I explained a couple of days ago that I’d been thinking a lot about psychological factors that influence Tourettes. Thinking about my own mental wellbeing has meant that some of my archaic attitudes have been exposed. For example I find it hard to shake off the idea that there’s some sort of shame in having a mental health ‘problem’. These are judgements that I apply to myself, but I don’t judge other people as harshly.
I talk a lot about madness but never actually give my own mental health much thought because I find it too uncomfortable. When I’m struggling with my tics I often seek reassurance from those around me and ask, ‘Am I mad?’
I think my awkward relationship with madness is fuelled by two key things. The first is that strangers often treat me like I’m crazy. Because of how my tics look, they assume I’m mentally unwell and can respond to me with negativity and fear. This reinforces my negative attitudes and feeds my constant need to prove that I’m ‘sane’.
The second key thing is that my strange behaviour makes me feel I’m crazy. I do things that confuse and terrify me, like biting my hand or running into the road. These things scare me not because of their inherent riskiness but because I don’t understand where this behaviour comes from.
Sometimes friends describe me as the sanest person they know, and this always feels like winning a massive prize. But it’s the importance I place on other people’s opinions which is probably the strangest thing about how I think.
The other day I was talking to Leftwing Idiot about all this and he said, “The only thing that ever feels close to a mental health problem with you is your concern about what other people think of you. But it’s not that straightforward because some people do judge you.”
He’s right. Earlier today I overheard a man on the bus say, “Look at that psychiatric patient over there.” He was pointing at me.
The importance I place on how I’m perceived isn’t very healthy. Alongside using Habit Reversal Therapy to help regain control of my movements, I’m going to work on improving my emotional balance, and on taking greater care of my mental wellbeing.