Gun Control

discriminationOur country’s gun laws are ridiculous. That, for example, civilians can rather easily get access to war weapons is unconscionable, even if it is covered under the 2nd Amendment (a dubious assertion; one that seems to miss the point: even if something is within your “rights” to do, are there not other, higher, standards by which to evaluate whether or not you should do it?).

But targeting people with so-called “mental illness” is absolutely not the way to fix them. I’ll be putting the phrase “mental illness” in quotes for the duration of the post, not because I question the suffering of those who experience mental and emotional distress but because the entire field of “mental illness” is an utter mess. Continue reading Gun Control

Mental Health Awareness Month, Part 2

How about holding out hands instead of pointing fingers?
How about holding out hands instead of pointing fingers?

Last week, I saw a post by a mental-health advocacy Facebook page: a short video featuring “shirtless hunks” (this is how the video referred to them) – soldiers who’d returned home and lost fellows soldiers to suicide. “More vets commit suicide every year than die in wars,” the short video said, and then called for compassion and “action.” I commented, protesting the objectifying language, the use of the word “commit” and the frustrating vagueness of the unspecified call to do something. Continue reading Mental Health Awareness Month, Part 2

The Man In The Tree

Tuesday, March 22, 2016 A man who climbed to the top of a tree near 4th Avenue and Stewart talks to police negotiators who are trying to get him down.
Tuesday, March 22, 2016
A man who climbed to the top of a tree near 4th Avenue and Stewart talks to police negotiators who are trying to get him down.

A short version of this appeared in the Seattle Times as a letter to the editor today.

Cody Lee Miller, the man who climbed a giant sequoia tree in downtown Seattle on March 22nd, was formally indicted Monday, April 11th. As if Twitter wasn’t alive enough with ignorant mockery and cheap jokes at his expense during the 25-hour period he remained in the tree, the justice system once again revealed itself to be a farce. He appeared in shackles, at wrists and ankles, before a judge – his unruly hair and clear need of psychiatric care seemingly of no consequence – April 11th for his arraignment. The judge’s order mandated he stay away from the tree but that’s only relevant if he can make the $50,000 bail placed on him. Continue reading The Man In The Tree

Sad Lady, An Introduction

cracked stoneThere’s a story in the Old Testament where Moses strikes a stone and water gushes out. Nevermind what he strikes it with; de- and recontextualized, this is my story of self protection. Literally, self preservation. The stone is my anger. The water is sadness so deep I don’t perceive how I’ll outlive it. It’s been there since I, age four, learned that trees can die and so can bunnies and flowers and dreams. My porcelain-doll sister was only five months old at the time; she, too, would die? Even if she (and I) did everything right? Continue reading Sad Lady, An Introduction

What If My [Mental Illness] DOES Define Me?

Finger pointing to word in dictionary
Finger pointing to word in dictionary

It’s heartening to see the media take up the call to action to talk about mental health after decades of silence. The problem is how its talking about it. The first major issue I see is with the unquestioned propagation of the biomedical model as if its science-verified fact. Look, folks, even mainstream The Guardian is running pieces that are saying that it’s pretty clearly not. Mental health advocates, communities and support networks perpetuate this model – not as a highly specious one or one of an array of options but as back-uppable fact – not because they’re trying to be deceptive but because they really want people to understand that it’s not the sufferer’s fault. If something is wrong with your brain, then your depression is not a moral failing, your anxiety is not a choice, your OCD is not a character flaw, etc. You are the victim.  Continue reading What If My [Mental Illness] DOES Define Me?

Every Love Story is a Ghost Story: A Life of David Foster Wallace, A Review, Part 3

Every Love Story is a Ghost StoryI, for one, do need DFW’s stories and his story. If nothing else, Every Love Story is a Ghost Story is a book for writers…or, more accurately, for those who Want To Write. Or perhaps I can only speak personally: DFW’s struggles with writing – that is, struggles to write – scare and heal me, both because they are so familiar to me. There are many other ways I relate to DFW, though I fear how arrogant or off-base that looks in ‘print,’ and I don’t want to draw false parallels or claim for myself what is not the case or what DFW might have been referring to when he told David Lipsky who was interviewing him for The Rolling Stone in 1996, “I’m not so sure you want to be me.” The point is that I am trying to name where I feel seen, even if it is by a man who I will never meet because he died almost eight years ago. Continue reading Every Love Story is a Ghost Story: A Life of David Foster Wallace, A Review, Part 3

