Tuesday, January 13, 2009

My whole life (so far) I've been called weird or eccentric. My family would agree:) The thing is, I felt normal inside. I was just being myself. However, when people would label me as the strange one, I felt alone. I felt pressured to keep my imagination to myself. To a child, this can be very confusing. I felt much more comfortable alone because no one could judge me. Those with a mental disorder deal with a similar situation because discrimination and stereotypes almost force them into solitude. No one should be forced to identify with his/her illness. 

It took me many years to embrace my eccentricities. As an adult, I don't like think I'm weird, rather, everyone else is too normal. Marylin Manson was once asked how he feels to be called weird and he simply said, "define normal". You can't. Society has become blinded by its obsession with normal. We live in a world where you have to watch what you say, feel or do. What's wrong with being different? I think different is quite normal.

I am reminded of a time when I was in kindergarden and my teacher would not let me leave class until I finished a daffodil picture by coloring neatly inside the lines. I kept refusing. She must have handed me the same daffodil picture five times until I finally buckled and colored inside the lines (I had to catch my bus :). All she wanted me to do was follow the rules without question. Instead of encouraging creativity, she was concerned with what was normal. Maybe this was the moment I decided to live my life outside the lines. 

Bertrand Russell once said, "Do not fear to be eccentric in opinion, for every opinion now accepted was once eccentric." Ironically, Russell, an influential mathematician and philosopher, had a strong history of mental illness in his family. I think that eccentricity breads new ideas, questions and change. Without it the world we know would cease to exist. We would sacrifice inventions, movies, art movements, literature, and most things that give life meaning. Sir Isaac Newton, known to be very eccentric, would never communicate his ideas. When asked to shed light on the theory of gravity, he returned a few years later with a book (he created along with Gottfried Leibniz: Principea Mathematica). This book uncovered a new, valuable mathmatical method called Calculus. Einstein, best know for his theory of relativity, was more comfortable in solitude but became a public figure for issues that he believed in. His son was diagnosed with schizophrenia. I will post more in the future regarding the connection between creativity/genius and mental illness.

I personally love people who are brave enough to challenge what we view as normal. These people are fearless and passionate. They don't allow the majority to think for them. If more people had this attitude, we could start to erase the stigma that surrounds mental illness. We would begin to accept people for who they are and stop telling them who they need to be. One famous quote that still holds true, "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself" -FDR. Only fear will hold us back from opening our minds and our hearts. 


  1. I agree with you 100% on this one. Everyone is different, and weird in their own way. I just wish people would stop hiding and show their real selves. If you can, please check out my blog. It would be much appreciated. :)

  2. In general you have a very nice blog...I look forward to you next post.


  3. Ashley, Thank you for your comment! I have many more topics to discuss. BTW, your blog is inspiring!

  4. Amber
    I also felt "different" as a child, so I know what you are saying. I thought it was because I was not raised by my birth parents. It seemed I liked things like reading and had a particular affinity to plants. I was not detered by this, I continued to follow my mind and heart always trying to learn and expand my knowledge.
    Your comments are beautifully stated with striking examples. I have thought a lot about the creative process and its rewards as well as its challenges. For me, creative people embrace diversity and conflict. Like the examples you give, Tchaikovsky was criticised for his so-called Western influences but was undaunted and continued to create and became one of the great composers of the 19th century. We see this over and over again in art, music, and dance. The disciplines of growth and change evolve when the status quo is challanged, and you so right when you say these people are brave, for they risk personal status and sometimes their lives for an idea.
    In our quest to give our ill family members equal status and challenge stigma when we see it, we need to be ready to embrace diversity, be visionary, and speak up even when we risk our own prestige.

  5. Very beautifully put!! My thoughts exactly. It is nice to know someone feels similar about this. As much as I am very creative, I analyze the heck out of everything. But I think this analysis is a part of my creative side. It is that curious nature that I can't ignore. I love just thinking about things in my head. Like my personal oasis. It's almost more fun than having a conversation because my imagination runs on it's own to create new ideas. I can't really explain it completely. However, I do feel guilty at times. I feel that if I was gifted with this creativity, why was my brother burdened with an illness that may be linked to a gene that gave me my creativity? I only say this because I have heard that creative people appear to be more open to incoming stimuli from the surrounding environment (sensitive). But could this relate to schizophrenia and how incoming stimuli becomes exaggerated or skewed? Maybe this is just my imagination running again:) Well, I plan on posting more about this in the future, as well as posts involving the right side of the brain.

  6. Thank you Amber
    In sz there are alterations of the senses in visual and auditory acuteness. Also, there is flooding of the senses, which I have observed with my son when he responds to auditory hallucinations when he is in a conversation. Our brain can screen out incoming sights and sounds, but a person with sz is flooded with sensory stimuli all at once. In addition to this overacuteness of the external world, there is the same process flooding the their mind with thoughts. Here again, we can redirect our thoughts, but someone with mental illness cannot. We are able to route, direct and control our creative processes by screening out information, but your brother and my son are not able to do this. And for them it is even worse because they do not have insight, which intensifies the magnitude of their illness. I have tried to find out if its possible for them to learn to have insight, but I have not found anything about this. I would like to know if there has been any study about how to help someone with no insight learn to have some insight.

  7. I also would like to find out more about lack of insight. It's one of the main barriers to treatment and makes it hard on everyone involved. So sad.

  8. THe intricate psychology of a society. Convoluted and baffling. When i read this article i thought - said before, not a particularly innovative approach - but the reason it sounds said before is because, i think all people dabble in such, all people are fighting internal chains imposed by society. The difference arrives is in the level of complexity - the simple minds will cover it superficially and shame, it’s all they know, they cannot be blamed and ive often thought life would be easier with a simple mind, less thought destructive and frustrating. Another reason that i found the piece familiar, is because i know the whole topic SO WELL and i am one of those people who “dabble in such” and the ideas could almost extracted from my own thoughts at times. It is spot on and i feel like writing it, helps internalize our position - of feelings of awkward and uncomfortable within because of the never-ending battle with boxes and constructs. Of course they're not natural. It helps not to feel so alone in them sometimes and that’s what your article reinforced for me. Thanks. A few other things, have you seen Temple Grandin? And you should totes check out the poem Koubla Kahn. Speaks a lot about the flooding of the mind with thoughts. I leave you with this: “Is life not a hundred times too short for us to stifle ourselves” Friedrich Nietzsche.