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The Self, Mental Illness, and Category-Making

If only "difference" were truly the preferred way of speaking about individuals rather than "illness." If we are to talk about category-making in terms of so called mental illness, in terms of its dangers and benefits, I can attest to the difficulties associated with being placed in those categories. As a Bryn Mawr student, who has at various times been labeled as depressed, bipolar, borderline personality, etc. I know how fragile and often overlapping many of these classifications are. Each of these categories carries negative connotations, and thus I am not inclined to be open with others about being placed inside of them. The problem is that I am "ill" in the sense that the traits that I possess cause me to behave and perceive in ways often deviant from the majority of the people around me. I have a double self, in a sense, in that I present myself as fitting a category that I believe will suit me better in my endeavors--as an intellectual, who is calm and measured in her self-presentation. I try to conceal those traits--extreme mood swings, grandiose, irrational thinking, constantly changing gender identity--that place me as inconsistent and somehow "less than" others. We are conceptual beings, and thus I know that we will attach concepts to one another, so I selectively choose what to show others, so that they will place me in a "better" category according to this hierarchy that we have so arbitrarily imposed on ourselves. I try to stifle those qualities that will make me seem "Other." Do we not all do this to a greater or lesser extent? Is this not proof how constructed the self is in every way? The construction of self, I think, leads ultimately to every other construction, every other category. We live in a world carved out according to what suits the needs of the dominant human discourse of the time. I choose to post this anonymously, because ultimately "identifying" myself would lead to further categories and judgments being imposed upon me. And also, I am so aware of how fragile, how interconnected the self is with everything else, that stating my identity is in a sense meaningless, and a pretension of an ego that is a category created due to the limits of our perceptions in the first place...


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