Mind your Head

 Perception and Prejudice – F.33 and M79.7.

I have a bad habit of opening and leaving cupboard doors open and everyone keeps yelling “Mind your Head!” Your head is your receiver and transmitter. Radio Ms Ladyboss.

Whether you have a diagnosed mental health condition or not, the head like the Star Trek Voyager directs everything pertaining you. Our senses are: sight, taste, hearing, smell and touch. 4 of the senses are in your head, which means 80% of your receiving and processing of information is in your head. “Mind your Head”.

What is perception? Perception is how you receive information, interpret and then transmit. Perception relies on sensory information e.g. sight which leads to emotion, thought, then to action or inaction. When some women see shoes, the process is sight, thought, emotion – I like, I want – thought, can I get – action? Your 4 senses are systematically receiving, interpreting and transmitting information to the brain leading to a decision. Thoughts are just that, a combination of sensory information that can lead to action or inaction. They are neither good nor bad; it’s what you do with them.

There is a saying “You are what you eat”; I say “you are your 5 senses” and you have to guard them at all times especially if you are a vulnerable person. Due to the busy schedules we rarely fully engage in the present moment. If we are not rushing from here to there or one task after another, we don’t engage in the whole receiver and transmission process.

Prejudice and stigma have hurt a lot of people who suffer from mental health. The lack of information, understanding and media portrayal of people with mental health conditions has greatly contributed to stereotyping. When dealing with a mental health sufferer remember “This is not That”. There is a great importance in treating people with dignity and respect

Cultural differences play a big role, from what we learn in school, church and our environment. Once when a manager annoyed me, I looked down. She said I was difficult to communicate with as I did not make eye contact. If she had been schooled in different cultural practices, she would have known that many African people do not make eye contact with seniority as a sign of respect. In my case, I was hiding my anger. She deemed it as aggressive and now I have a label. By definition aggressive is “threatening and violent actions.” This I learnt came from a stereotype that “bigger black women are aggressive”. I did not act her way!

Prejudice breeds fear, due to lack of information. What you see, hear, touch, smell taste, affects how your view certain things in life and is largely influenced by what you know, learn, watch and hear. We do not all have 20/20 vision and we see differently so why should our perception be the same. The danger is when it leads to prejudicial treatment of the vulnerable.

As a Christian, I never thought I would suffer from depression. I put myself in life threatening positions due to depression. Why? I did not have the understanding and had wrong information. I will confess for a year, I prayed to God to get rid of the fatigue and change in moods. Lie Wah, my best friend tried to explain that I was depressed due to the challenges I was facing. I did not listen because every time she said anti-depressants, I almost said: “get thee behind me satan”. Why? I was raised to be strong, get on with it, and weaknesses were something I never showed. I foolishly believed that God could cure me “Did God not make the doctors too?” I had to completely break to accept help.

Like the Star Trek Voyager our head only moves forward towards where we are going. Our head also moves side to side access periphery vision. If you tried to look back you would have to move your body completely changing direction. We were never meant to go backwards. I digress.

The fears of mental health have been as a result of limited information, cultural beliefs, and sometimes hocus pocus from some religious leaders. King David was somewhere between severely depressed at times and Elijah was suicidal. Our reactions to life’s challenges are unique and different. You can live a whole life with a mental health diagnosis.

Sensory overload can affect how we perceive things. One could make a dangerous decision if your mood is not right. Learning to manage, this was by using techniques from a therapist on slowing down being in the moment. I am super sensitive to tone, I kid you not.  If a co-worker speaks to me in what I perceive as a sharp tone, I withdraw. There are issues in there because I don’t like being shouted at. On the same note, I could be in pain or tired, my perception is totally skewed in that moment; I could react from any of the 3 places above and cause wahala (trouble).

The World Health Organisation UK, the USA and most of Europe ascribe to the ICD10 code when diagnosing a person. This diagnosis depends on each profession so my diagnosis is F.33 and M79.7. This, of course, means that I have met the criteria for a diagnosis that leads to proper treatment. Even if those numbers were plastered on the on my head they would make little or no sense to you. Google ICD10 code 2016.

On behalf of all service users in mental health, “Mind your Head” for your well being and get informed on living with illnesses or being a carer of a service user. One piece of wrong information, leads to prejudicial behaviour and stereotyping which leads to our isolation.

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