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When we name someone as addicted, homeless, mentally ill etc., we can distance ourselves from them and absolve ourselves of a common responsibility let alone a communal response.

Do we look at individuals with mental health difficulties and assume there is only something wrong with the individual? There is usually a genetic component but most illnesses and addictions are an expression of the environment as well. If “it takes a village to raise a child” then it must follow that it takes a village to raise an addict or a ‘depressive’ or a ‘schizophrenic’. When I see my family doctor the computer with my health information is in front of me while I wait. The screen says I am bipolar, PTSD, PNES etc. I’m not even sure she knows I have been incarcerated. Most people I meet go on less so I’m not annoyed.

It might be a weak argument but what if we put a “normal” person in the environments I have endured? Having ‘been there’ I would imagine similar outcomes and symptoms. Maybe genetics would guard against certain realities but I’m not sure ‘blood’ blocks trauma. For those who believe mental illness is a shortcoming I invite you to stand where I have stood. Spend a few weeks in solitary confinement. Spend the worst part of a year navigating other inmates while fluidly psychotic.

I’m tired of being disordered. I’m tired of being mentally ill. Society puts these labels on my experiences to limit the responsibility we all have to the vulnerable. When I flop around on my floor having pseudo-seizures society can point to me as a problem. He has PNES. No shit! You put someone in a concrete box with a toilet to talk to and he has symptoms? Go figure.

When we name someone as addicted, homeless, mentally ill etc., we can distance ourselves from them and absolve ourselves of a common responsibility let alone a communal response.

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