Saturday, February 9, 2008

More Thoughts on Identity

For some reason, the topic of people being identified by their mental disorders has me thinking rather deeply. I have never before experienced people seeing me as my disorder. There was a time where I saw myself as my disorder, but that was a natural concequence of learning how to deal with my diagnosis. It was huge in my mind because it was a big, scary, uncharted territory for me and I didn't know what it would mean for me as a person to have this disorder. It plagued me. I felt like it followed me around. However, I am aware that others didn't see me any different. Those that saw me before and after I got treatment saw a difference in my behavior but not my personality. GAD is not who I am but a condition I have. My friends still went hung out with me. We did all the same things together that we did before. I was still the goofy nut before I got treatment. The only difference was that I felt free to do things I feared before and I worried less about what might be and concentrated more on what I could make things out to be.

I learned to see my disorder as a gift. Here was this window into what it meant to rely on God for salvation, forgiveness, true unconditional love, and everything else that goes into supporting this body and life. My anxiety had brought me down the paths of "what if"s to the point that I knew I would never be good enough to save myself, even if that was a mere "choice" to follow Christ. I wasn't even good enough for that! It was all Christ. Christ forgave my sins at my baptism. Christ forgives my sins through my pastor. If it wasn't for Him who made the world, I wouldn't have a job, birds in my life, a devout husband, the water I am drinking, or the clothes on my back. It is by God's gift I make it every day. My anxiety is my blessing and my curse, but I guess that's where I don't understand seeing people through their disorder. It's my blessing and curse to deal with and no one elses. It may affect other people, but they don't have to deal with the symptoms, that's my burden to bear.

In this world of diversity, we must show children images of a person in a wheelchair playing basketball. We show ethnic diversity of different cultural holidays and what it means to those people. There is a strong emphasis on showing that these people, though they are different than others, are "normal" and no different than anyone else. As a result of this focus, people have become more aware (and sometimes hyperaware) of physical differences. Kudos to whoever thought up that idea, because now people are identified by those differences and not by who they are. Thus, setting up anyone with a difference, including mental disorders, to be treated according to the condition they have and not who they are. This isn't to say that people should avoid learning about other cultures, but it must be taught in the correct light. People should be identified by each other as Christ identifies them: forgiven. The person in the wheelchair is baptized by name. No matter the ethnicity of those in the church, the pastor absolves them of their sins in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

So, why should a non Christian not treat someone according to their disorder? Science. The law. Science doesn't define humanity by the lack of disorder. The law doesn't state that you lose your rights if you become disabled.

Unfortunately, this doesn't make people become more educated about mental disorders. It doesn't keep people from being prejudiced. However, it does make it wrong.