This morning, coffee in hand, I tried to think of a topic that might be a little bit easy to write. It’s one of those days. And then this idea springs from somewhere in my mind that is clearly more awake than I am. It’s not going to be the easiest–I know this as I write these words–but it’s something I have never explored before and, well, I guess it’s about time.
How Are Irrational Fears Connected to Mental Illness?
First, let’s briefly define what an irrational fear is. According to The Mecca known as Wikipedia an irrational fear is connected to a “phobia” and, in the realm of psychology and psychiatry, related to:
“. . . a persistent fear of an object or situation in which the sufferer commits to great lengths in avoiding, typically disproportional to the actual danger posed, often being recognized as irrational.”
OK. That sort of makes sense so far, but how is this connected to mental illness and our recovery from it? A few examples:
>Sometimes, particularly when first diagnosed, we feel as if nobody will ever want to be part of our lives. We feel, as I have said before, sort alien to a world we may have understood prior to diagnosis.
>We may feel we will spend our entire lives unstable. Yes, mental illness can be hard to treat, but we can all find a level of recovery.
>We might feel like we are bad people and our illness is our fault and not a disease.
Irrational thoughts usually abate as we begin to recover from mental illness, but when we are struggling they can be scary–to say the least.
How Are Rational Fears Connected to Mental Illness?
Rational fears are often connected to a state of recovery–or as we make progress and find stability. Unlike irrational fears, rational fears push us forward, they allow us to embrace our lives and work to accept mental illness–not an easy feat!
Examples of rational fears when connected to mental illness:
>Once stable we may fear relapse. Unfortunately, this is a rational fear, but it pushes us to learn about and practice self-care.
>We fear we have damaged relationships when unwell and this pushes us to rebuild relationships with the rational understanding that we are not so different. We are, in fact, just human.
Rational and irrational fears can be connected to mental illness in many different ways–I can only provide a few examples–but as we move toward recovery our thought process becomes more rational. Like most things in life, it just takes time, and patience.
What are your feelings surrounding mental illness and irrational and/or rational fears?