Tinneas Inntinn basically translated to “Mental Illness”. Tinneas means disease, disorder, or sickness. But Inntinn can translate to intelligence, will, intention, purpose or mind. This gives us an interesting look at how neuro-divergency is perceived in Scottish culture, or even among English speaking cultures because we still call it “mental illness” or “mental disorder,” which is not always the case. It’s only seen as an illness because it diverges from the typical, whereas it should only be seen as a disorder when it causes the person living with it stress that may be difficult to manage – which society can, and often does worsen. Society may label neuro-divergence an illness because it can often manifest in ways that disrupts societal norms, often disregarding the underlying factors for the actions they observe.
A neurosis is a coping mechanism gone array, while psychosis is when that mechanism completely breaks down the person’s ability to function altogether. Sometimes these are chemical factors inborn in the mind of the person from biological and genetic factors, while in others it may be due to the onset of trauma. More frequently, it’s a combination of these two factors – which is why different people respond differently to similar events or stimuli.
It’s not because the brain has gone bad, it’s because events in the past deemed the need for changes in the brain in order to survive. This could be a genetic factor, as prolonged exposure of the ancestors to a given stimulus promoted a psychological coping mechanism that compounded on itself to displace later generations who now live without those factors. We evolved as social creatures, but are increasingly isolated from any sense of community. Our diet plays a huge part in this as well, as our brains are deprived of nutritional compounds found in traditional diets and cooking methods.
Developmental disabilities, mental illness, and other mental health issues can be demanding on both the person directly living with it, as well as those in their support system such as family and friends, but also the wider community. That does not mean we should give up on them, reject them, sweep them off to a dark room and pretend like they don’t exist, or exclude them from participating in a fulfilling life with others. These acts often make it all the worse for these folks that require our strength, understanding, and compassion.
Brehon Law, at least those portions written down and translated, actually speak of those living with developmental disabilities (drúth) and mental illness, the latter in at least two degrees: the “deranged” (mer) and the “violently insane” (dásachtach). All were considered dependent on the head of the household, and their rights were paramount. Exploitation was highly prohibited and illegal. Just to illustrate how important mental health rights were held by the ancient Gaels, in the Senchus Mòr it states the legal principle, “the rights of the insane precedes all other rights.” Of course their approach was archaic and lacking the medical knowledge and standards we have evolved to today, but they were there, and this says quiet a lot about the morality of our forebears. To further drive this home, it was a finable offense to tease or make japes about these protected people, and such acts were clearly seen as being in poor taste.
The key is insight, which is an element of gliocas (wisdom), and should be actively cultivated by anyone and everyone. Both introspective insight and interpersonal insight are important, but may not come naturally in equal measure. There are many ways to develop these, and you can always supplement these efforts by praying to the Gods or an insightful ancestor.
Introspective insight can be cultivated in therapy with a trusted counselor, and this is my most recommended method. These professionals are long-studied in getting you to understand yourself, your motives, and other contributing factors in your personality. Sometimes these disturbances can cause us to be difficult with ourselves, and mean, cruel or complicated to those around us, and the only way to combat and overcome that is to understand why you’re doing it. At the very least you can express to yourself and to understanding people what you’re going through, and you can work together to come to a solution that makes it easier to deal with the disturbance. Being able to identify these triggering events before they happen can help you to prevent or at least prepare for them.
Interpersonal insight takes just as much work, if not more to develop, and this is because for all our commonalities, each person is different in how these things manifest. It really takes some deep listening to honestly be able to begin to understand a particular person’s triggers and expressions. It’s never easy, but it is always rewarding. A therapist can help you develop these skills as well, as does studying up on general psychology and the specific conditions of the individual, but listening to that individual is the only sure fire way to understand them particularly. Listening skills are not about merely hearing what a person has to say, but it’s also understanding what they mean by their word choice, gleaning what they’re saying through tone and body language, and being aware of what they are not saying.
I am a complex amalgamation of mental and emotional conditions, and some are more prevalent than others. I live with PTSD, ADD, OCD, and type two Bipolar with pretty severe depression, and generalized anxiety – just to name the socially acceptable ones I’m comfortable talking about publicly with which I am diagnosed. The PTSD and OCD are related to trauma, but could have likely been able to manifest due to a preexisting disposition. The OCD is particularly insidious because it forces me to always present a mask of perfection, always knowing where everything is, and adhering to schedules, and doing everything at unrealistically high quality. The amount of stress that goes on inside me, the amount of anxiety I deal with when things aren’t perfect is occasionally crippling. The abject frustration I feel when I notice a flaw in my work often prohibits me from attempting to do things that I love doing because I am afraid of doing it to a less than perfect standard, or having to take more time to get it how I want it. For most of my life I went undiagnosed with ADD because the OCD tends to mask the deficits to attention.
It wasn’t until I built up a support system that I learned to deal with many of these issues, but it was also the desire to be a viable and productive member of my communities that I pushed myself to develop the insight to function with my concoction of disorders. I managed to get to a baseline to function at work doing the most to seem like I’m worth keeping around, while doing the minimum at home and in my personal life to cope with the spoons I had available to me afterwards. I slowly built up the ability to reach out beyond myself to others, and I was brutally honest with them about my situation. A lot of people rejected me, and that hurt a lot every time. But, not everyone. People with interpersonal insight and compassionate wisdom saw the effort I put into life, and knew I would put that effort into our relationships. They became my motley of support. And slowly, the desire to do for others in that network overcame the fear of not being good enough. Now, at home, in my personal life, I am able to do the things that bring me fulfillment and joy because I’m not just doing them for myself. I write this blog for you. I write my volunteer lessons for inmates in dire need. I craft and make gifts out of appreciation for those that enrich my life. I pray and make offering to my Gods, ancestors and allies in spirit. I do all of this to maintain that connection, that support. I do all of this to feel Everyday Connectednesses, and to maintain and uplift those reciprocal relationships. If you have the opportunity to extend compassion to others, do it. Open those channels. It will be enlightening and enriching for you both. And remember to listen.