Tag Archives: society
I’ve been thinking about this a lot over the past few days. With everything going on, I keep trying to think of what the solution could be. I immediately think extremes…
Yesterday, like most Americans home and abroad, I had a little BBQ with friends and family. This was the fifth annual iteration that we’d been doing it with one of my ‘local’ ex-pat friends (she lives a couple of hours away), and at my eldest’s suggestion, we extended the invitation to her best friend’s family. As we match up as well with his parents as we do with my friend R and her husband, we’re always happy to hang out with them. And as the matriarch of that family is my closest local friend (both in physical proximity and friendship ‘importance’), I definitely wanted her and R to meet and make friendly. All in all, all six adults had a great time, all three kiddos had a great time, and my eldest declared it to be the best day ever.
While we were chatting and knitting (because yanno, I have to get everyone in the world hooked on knitting), the subject of having friends who also have mental illnesses came up. And I commented that pretty much the entirety of my inner circle(s) have mental illnesses, and most of them of a chronic nature. It was agreed that having friends who are also living with such made for a more empathetic support group, and on that I agree. I hadn’t intentionally acquired a bunch of bipolar friends on purpose (well, until I set up The Bipolar Blogger Network, ha ha), but it helped me be happier with my diagnosis and what it meant, and it’s helped me since in knowing that friends with similarly broken brains can understand when the brain weasels are being stupid (brain weasels compliments of bat).
But What About ‘Normal’ People?
This came up in a big way when my sister was visiting last month. We haven’t been on the same page as each other in a really freaking long time; I’m pretty sure the last time were was in the 90s. And we totally had a blow out fight. We also finally had a point where we deconstructed it after the fact and managed to make a lot more sense to each other, but it proved a point to me — it is hard to explain things to someone who isn’t mentally/chronically ill. Even if someone is empathetic (and it turned out she was to a much higher degree than I remembered from recent years), there’s so much of the experience and the verbiage and such that goes into clarifying things to someone who lives and speaks a different language, and well… spoons? What spoons? And I did manage to clarify that — that we didn’t speak the same language, so we were just raising our voices at each other trying to make things make sense that way. Yeah, that doesn’t work. But as many of us know — it’s just easier to take those non-existent spoons and stay with people who don’t need extra clarification. That isn’t to say that a normal person is ‘bad’ or ‘wrong’, obviously — just that there is so much they take for granted in their functionality that they might not be able to easily understand that not everyone can talk so heatedly, or defend their positions deeply.
Anyways, I’m sure I’m preaching to the choir, but my brain needed to noodle over it. *nodnods*
Hope everyone is well.
When I was pregnant with my first child, I made a conscious decision to avoid parent-to-be boards. Being mentally ill and chronically low on spoons, I had seen the fringes of the Mommy Wars, and had no desire to waste time there. Also, as someone who copy edits for fun, I would not have been happy or comfortable in places that seem chronically plagued by chat speak and constant misspellings.I’m sure that there are those who would consider me a snob for that, but hey — you have your triggers, I have mine, and since my best processing of English is the written word, it’s incredibly stressful when said word is abused by native speakers who ‘don’t have to spell because they’re not in school anymore’. Browsers come with spell-checkers these days, so there is no excuse for constant mistakes.
Anyways, I already had friends who were also parents — why did I need ‘friends’ whose only thing in common was parenthood? Maybe it’s just me, but someone having gotten knocked up around the same time of me is not criteria enough to be my friend. Once again, that’s a me and my limited energy sort of thing; making new friends takes a lot of energy. As there was already a basis of love and respect between myself and my friends, that carried over well to talking about being parents. While approaches to parenting were not too dissimilar at the core between myself and my varied and different friends, that basis of preexisting sameness meant that we could respect where other parents had different approaches to things. We could respect that individuals have individual situations, and that what worked for one of us might not work for another. Even if I couldn’t understand that fully until after I had my first child, I was able to at least remember to respect my friends because they were my friends and that I knew they were intelligent people capable of making informed choices. Even if we shouldn’t, most of us have a bad tendency to dismiss that which we don’t know more easily than we should.
