“You shall not spread a false report.”
“There’s just some magic in truth and honesty and openness.”
“No legacy is so rich as honest..”
“The greatest truth is honesty, and the greatest falsehood is dishonesty.”
“Honestly is the best policy.”
—People without mental disorders
There is a maxim in the mental health universe that those with mental illness should work towards not hiding their disorders and not feel as if they need to fake normalcy to get by in life. Then there’s real life. The rest is and always will be an unfulfilled wish of a type of world.
I have OCD, and it presents itself in ways that make me seem like an asshole. It is a selfish disorder, as it is something that consumes the mind and distorts the importance of things that are, can, and may happen to the person with OCD. Thus, what could be perceived to a normal person as something either not important at all, or something that should be dealt with internally—to me, it is often something I must act on as if it were an emergency to all. My brain does this. I know it is wrong, I cannot stop it.
Along with the OCD I have pretty extreme social anxiety, but it is very specific this anxiety. To a certain set of people—and I don’t know if I could even classify them here—I am genuinely outgoing, honest about myself, and open to conversation. To most others, I cannot make eye contact, and wish to leave the conversation pretty much in the middle of the first sentence of the interaction. Strangers and people somewhat close to me can fall into either of these categories seemingly randomly, a set of containers dictated by my brain.
Regardless of the specifics, what all of this funnels into is the fact—and it is a fact—that most people with mental disorders are not seen in a good light by others when said disorders are presenting themselves. People don’t want to deal with it, as most normal people have a set of categories that describe others’ behavior without the nuance that mental illness adds to such categories.
You see, most people—any by no means am I suggesting they are wrong, we all have our own categories—think in terms of actions being selfish, selfless, or really neither. They think of moods as being angry, sad, happy, hyperactive, and so on. Imagine all of these categories being colors on the spectrum you know well—from red to violet. Place any action or characteristic of another person at any color you’d like. This is how people think, and it works—for interactions with most people.
So to make any headway in the world—to be productive when it involves the acceptance of other people, which is almost always the case—I have to fake being within this spectrum. And I have to fake being the good parts. I have to silence the part of my OCD brain screaming out that something is terribly wrong, and act as if everything is fine enough. Not good, but I’ve learned how to seem like a person who can just “let it be.”
I’m not letting it be. Not in my mind. Or—better put—my mind is not letting it be. But you see me letting it be. I am a master of this. Because I have to be.
All of this goes for a very wide range of emotions and actions, all of them have two parts: what my brain thinks, and what I present to the world as what my brain thinks. I don’t need to list all of the situations, emotions, actions, or things. They are all the same, and there are a lot of them. With each, I have a way to paint a façade for others to see.
Am I lying? Am I dishonest. Yeah. I’m not going to pretend1 there is a different scale of honesty for those with mental disorders. We fake things to get by. Now—do I manipulate others with these façades? I would not use the term “manipulation” any farther than necessary to just get by in a world of people who think on a two-dimensional scales for all human interactions.
There is a big difference between fraudulent appearances and acting differently than your brain says you should to survive. My job—for example—would suffer quite a bit2 if I acted on who my brain dictates I truly am, and dictates what I truly need. Those things are seen in a negative light. Luckily I’m smart—I’ve fashioned a positive light to shine on that which I present to the world.
So back to the color spectrum metaphor. Now I’d like to introduce what you’ve thought of as a two-dimensional scale—relating color to ways people are perceived—as having a third dimension. So there’s a specific shade of yellow you’ve categorized “selfish” in the previous exercise3. Now imagine there are multiple types of this precise color. Not different colors—another dimension. That is where mental illness lies.
It is the same category you’ve assigned to your perception, but a wholly different type. That is to say, there are many types of “selfishness.” There’s the type that my OCD forces upon me, and the type I fake not having.