Brain Illness – What a Difference!

Brain (1)I have become aware of something very extraordinary these past few days. It has completely altered how I look at particular things. And that’s the gift of new language.

When I started using brain illness instead of mental illness, I thought it was perhaps just an exercise in semantics. I didn’t think it would make any difference, but it has.

Now, when I look at my husband and think brain illness, something has subtly shifted. I am processing what is happening in terms of something wrong with him physically, not that his mind is haywire. Sure, the illness can affect his thinking, causing him to obsess, but I know that there is something physically wrong with him and that makes all the difference.

When I think of others suffering other forms of brain illness, I find myself with more hope than when I approached it from the point of view of mental illness. As we discover more about how the brain operates and what it needs to stay healthy, these illnesses can be controlled and perhaps even cured. Even in the worst case scenarios we can see the possibility of a pleasanter life because we come to understand the illnesses that affect the brain.

Amy and I often speak about how the medical system knows so much about the body. We can replace knees and hearts and cure many diseases. In comparison we know so little about the brain – a very important part of that body. We need to ramp up the research into how the brain operates, what causes the different brain illnesses, and begin to look in earnest for ways in which these brain illnesses can be cured and controlled.

Someday I want to look back and remember the good old days when we had to experiment with medication to get the right mix. I want to look back and remember how we thought schizophrenia was incurable. I want to be able to rejoice when depression becomes a very fleeting, pesky occurrence in people’s lives, easily treatable much like so many childhood diseases.

May is Brain Health Awareness Month. Gift yourself as I did with a change in your thinking. You’ll be amazed at how that simple shift of the kaleidoscope makes all the difference

– Bernadette

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2 Responses

  1. Reblogged this on Mental Faculties and commented:
    In this short, interesting article, Depression’s Collateral Damage considers the benefits of shift from the language of “mental” illness, to “brain” illness.

    I must confess, as someone with a mental illness, I have my reservations about the shift toward thinking of mental illness as a strictly physiological affliction. I worry that it will lead to an overly pharmaceutical approach to its treatment. I fully acknowledge the role that medication has to play in wellness (indeed, it plays a significant role in my own), but I think that talk-therapies are essential to wellness too. If, however, we start to think of mental illnesses as a strictly physiological condition, I worry that sufferers will neglect the importance of therapy. If mental illness is nothing more than a flaw in chemistry, talking would no more solve the problem than it would cure diabetes.

    Admittedly, treatment schemes are, and should be, as individual as the people who suffer from these illnesses. But, when coupled with increasing pressures on public health systems to cut back on spending, I worry that a strictly biological conception of mental health will lead to a severe underemphasis of the value of talk-therapies.

  2. I like that, brain illness. it’s similar to what someone told me at the hospital, “I am not bipolar, I have bipolar disorder.” rephrasing things can eliminate the stigma.

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