On the evening of Saturday, November 23, a woman named Carolyn commented on my post called "Storme." Here is my response.
Thank you for your comment. It was, I sense, very brave of you to voice your pain so blatantly here and I'm glad you felt safe to do so. You raised some very provocative ideas and questions.
For example, I'm not sure I understand what you meant by "Kindred Cafe on this website" — marijuana isn't prohibited here. This is an open-minded, freedom-loving blog. However, as a metaphor for survivors with no hope, it's both apt and tragic. Hope is one reason why we're here. I read every comment that arrives here. I take them all to heart. I've been reading and hearing similar sentiments for years. I repeat. That's why we're here.
Things are changing.
I know many people are insensitive to "mental health concerns." Years ago, people liked to tell me to "Buck up," too. "Why don't you just pull yourself up by your bootstraps," they'd say, perhaps meaning no harm. Oh, how I dreaded that potent phrase. I had no idea what "bootstraps" were, but I keenly felt the derision beneath those imperious words. I grew to cringe inside every time I heard them. I know now that no one knew any better back then in the dark ages of psychiatry. There was no vocabulary. No empathy. No communication. Sometimes I fear we're still there, but that's another story.
Now, looking back, I suspect the people who said those things to me and still say them to you may be terror-stricken, afraid of their own deeply closeted "mental health concerns." So they put us down instead. It makes them feel better, poor souls. Bullying, when you think about it.
I've learned not to hear them anymore, instead of getting upset. I listen, but I don't care how I'm viewed. It's how I view myself that counts.
As for the "public's cry," why are they crying, I wonder? I prefer letting them see another side of "Crazy" here — if they care to look. Behind their tears. You can't force anyone to see things differently. They have to want to look. Be open to seeing things from another perspective. As I've often said, quoting another one of my sages, Los Angeles psychologist Michael T. Walker — it's not "seeing is believing," but the other way around. "Believing is seeing."
Education, accurate information, strong sound voices, like many of those in the "Recovery Movement" — psychologist Patricia Deegan who was once diagnosed with schizophrenia, is one — insightful thinkers with lived experience of mental illnesses who have wisdom and meaningful lives, plus the courage to see beyond convention — with vision and hope. These are the voices that will quell the "public's cry" — those who view us diagnosed with mental illnesses as "weak and flawed."
Perhaps it's their tears that distort their vision.
There are millions of us not viewed as "weak" or "flawed." We refuse to be viewed like that. We certainly don't view ourselves like that. I don't.
"Recurrent melancholia" or Depression" ... I ask you, aren't these words just descriptors of deep, dark, deadening feelings? Suffering? Incapacity? There is a difference between the way mental illnesses and physical illnesses are seen. But, where do you draw the line?
If you are suffering emotionally or physically or psychically, for whatever reason, how can anyone deny your suffering? How can anyone get inside your head or heart or soul or mind and say, "You don't really feel your pain. It's not real." And if they do, they can be wrong, can't they?
Being suddenly sexually, brutally, savagely attacked and violated by a superior with whom you have only a professional relationship is, for some, a more treacherous injury from which to recover than one incurred from falling off a ladder, I suspect.
Depends on how hard you fall and what breaks.
If it's your neck, who knows? That's no easy injury to heal. You have to rehabilitate yourself. (In many ways, the same applies to recovery from the diagnosis of a mental illness.) But you are right about one thing. People will happily visit you in a rehabilitation hospital if you have a broken neck. People stay away in droves if you're in a psychiatric hospital for any reason. No one sends you flowers. Or cards. You probably don't even have your own phone!
Still. Keeping silent and "shutting up" doesn't work either. Everything turns inward. Festers like a boil. Eats away at you. No one is any better for "being silent." You don't have to listen, if someone tells you to "shut up." You can just keep on "talking." It's healing.
If we don't stand up and speak out, how can we change the way people see and perceive us? How can we change anything? Change doesn't happen randomly, by itself. People make change. People like you and I can be change-makers. That's one reason why "Coming Out Crazy" exists.
I've stood up to people for years. All my life. As a child, I was so innocent and naive, I never imagined there was anything wrong with going to a psychiatrist. Or having a mental illness. That was a gift from my mother. She still feels the same way.
She stood up for me and helped teach me to stand up for myself. Dr. Bob helps immensely. Now, my husband of more than nine years, Marty, is my best help-mate. Everyone needs "a little help from their friends," to quote John Lennon.
I speak out to people who want and need want to better about their "issues." They're frightened, too. They have every right to be. Sometimes, they start to find their own voices. I hope they do, here, in this open forum. Maybe, then, they'll speak out in in other places, too. Join the crusade for change.
Carolyn, I'm so grateful that you opened up here and spoke out so passionately the other night. I hope you'll speak out more. You have a good, strong, resonant voice. Music to my eyes.