Day 4 in the Try Looking At It Through My Eyes challenge and today’s challenge is entitled “the Trade Off”.
Here’s the scenario set before us…
Day Four – “The Trade Off” – You walk into a fun fair or state fair and see a small tent entitled “The Trade Off”. Curious you go and look at the writing under the sign only to learn that for 1 dollar, euro or pound, you get to take a pill which will allow you to trade your mental health condition for another mental condition of your choosing for a whole week. The only rules are that you have to trade one for one and there are no returns until the end of that week. Would you do it, what would you choose and why?
When I was writing that scenario I did of course consider it for myself. And I have to tell you that my minds immediate response was, “Nope Never! Better the devil you know than the devil you don’t!”
But then is it not worthy of more than just an immediate response? What if that pill really was available to me?
There are I think three basic approaches/motivations to this scenario. ..
Firstly, to not take the pill
Secondly to take the pill in order to get rid of (albeit temporarily) what you have.
Thirdly to take the pill in order to get something else instead of what you have.
On face value it is easy to mistake two and three of that list as being one in the same thing but I would argue that they are not.
Certainly I have been in situations that have seemed unbearable and where I have asked for those situations to be removed.
Likewise I have been in situations where they have seemed unbearable and where I have asked for a different kind of experience rather than asking for that experience. “Oh Lord, please, I can’t take this, isn’t there another way? Any other way? Just not this!”
Of course one of the problems with this scenario, is that to choose another mental illness to replace your own might appear, to some, that you consider that other mental illness to be less serious or more manageable than your own.
But what if your desire to trade was not based on getting rid of or having a respite from your own mental illness but was instead about , experiencing that of others?
What if the motivation was so that you could catch a glimpse of the suffering of others so that you could perhaps relate better, understand better?
As someone who spends a great deal of time reading and writing about mental health and mental illness and who is on the blogosphere quite a lot I read a great deal about the experiences of others and sometimes feel so useless when it comes to offering support and encouragement.
Could it be that by temporarily trading my own mental illness for another mental illness I could gain an insight into how to support and love someone better?
And yet I have reservations even in this.
When I was homeless and living on the streets, indeed when I was working with the homeless, I used to get frustrated by those well meaning individuals who would make comments such as…
“I know what it is like to be homeless as I was locked out of my house one night and had to sleep rough.”
Um no you don’t ‘know what it is like to be homeless’ because you knew it was only for one night and you still had a home even if for that short night you couldn’t access it. There is a world of difference between being locked out of your home for a night and not even having a home.
Yes you have had a glimpse at some of the experiences and issues facing the street homeless, but you were no more homeless or fully knowledgeable of what it is like to truly be homeless than I would be fully aware what it is like to be pregnant if I felt bloated for an hour or two!
Would I be willing to experience some one else’s mental health condition or mental illness in order to catch a glimpse of their suffering, yes I believe I truly would. But I am so mindful that I know that that would only be temporary and that that knowledge would make a huge difference.
And I have another thought resonating in my mind at this time. Whilst my experiencing what it is like to have that mental illness or mental health condition may afford me some understanding of the condition or illness, it cannot afford me the knowledge of what it is like to be you having to deal with that condition or illness.
Would the insights an experience of the condition or illness be useful? Yes quite possibly but I don’t want to get to know, support or love the condition or illness I want to get to know, support and love you.
So would I take this trade off pill? No I really wouldn’t.