Language, Vocabulary, Communication, and Mental Illness

There are times when I just cannot articulate my feelings.  Usually this happens when I am actually trying to communicate with another human being.  It makes it hard to interact when, every time you open your mouth, what comes out of your mouth makes little to no sense to you, let alone anyone else.  I am honestly of the belief that human relationships are difficult for the simple reason that we all speak in our own internal language when it comes to feelings.

We might use a common vocabulary, but our dictionaries don’t match.  Not only do we have different dictionaries, our scales of severity may have absolutely nothing in common.  I’ve used the concept of different languages before when explaining communication between those with mentall illess and those without.  That analogy does work, but there’s a distinction on the individual level that has more to do with the meaning of the words we use versus what language.

So what I am trying to say (and failing spectacularly at, I have a feeling), is that when we first want to have honest, open communication with another human being, we have to determine the vocabulary we will use with each other.  With a coworker, there is a small shared vocabulary that you stick to.  You might become closer to someone, and the mutual vocabulary gets larger.  After the initial ultra-basic vocabulary for human interaction is determined, we each start throwing out new words for people to learn.  Some of these words are in a different language (TAOTBB bipolar for example).  When someone starts trying to understand this part of our vocabulary, we make the conscious decision whether to share more of it.  There are more people in my life that have made this effort than I can ever truly appreciate.

Even then, with all the effort they make to understand me, I still manage to be inarticulate.

Whether I am talking to my Mom, brother-in-law, best friends, or myself, language sometimes fails me.  When I cannot express how I am feeling in a way that is understandable to others, they are forced to use their own dictionaries to determine what I am saying.  Since their definition of sad and mine may be worlds apart, this is a fast trip to the world of misunderstanding.  Even when I am trying to get my feelings out hereee or in my own head, I can get confused, hurt, and angry.  So it’s no wonder that these are common emotions between individuals and groups. 

Adding in mental illness and the language and thought differences just makes relationships that much harder for those of with mental illness and those that love us.  It’s like listening to a fluent speaker of a language you have taken for one semester and trying to understand what they are trying to tell you while watching someone else speak and react to what they are saying to someone completely different.  As someone with mental illness, I speak a different language verbally and physically.  My body language isn’t what others are used to.  I might go still in fear like an animal, but I also might go still in confusion as I try to process new information (no matter if the timing is not optimal).  I might glare at someone in anger, or I might just be glaring in confusion.  I might smile because I am happy, or I might be smiling because my mind has decided that this is not a good place for me, so it has taken a break and I am in a mountain meadow carpeted with flowers.

So for those that love me and try to communicate with me (be in real life or on this blog), it really is me and not you.

Hopefully I have been able to communicate to all of you that I respect you, I care about you, and I realize that, even through our disagreements, you are trying to understand.  I am trying, too.

[Ask my parents.  They’ll tell you I’m very trying.  😉 ]


~ by theartistryofthebipolarbrain on August 1, 2012.

5 Responses to “Language, Vocabulary, Communication, and Mental Illness”

  1. I think you were very articulate with what you are saying in this post. I understand exactly what you are saying. I have a terrible fear of being misunderstood, and so I end up going all over the place to try and make what I am saying understandable. It is so frustrating when you can’t get on the same page with someone especially when you have metal illness and understanding is so important.

  2. Well, you’ve expressed it well in this post, that’s for sure! I love how our diagnoses are different, and yet I always feel so much resonance when I read your posts; this is a subject which I’ve always failed to communicate, and it bothers me intensely sometimes.

    Severity scales drive me up the wall, especially when reported by the person feeling [whatever] themselves in such a way as to belittle others, because they’re using their own criteria; there’s no universal scale, and I have to work hard to accept that and… well, not get angry with them for making my people-understanding-ness harder than usual! Rant over. Calming down now 😉

    I’m completely with you on this. I never express anything well whenever I really need to, cue frustration and further miscommunication… and the cycle continues. Hugs. (And I think my parents would say the same about me…)


    • I am glad that my posts resonate with you. I often feel as though my posts are akin to screaming my pain into a canyon just to hear the echo of my own words come back instead of some sort of learning or wisdom. I am glad that you seem to find usefullness in my whining.




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