Haiku H049

At what thresholds do
Mental illnesses
Become mental weaknesses?

10.06.15

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Copyright by Minh Tan on listed dated of completion.

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Notes to this poem…

During Mental Health Awareness Week, I’m going to be unpopular and play devil’s advocate here. I very much appreciate the advances in medicine and society attitudes towards mental illness, though both have quite a ways to go, especially the latter. I try to be very aware and sensitive to the matter, as well as people who are, or might be suffering from it. However, as with anything, people will abuse it, use it as an excuse, or just in some bad way. This is for those people.

Many mental illnesses identified in recent years have long been in existence, but not acknowledged as such. People just regarded them, as well as those suffering from them, as other kinds of problems, be it personality or specific traits, with the problem being those people, not something from which they might be suffering. Recent advances in medicine and social awareness have started peeling away at this old school attitude.

However, I’m also seeing people who just brush off certain challenges they face as being mental illness, properly diagnosed, self-diagnosed or improperly diagnosed by someone they know who isn’t qualified to diagnose it. They just accept it like it’s an inevitability, and even use it as an “out” to excuse themselves from things. To those people, I really want to step in and give them a little pep talk to get their act together, aim higher in life and expect more of themselves. I don’t, of course, and I wouldn’t be berating them if they did. However, in my eyes, they have more mental weakness than illness to me. That’s why the pep talk!

And hence the question, at what point do mental illnesses become mental weaknesses? I’m not terribly concerned about the question the other way. If it’s real enough, I’m confident medicine will acknowledge it, sooner or later. But even then, those people should use it for motivation, not excuses, you know?

Now, who am I to talk? Well, I’ve gone through chains of a few dark years here and there, and shorter periods more frequently. That’s quite devastating for someone who is generally quite positive. I don’t know if I had depression then, or some other mental health malady. But did I care? No. Knowing I had something acknowledged as a proper medical diagnosis wasn’t going to change me. I didn’t want a pill or something like that to help me change, either. I sucked it up and fought my way through it. It’d be easy to also say maybe what I had wasn’t hard enough, but I’d challenge that, too. I’ve seen what others suffered from to get a scope of scale on these things. I wasn’t the worst case, by any means, but it wasn’t simple to brush off, either, dealing with things like failing at the one thing I lived for and was sure I would be able to get at one point in life… through no fault of my own. It took me about six years to get past that. That’s no pansy mental situation!

Regardless what you might feel about mental illnesses, though, there is no doubt a grey area where one would question whether something were a mental illness, or just mental weakness that a little guidance and effort would overcome. That’s what I’m talking about in this short little poem with such a long annotation. 🙂

The H-series poems comprise of haiku composed while I was not engaged in some activity during which I frequently composed poetry. That is why these are called the Inactive Haiku collection.

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