“…you are all mental lepers. Your mind is eaten away with negative thoughts. Some of these are thrust upon you. Many of these you actually make up– conjure up–and then harbour and entertain for hours, days, weeks, months–even years. …and you wonder why you are sick.” ~ Conversations With God, Book 1
Confession: I am a part-time mental leper. What is a mental leper, and why am I only a part-time one? In short, mental leprosy is the inability to feel, which commonly leads to an inability to act. Your mind and heart go into a state of disconnect, which cultivates chaos and damage in ways that are difficult to fathom or control. Mental lepers can do little to help themselves, for they cannot think the rational thoughts that need to be thought and feel the rational emotions that need to be felt in order to create a more peaceful existence.
Personally, I am a relatively deep feeler. I have my moments of empathy, enlightenment and joy — plenty of them! But on the other hand, I have moments of severe apathy, frustration, negativity and fear. These are the emotions that often leave me feeling stuck and unable to change my life, much like a festering wound that won’t quite go away. This is why I identify myself as a part-time mental leper. I have days where I feel peaceful and content and days where I want to nonchalantly drive off the nearest cliff. Who knows? Maybe there is a little bit of mental leprosy in all of us. And if you can identify with the following signs and symptoms, you have it too.
I literally overthink everything. Every single thing. If I’m not working myself into a frenzy over what to make for lunch, I’m obsessively checking my phone and wondering why the text I sent 5 minutes ago still hasn’t been answered.
When you have mental leprosy, rational thought goes out the window and is promptly replaced with gloom, doom, and worst case scenarios. Every setback becomes a challenge, every situation becomes a conflict, and every person becomes a threat. You can have a peaceful and rational solution glaring you right in the face, but if you’re blinded by the effects of mental leprosy, you will only ruminate over the irrational and unnecessary.
Instant gratification and relief feels like a crucial necessity to mental lepers. They have little to no sense of endurance or tranquility. If something doesn’t go their way or someone upsets them, they spiral into a void of resentment, frustration and anxiety.
There is a sense of entitlement that comes with this level of impatience. Mental lepers feel as though they have a claim on, or a right to, the immediate object of their desire. If the gratification they seek is not granted, damaging thoughts and patterns begin to take hold.
Optimism is often an elusive concept for mental lepers. Negative thinking, complaining, moodiness, hopelessness and excessive worry take priority every time and make seeing the light at the end of the tunnel nearly impossible.
This level of pessimism blocks the pathway of growth and healing and is one of the more difficult symptoms to overcome. An attitude of gloom and doom becomes the default in most situations, and the more it is cultivated, the harder it is to challenge.
I frequently try to avoid the trap of comparing myself to others and envying what I don’t have, but when my attempts fail, it’s like being poisoned slowly and intimately. The only problem is that the only person administering the poison is me.
Envy blocks your attempts to focus on and improve your own life. You become so completely wrapped up in what somebody else has that you are blind to all the avenues that exist to lead you towards something better or similar.
5) Judgmental Thinking
Mental lepers are typically judgmental and harsh. They avoid noticing and owning up to their own flaws by pointing at everybody else’s and glean temporary satisfaction from belittling others in order to gain a false sense of superiority.
In addition to overthinking and pessimistic thinking, judgmental thinking is a default mental pattern. Mental lepers judge before they understand and criticize before they encourage. This type of behavior makes it difficult to make friends and gain trust, which leads to further alienation.
6) Lack of Humor
A sense of humor is a sign of emotional freedom and an ability to take the piss out of life. Given that mental leprosy greatly hinders such simple pleasures, a sense of humor can be hard to find in those who are affected.
This dreadful symptom is at its worst when the mental leper is the subject of harmless teasing. They take themselves too seriously and strive to protect what little dignity they have, so when they are ridiculed, even in jest, they take major offense and refuse to engage.
Constant anxiety is a hallmark in the life of a mental leper. Their every desired endeavor becomes questionable, and most decisions and impulses are highly fear-based.
Personally, I am an obnoxiously anxious person. I’m easily unnerved and overwhelmed. Tell me I have to do a job interview, and you might as well tell me to swim in a tank of sharks. Give me a complicated list of instructions, and you might as well drop me in the center of a maze and tell me to find my way home. Sadly, the list could go on and on, but I’m too anxious to continue it. Mental leprosy heavily shrouds the concept of courage and faith.
Mental lepers block most opportunities to better themselves. They resist the truth, they resist growth, they resist change, they resist love, and they resist themselves. This symptom could also be known as avoidance or escapism.
Living in ignorance is often easier than doing the work of becoming stronger and more self-aware, but the easy way isn’t always the best way. Resistance leads to damaging build-up, and damaging build-up leads to an infected mind.
9) Misdirected Anger
Mental lepers feel angry at themselves and angry at the world. This anger is often projected towards the easiest person to blame. Taking responsibility and identifying underlying issues tends to be a foreign concept.
I find myself projecting a lot. If I’m upset, I conclude that it must be for a legitimate reason. I then look for the closest reason I can find, which is often completely off base. But until I’ve cooled down, I don’t even realize it.
Mental leprosy negatively affects motivation and overall performance, making it difficult to find a reason to move forward. Mental lepers feel more comfortable and safe right where they are, even if where they are is not the right or best place to be.
Enthusiasm becomes more and more difficult to conjure as the leprosy spreads. The mind grows numb, and the soul grows cold. Without proper motivation and reward, all desire to succeed is lost.
Last but not least, mental lepers despise themselves. Self-loathing is essentially the root of all their other problems and is also the most difficult affliction to overcome. They know what they are and hate what they have become.
So what can we do about this mental epidemic? For those who are too far gone, there may be no cure. But for those who are in the early stages or can reasonably identify themselves as part-time mental lepers rather than full-time ones, there is hope.
You must first own up to your symptoms, as I have done above. The first step towards solving a problem is acknowledging that there is one, something most mental lepers are unable to do. The next step is to take responsibility for all you have done to worsen your symptoms. Face it — you have. And finally, you must create a treatment plan that is specifically tailored to you. Tackle one symptom at a time, and don’t be afraid to ask for outside help if necessary. Until you change your thoughts, you cannot change your life.
We are all prone to symptoms of mental leprosy from time to time, but only you can make your mind a better place.