Every Love Story is a Ghost Story: A Life of David Foster Wallace, A Review, Part 1

Every Love Story is a Ghost StoryDavid Foster Wallace, the greatest writer of his generation, began captivating my attention in late 2014, over six years after he hanged himself in his California home, not even mostly as a writer (though his Infinite Jest gave me, among other things, howling compassion for drug addicts), but more as a person. He had what I and so many other writers pine for and he didn’t want it. And yet, I get it. Much more, I get it. DFW has since become my favorite theologian. I will qualify that I never met David Foster Wallace; but then, neither did his biographer, D.T. Max, and he wrote a whole book about him. Continue reading Every Love Story is a Ghost Story: A Life of David Foster Wallace, A Review, Part 1

The Body Keeps the Score, A Review

The Body Keeps the ScoreBessel van der Kolk is a Dutch psychiatrist with 30 years of experience and infinitely more compassion. Reading his work felt like a hug, firm against my railing and flailing but not constricting or threatening. I have a friend who met him, and that’s apparently how talking to him “in the face” (a concatenation of “in person” and “face to face” I made when I was young) feels, too. I’m tempted to simply repost all the quotes I’d put up on Facebook, in an effort to be seen and known, while I was reading this book, right here because they really are the best reasons to read this book. You don’t have to be a therapist or doctor to benefit from this book; its technical precision and ‘shop’ language don’t obscure the message for the lay reader and his gentle yet urgent tone belies his deep concern for those who suffer, both at the hands of those who are supposed to care for them and under the care of the system that is supposed to help them heal. Continue reading The Body Keeps the Score, A Review

What I Want The World To Know About Wanting The World to Know, Part 2

the red carpetA few weeks ago, I’d written about writing To The World and how counter-productive I think it is. That’s coming from a place of deep concern for those who experience mental and emotional distress. Not enough people are angry about the hideously broken system that is mental healthcare and I want that to change. One of the ways I see that happening is for people to raise their voices…effectively, at appropriate targets.

Most writers of the articles I detailed in my first post about this would probably vigorously deny that they commit any of the errors therein. If that’s the case, then you’re not really writing to The World. That’s fine – preferred, in my opinion, but then stop claiming to. What does “What I Want The World To Know” really mean? It seems to me that it means, “Ouch, Stop Hurting Me.” It seems to me that it means “I Want Stuff To Change.” It seems to me that it means “Can We Come Together On This Thing Here?” Those are all beautiful statements, far less presumptuous and tired than “What I Want The World To Know,” so why not say them? Authenticity is more than a buzzword. Continue reading What I Want The World To Know About Wanting The World to Know, Part 2

Another Shooting

gun controlDisclaimer: to make it clear from the beginning, I am not a gun nut, I have never fired a gun in my life and don’t ever intend to. I am for sensible gun laws. I am not obsessed with the 2nd Amendment. My main concern here is with how we are talking about gun control.

I cannot join the bandwagon clapping their hands at Pres. Obama’s speech regarding the massacre in Oregon on Thursday. And I’m pretty disappointed that The New Yorker called it powerful – no wonder we’re “numb” if that’s what we think “powerful” is – but I guess you can’t really expect much different from mainstream media anymore. Mostly what struck me about the president’s speech is how hard it was for me to distinguish his talk about those with mental illness from Donald Trump when he talks about Latinos, Syrian refugees, women, the poor, etc.: Pres. Obama continues to demonize and stigmatized those suffering with mental illness even though there is a TON of research that deeply problematizes the categorical link the president reinforced between mental illness itself and violence like this. There are, however, plenty of studies (that are, of course, being suppressed) that conclusively show a statistically significant link between psychiatric MEDICATIONS and acts of violence. This is not the only factor here, but I’m from Columbine town: after that iconic massacre, drug companies were required to put black-box labels on their drugs. That’s it. Yet we bicker and fight about gun control as if it’s this solve-all god. I’m sorry, but if your medication causes the same side effects as the “illness” you’re trying to treat (homicidal and suicidal thoughts being the relevant ones here), you are doing it wrong and we’re the ones left holding the (body) bag(s). Continue reading Another Shooting