This blog entry is going to be about the importance of finding a purpose for your life and having agency. By agency I mean finding something that you can do with your given skill set that gives your life meaning. We as humans do not exist in a vacuum. We have to interact with other people and the environment around us. How we interact can either be beneficial or destructive. I have found if I just try being neutral and not standing out I become miserable. I cannot go through life without working toward some goal. I have to have something to work toward or even work against. I get lost into thinking ‘why am I here’ if I have no purpose. This is true of all people, especially men. That is why we throw ourselves into our jobs, our hobbies, our projects, our families, and our beliefs.
Having a purpose can be either good or bad. Having good, constructive, and beneficial purpose leads people to build businesses, create great works of art, think up great ideas no one else came up with, and strive to better the lives of others. Bad and destructive purpose, however, can lead people into joining street gains, terrorist groups, crime syndicates, and commiting atrocites.
I think of people as bundles of energy. Direct them into things that allow them to channel energy into creative endeavors and you’ll ultimately wind up with civilization and means to improve civilization. Yet do not allow them to channel energy into creative purpose, it will be expressed in destructive acts and chaos. Part of me fears the reason we are seeing so many heinous acts of violence like the recent shootings in South Carolina, Tennessee, and Louisiana is that many people, especially younger men, feel like they have no place or purpose. Granted not all people are not going to resort to murder or joining groups like ISIS because they don’t have a life mission or they feel they aren’t making a difference. Others may be using their pent up energy to less obvious destructive means, such as small time hustling, petty crime, or even computer hacking and internet trolling. It could be possible that one of the reasons that mental illness is becoming prevalent is that many people no longer feel they have a purpose or belong to anything bigger than themselves or no longer feel connected to their communities.
One of the things that gives me agency is writing this blog. I write to explain mental illness to others who don’t know it personally. I blog to give advice to others with mental illness who may be recently diagnosed or having serious problems for the first time and not know what is going on or what to expect. I write to be an encouragement to others who, like myself, have been dealing with mental illness for awhile and still have ups and downs.
As my Definite Chief Aim, to borrow a term from Napoleon Hill, I am seeking to inform and enlighten others as what having a mental illness is like from the mentally ill person’s point of view. I have always done well at explaining ideas and concepts to others and I have no fear of speaking up in public. And there is a percentage of the general population who has mental illness, I think close to 5 percent for serious, chronic mental illnesses like schizophrenia, bipolar, autism spectrum, major depression, borderline personality disorder, etc. Many of these mentally ill individuals are unable to express the issues of their illnesses. This is where I, and other bloggers come in.
If I were asked what I am working against, it would be ignorance and cruelty. Too many people don’t know what mental illness is like for us or what a hinderance it can be. Some people even refuse to acknowledge it even exists. Yes, it does exist. I, and others like me, are not making up our problems with crippling anxiety, our problems with alternating between crushing sadness and euphoria, or dealing with delusions to where we have to work to distinguish between what is reality and what is within the constraints of our troubled minds. We do not make up these problems because we want attention or we are angry about our childhoods. Our issues are not simplistic type problems that can be overcome only by feel good memes and other quick fixes that try to put a Band Aid on a gushing wound.
It is an understatement to say I do not respect ignorance and cruelty. We live in an age of nearly unlimited information on any topic imaginable. I have far more information at my fingertips through a $400 laptop computer and $32 a month wireless internet service than the scholars who set up the Great Library of ancient Alexandria could have imagined even possible. Medieval scholars would have killed, and sometimes were killed, for having access to a tiny fraction of a fraction of the information I can call up at a whim. There are no more excuses for being ignorant. In 2015, ignorance is not a matter of destiny, it is a matter of choice to paraphrase William Jennings Bryan.
In closing, writing and researching for this mental illness blog gives me some sense of agency and purpose. Ignorance and the resulting cruelty are two of the ‘enemies’ I ‘fight’ against. We all have things we are passionate about. We all have things we can do for others and ourselves. It is a matter of finding those things that give us agency and purpose and then going to work.