Wellbeing Wednesdays: Mental Illness and Acceptance – selected quotations, collated by Hamzah Haggag

In this instalment of our Wellbeing Wednesdays series, medical student Hamzah Haggag shares some thoughtful quotations from The School of Life on our approaches to mental health.


“One of the great contributing factors to mental illness is the idea that we should at all costs and at all times be well. We suffer far more than we should because of how long it can take many of us until we allow ourselves to fall properly and usefully ill. In a crisis, our chances of getting better rely to a significant extent on having the right relationship to our illness; an attitude which is relatively unfrightened by our distress, which isn’t overly in love with the idea of seeming at all times ‘normal’, which can allow us to be deranged for a while in order one day to reach a more authentic kind of sanity.”

“It will help us immensely in this quest if the images of mental illness we can draw on at this time do not narrowly imply that our ailment is merely a freakish and pitiable possibility, if we can appeal to images that tease out the universal and dignified themes of our state, so that we do not – on top of everything else – have to fear and hate ourselves for being unwell.”

“The best philosophical background against which to wrestle with mental unwellness would be one that conceived of the human animal as intrinsically rather than accidentally flawed, a philosophy that would resolutely reject the notion that we could ever be perfect and would instead welcome our griefs and our errors, our stumbles and our follies as no less a part of us than our triumphs and our intelligence.”

If we learn to confront our illness without panic or fear…

“We feel less guilty that we are not at work and are not playing up to the roles demanded of us by responsible others. We can be less defensive and frightened, more inclined to seek out proper care – and more likely to recover properly in time. With a philosophy of acceptance in mind, we can recognise that whatever the particularities of our crisis (which will naturally need to be investigated in due course), our pains fit into a broad picture of a crisis-prone human condition. No one is spared. No life can escape significant troubles. Everything is imperfect. We don’t have to know the details of someone’s life to be able to guess at the scale of the difficulties they too will have encountered. We have all been born to inadequate parents, our desires will always exceed reality, we will all make some appalling errors, we will hurt those we love and anger those with power over us, we will be anxious and confused, woeful and lost.

We should accept both that we are profoundly unwell – and that our ailments are entirely normal.”

Quote credits from the School of Life


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