But any mother who has ever been online knows how it is. You’re not a real mom if you had a c-section, or had the baby in the hospital, or gave them formula, or dared to have a career, or any number of things. There are arguments over whether or not letting a child cry it out is tantamount to child abuse. Some would even go so far to suggest that ‘people like me’ shouldn’t be breeding because how dare we risk perpetuating our mental illnesses. In response, people get defensive about their choices — they have to formula feed because their child wouldn’t latch, they’re a one-income family, they’re… doing any number of things that shouldn’t have to be defended, because different people have different situations. Just because there often portrayed a single way to be ‘right’, that is very much a Holier Than Thou™®, Cool Kids Only sort of bullshit club. There’s nothing wrong with being proud of your choices, there’s nothing wrong with being well off enough to stay home and parent ‘correctly’, there is nothing with having to go out into the workforce, and, I emphasize this one above all — there is nothing wrong with taking care of yourself first if it means you can be a better parent to your children.
And then I realised what’s behind the Mommy Wars — it’s just people who are desperately insecure in a highly opinionated and polarized field trying to convince themselves and others that their way is right so they don’t feel bad about their choices. Which of course, leads to a whole section of the Mommy War that’s a total time-out to remind people that hey, you’re a good parent. I sort of chuckle and sigh ruefully, because even if don’t join in the self-flagellation that is this particular experience, I have engaged in it in other areas of my life. It’s almost as if the modern adult isn’t happy unless they’re suffering… roll on, everyone being a masochist? Nor am I suggesting that anyone is ‘bad’ or less for feeling insecure — it’s my opinion that our constant immersion in media and the lives of others in this day and age serves to convince us that we’ll only ever be happy and fulfilled if we buy the right thing, or have the right body shape is damaging and insulting. Remember that Cool Kids Club I mentioned earlier? It’s just another pointless us versus them designed to stroke insecure egos by claiming something makes someone better than someone else. Unless it’s ‘murdered someone’ and ‘didn’t murder someone’, most differences are yanno, pretty okay and equally valid.
Maybe this all comes easier to me because I’ve always been an outsider. It was instilled in me from an early age that I was never going to be enough. So in defiance, I’ve opted to continue to be genuinely me, and done a pretty good job with it. Well that, and out-and-out lying tends to make me have panic attacks, ha ha. But I just cannot see the point of camaraderie that comes at a cost of making someone else the enemy. Even without my mental illnesses as a consideration, it just often seemed… mean. Oh sure, I can understand wanting to belong. I love my fellow Bipolaratti, for example. But we’re not about to go to war with people who have borderline personality disorder for being different, yanno?
Anyways, I hope this brain jumble finds everyone well. I’m still waiting for my upped antidepressant dose to do a lick of good, and my big girl has chickenpox, but we’re all mainly doing okay.
Today is Time to Talk day in the United Kingdom. The idea is to take five minutes out of one’s day to talk about mental health, whether it be to do some lovely stigma-busting, or to just take some time to check on friends. Really, as long as one takes five minutes to do their part to keep the conversation alive, it’s a Good Thing™®.
Now, I want to take a moment to approach a very specific thing — the prevalence of mental illnesses in the world today. One in four people will experience mental illness every single year. That’s a full quarter of people you know, and could very well include yourself; most of my fellow Bipolaratti reading this know full well how well we can self-deceive in order to survive. And even in countries like the United Kingdom that have a bigger push to stigma bust and normalize mental illnesses, there’s still a shame factor that makes people hide their suffering, often unto the point of denying themselves help. Many people see needing that help as a failure somehow. That they have failed as an adult, as a human, that they are less… all sorts of negative things.
Okay well, here’s the thing — the modern world is hard, and getting more ridiculous day by day. People are expected to work ungodly hours to show their dedication to their job (more and more exploited during times like the current recession because people are desperate to cling onto employment). People are expected to find hours in the week to exercise that they don’t have, to get a full eight hours of sleep, to commute some ungodly distances, to cook healthy meals from scratch, to… well. There’s a huge fucking pile of expectations that are beyond unrealistic. It is completely understandable that not everyone can keep up. THIS IS NOT A FAILURE. Nor is the fact that the inability to keep up fills one with self-loathing, depression upset, poor self-esteem, and so on.
