We’re standing in a laundromat, just striking up conversation.
She says: My younger son declared his major.
My face is smiling of interest.
I give a slight nod.
All kinds of unhelpful things start going through my head. Psychology is a useless bachelor’s degree. You have to make it to a master’s or a doctorate, which most don’t, in order to actually make it in the field. In reality, he’s likely to change his major at least once before graduation.
None of that leaves my mouth of course.
She continues: I cried and cried.
Now I’m confused. Did I miss something?
The explanation is forthcoming. This woman has a gift for chat.
He’s going to be working with, you know, the bottom of the barrel, the scum of society.
My smile locks into place while my thoughts blow up my brainfeed.
I’m sure this woman would never have imagined that the “bottom of the barrel” would be wearing heels and a pencil skirt. I wonder how the conversation would have been different if she knew that I had seen a psychologist only last week for bipolar disorder.
Option 1: No offense.
Option 2: Oh, sorry you’re an exception. You don’t count as society scum.
Option 3: My son is going to be working with people who meet certain criteria for mental problems.
Of course she doesn’t say any of that. I wait for her to wind down her diatribe while I finish my business amongst the washers and dryers. Once complete, I politely wish her well and drive off.
In my experience since being diagnosed with a mental disorder, I’ve learned that there are two kinds of people in the world: those with mental problems who have been diagnosed and those with mental problems who haven’t. I know for a fact that I function better than a lot of normal people out there who aren’t aware of their issues. And it’s all because I know that I have a problem and I’m willing to seek treatment for it.
If you have not been diagnosed with a mental disorder, I’m not suggesting that you unknowingly have one that can be treated with doctors and medication.
What I am saying is that everybody is dysfunctional in one way or another. Some more than others, I admit. The trick is to learn your blind spots and figure out healthy ways to compensate for them.
And that is the entire scope of mental health in a nutshell. It takes lots of practice, and nobody said it was easy, but I have to say that the progress is worth it.
And EVERYBODY is better off if they admit their issues and learn how to work through them.