but those who are drawn to it will be sincerely nourished in all of their being.
The question “Am I mentally ill?” will then be the farthest thing from their minds.
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