‘Oh, but if I can do it, anyone can do it!’ We often hear or see this said. Person X manages to do all the ‘right’ things, so obviously everyone is exactly identical and can as well. Bullshit. We are all individuals with our own strengths and weaknesses, and the current set of baseline expectations that many of us absorb through media and social interaction that’s supposed to make us ‘happy’ and ‘fulfilled’… well. As said, they are unrealistic. We are people, not machines. And really, even machines break down when exposed to unrelenting pressure and effort with no down time for maintenance.
You are not a failure if you’re having a hard time. You’re not a drama queen if you’re sad, or numb, or feeling lost. Don’t suffer in silence — reach out and talk to a friend. Reach out and ask a doctor for help. Step out of the shadows and share your experience; you’ll find that a good quarter of your friends, if not more, will totally empathise. Yeah, there’s always going to be a few shits with that superior attitude that you’re not taking the right supplements/eating right/working out right/etc, but fuck ‘em. They don’t know you. They don’t know what’s right for you. I don’t know what’s right for anyone but me either. I can only say thus — I care about my friends, and I’m always happy to lend an ear. I’m glad that I can share my own experiences so my friends understand that they are not alone.
Nor is anyone obligated to share publicly how they’re feeling, or what they’re going through! But that’s definitely one way depression tries to trick a person. It tells you that you’re not worthy of attention, that you’re bad and wrong somehow, and that nobody cares. Once again, bullshit. I care. Other people care.
And as I’m going around in circles now, I’ll stop here. I do hope this finds everyone well, and if not? There’s a contact form — feel free to use it, and I’m happy to talk to you.
Filed under: society, Transportation Tagged: Amusing, Public Transit, society
A story about how my mental paradigm shifted about 180 degrees yesterday while having a conversation with a young man with serious psychiatric issues, and his obviously devoted family. They were homeless, and that made me think, a lot. Continue reading
This is another question that came to mind this morning (too much coffee mixed with Adderall 🙂 ) How much of a person’s disability are either mental disorders or developmental disorders, and how much of it is because society has told a person that they are “disabled”? This weekend I had the privilege of meeting […]
As yet another mass shooting by a young and allegedly disturbed man goes to prove, it’s getting to be a downright scary time to be mentally ill in America. Not only are the anti-gun lobbyists coming out of the woodwork and demanding that we get rid of the Second Amendment to keep guns out of the hands of people like you and me, but the calls for re-institutionalizing psychiatric patients are growing louder and more insistent with each occurrence.
I’m not going to hash over the gun debate, except to say that people don’t give up their Constitutional rights when they are diagnosed with a mental illness, and that we need wiser minds than those of our current government officials to decide how we’re going to prevent more Sandy Hooks and Columbines. I don’t trust the President or Congress to do the right thing here, not only because the political posturing that passes for debate is nothing more than big talk, but we don’t really know yet what the right thing is.
That leaves the sticky question of what to do with the millions of mentally ill Americans who have never committed, and indeed will never commit a violent crime, but who face social discrimination from all angles. There are so many degrees of illness, so many subtle ‘flavors’, yet all of them are labeled “bad” and “not us”. Society really isn’t too keen on making those distinctions because it is intellectually lazy and far too easily influenced by the mass media; it’s so much more convenient to consider the mentally ill as a monolith and deal with us on a one-size-fits-all basis.
There is, of course, a rather large problem with this view. For one thing, we are all different, and we have different illnesses which vary in scope and severity. Some people manage just fine on a low dose of antidepressant medication; others with more serious illness need intensive medication management and therapy; while still others can’t make it on the “outside” and must be hospitalized for their own protection.
But how do we know which individual is a potential Aaron Ybarra or a James Holmes? And is it ever OK to deprive someone of his or her rights as an American because of something he or she MIGHT do?
