Our 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
In another round of “awareness” campaigns, this whole month has been dedicated, supposedly, to that of mental health. Last month was for autism. I’m weary to learn what June will be for, what real-life experience for millions will be reduced to a cause for which people post factually-inaccurate and stigma-producing articles and memes in service of nothing more than feeling like they’re contributing to making the world a better place. I was going to just ignore this “awareness” month campaign (I’ve shared my issues with “awareness” previously) but there’s just too much misinformation, shallow “participation” and ego stroking for me to stay quiet in good conscience. So I’m just going to address a few myths about mental health here. Continue reading Mental Health Awareness Month, Part 1
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?
I, 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
Bessel 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
Mental health is getting more attention in the media lately, maybe in part because of the growing number of celebrities “speaking out” about their experiences. A lot of the more popular and mainstream-y sites like Buzz Feed, Huffington Post and similar do these “specials” – like, where they explicitly cordon off in their own little spot the articles on mental health, just like with “minority” voices and call them “features” but what they really are are the “optional” reading on the syllabus (which is where they keep all the female, black, Latina, Native, Asian, disabled, poor, gay, transgender voices) – and it all eventually comes down, in my perspective, to drug commercials. In other words, those are easy for me to write off. Continue reading Actually, We Can Understand
A 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
As I said, there is always a reason for a particular emotion. Depression, for example, means a lot of things to a lot of people; rather than ask people, we do brain scans. Then we medicate feelings with drugs that have side effects similar to the symptoms we’re trying to treat. But, as one psychotherapist says, depression is the pysche’s way of saying, “I’m not going any further until you stop this bleeding.” So how do we stop the bleeding? Continue reading Emotions are Not The Enemy, Part 2
“My feelings, they don’t matter.” “Worship anyway.” “Feelings lie.” If those are various answers, the question might be something like “How are Christians encouraging one another when one is going through a hard time?” or “Name some song lyrics from contemporary worship songs.” Emotions in the church are increasingly scary, powerful and not to be trusted and most expressions of such are met with “encouragements” to recite “the truth” “despite” emotions, which apparently can’t ever contain truth, until you’re able to “calm down” about something legitimately upsetting. Or, best-case scenario, people will offer to pray for you, which has felt more and more like distancing, passing the buck to someone else (just like directing someone to their counselor). Whatever the case, demonizing feelings is considered legitimate, even Christ-like; we are, as a result, unable to care for each other effectively when complicated emotions come up that cannot (and should not) be ignored. Continue reading Emotions Are Not The Enemy, Part 1