I say No. Not just because I’m mentally ill myself, but because no one should have to surrender their personhood OR their citizenship at the door to their psychiatrist’s office. Unless I woke up in China this morning, my condition is my own business and that of my doctor, not the media (unless I choose to disclose it, as I do here), and certainly not the government. I have broken no laws, nor do I intend to; why should I not have a gun in my house if I want one? And why ever would millions of Americans like me need to be institutionalized, as some of the more rabid reformers would have it, when we have proven ourselves to be stable and trustworthy enough to live in society?
There simply is no way to predict who will be the next mass shooter, and no legal way to prevent him (or her) from carrying out his/her scheme. The only thing we can reasonably be certain of is that there will be another…..and another…..and another after that. And sometimes, it won’t even be someone with a mental illness; after all, there IS such a thing as evil in this world, and it exists in humans. All you have to do is look at a Charles Manson or a John Wayne Gacy to see its face.
I wish I knew the answer to all this. But at this point, I don’t even know if there is one. All I know is that gutting the Second Amendment and locking up all the mental patients isn’t it. And I know that somewhere there exists a fountain of common sense, and that we must drink deeply of it if we are to have any hope of putting an end to these tragedies.
I have noticed an increase in shows using bipolar characters in storylines. Great, right? Anything to show the truth of the disorder, right? It all raises awareness…. right?!
Yeah, except they all seem to be dramas.
Mind, I don’t like dramas. My brain is drama enough, especially with anxiety and OCD features making it even harder to logic things into place. And it would be one thing if it just happened that there was a character who had bipolar in the show… but it seems to routinely be ‘Bipolar person goes off of their meds, goes off the deep end, drama ensues’… which, while accurate to a point (Natasha Tracy makes a good point about how missing a dose doesn’t make someone automatically manic in her review of Black Box’s first episode), is kiiind of insulting. Missing a dose sucks, yes, but it doesn’t automatically make someone ‘go crazy’.
And that’s not even touching that it’s always a female character. I’ve seen this with Black Box and Homeland in the States, Rookie Blue in Canada, and even Hollyoaks here in the United Kingdom will be featuring a female bipolar character imminently (I’m not sure if it’s happened yet or not). We know from Miss Tracy’s review that while some of the portrayal of aspects of mania are accurate (and in the case of Rookie Blue and Hollyoaks, extensive research into bipolar is claimed to have been done in advance), in that they can be parts of a manic episode, it doesn’t change the fact that, to me, it feels like an excuse to portray ‘Crazy bitches be crazy ’cause women are hysterical and lesser, lulz’. It’s the same sort of misogyny that makes people think songs like Crazy Bitch by Buckcherry are not only okay, but that anyone who dares complain about being offended is *obviously* just some sort of bitter feminist with no sense of humour.
All I know is that my disorder is very real, and that I don’t think it’s okay for it to be used as a minimizing plot point. It’s the same reason I opted to bow out of an invite to be part of a documentary here; when they told me they wanted specifically people with Bipolar I and rapid cycling ‘because people don’t know about those’, I tensed up and refused to respond. Way to tell me you give absolutely no fucks about an accurate portrayal of the bipolar spectrum, mate — you’ve just told me you want me to find you the people suffering the most to up your ratings. Bipolar is a spectrum, and some of us function, and some of us don’t, but focusing only on the ‘drama’ stigmatizes the entire lot of us as ‘Oh, those poor crazy people!’. And here in the United Kingdom, where we have a government intent on demonizing anyone not working and healthy as skivvers and benefits cheats, and are trying to force them all into workfare ‘for their own good’? Eeesh.
But hey, maybe I’m being terribly unfair about these shows. Maybe these females are being portrayed as strong and not totally ruining everything forever at key points for dramatic convenience. I probably won’t know first-hand, because it’s not my genre of preference. But you’ll forgive me if I choose to not find out; I have almost nothing in the way of spoons, and I’m blowing more than enough at spluttering indignation at general stereotyping and dismissal of mentally ill by society as a whole. Yeah, I’ll hopefully have a post about that soon too, once I piece together things I’ve written on Facebook and Livejournal and condense it down into something useful for here.
For now though, hope you are all doing as well as can be expected.