“Mushlike memories perform
a ritual on my lips
I lie in stolid hopelessness
and they lay my soul in strips.”
–Maya Angelou, from “Remembering”
“Mushlike memories perform
a ritual on my lips
I lie in stolid hopelessness
and they lay my soul in strips.”
–Maya Angelou, from “Remembering”
who knows you’re mad, if you see yourself as mad?
or, if it’s helpful for you to think of yourself as sick, how many people in your life know you are sick?
i have been thinking about disclosure and stigma.
i think of myself as a person who actively tries to fight against stigma re: mental health issues, and i am trying to learn a radical mental health perspective so i can be kinder to myself, and yet i totally rarely disclose my issues to people who they may seriously affect when those people are connected to me professionally. i thought about this a lot recently, and then i couldn’t stop thinking about polarized: life from both sides entry about “the differences between secrets and lies”.
this person, like me, feels like being out as bipolar would negatively impact peoples’ opinions of our abilities.
in that sense, i think that shame is a much larger part of my life than i tend to think it is. i think in some ways, some people like us are controlled by shame.
i realized i am completely terrified of coming out of the closet about most of my issues to the people it affects the most. it isn’t politically correct to hate gay people, but it’s expected that people will exclude “crazy people” from their inner circles of friendship. i can say i’ve dated different genders before with no hesitation, and yet i’m terrified to come out as a nutcase to people i don’t know well, people i know professionally, and yes – even friends.
at what point do you tell the person you’re sweet on about your issues?
do you wait for them to like you for who you are, and then hope they don’t run once you both like each other? at what point is it a blatant lie to omit this information? how many dates can you have before you mention just how different it is to know you long-term?
“i seem eccentric but otherwise pretty normal on our dates, right? haha fooled you! because as soon as you leave my house, i cry for hours/talk to voices/throw up/cut myself/get wasted/sleep for two days/freak out completely/get sad for a week.”
is it ethical to withhold that information from a potential housemate, a potential employer, a new friend, a drinking buddy, or a new lover?
what if you know for a fact that someone doesn’t respect a radical perspective on mental health, and you know that they would try to encourage you to ruin your life with electro-shock, or toxic medications, if you’re a person who chooses to live without them? what if you know they will lose respect for you, or begin to walk on eggshells around you, or break up with you, or fire you? or just treat you a little differently from then on, like all of a sudden they pity you?
on the other hand, as adults, we have the luxury of autonomy in many parts of our lives. will stigma ever lift if nobody’s “out of the closet” about our experiences? how will people know to treat me with kindness if they do not know about my abusive childhood? perhaps, paradoxically, ‘normal’ people are -less- inclined to write off my behaviors as ‘crazy’ if they know not to take them personally. maybe it would give people empathy and perspective. perhaps coming out would fling open a door to a community of others like me.
…or perhaps it would leave me even lonelier, cut off from “normal people”… whose world i don’t fit into, anyhow.
mad pride is such an incredible movement. i would like to think that i am working towards a point where i can feel proud of myself as a creative, resourceful, wild, compassionate, rad, somewhat not-the-stupidest, messy and magickal little moodmonster and not feel like a gigantic fucking mess, like a person imprisoned by a broken mind. like it could be okay to be a little sadlet sadding along some days because i am not my sadness – i am a writer, i am a body, i am a cooker of foods and a brightener of days. and i should be proud of who i am – mental health hiccups and all – and you should, too.
because, overall, you are pretty fucking amazing.
so, what about you? are you “out” to everyone? what do you think about stigma and disclosure?
a person who puts on a happy face in front of company? that’s fake. that person is being inauthentic. yet the person who’s asked “happy birthday, how are you?” and responds, “i have been obsessed with the fact that, turning 30, my first suicide attempt was 17 years ago” is not going to be the most popular person at the party.
our culture demands we be fake.
anything real is scorned.
we love artificial! we love unnatural!
women are not hairless, yet the reality of women having hair disgusts us. we demand that women shave, tweeze, wax. we demand this fantasy, this collective delusion.
men do not exist in a vacuum without emotion, yet they are expected to bottle everything up, and put on a drag act of masculinity. that’s what’s expected. we demand the fantasy of the their unassailable strength.
every part of our culture rewards bullshitting. how many women would sleep with a man who approached them and said, “please have sex with me”? even women like me who are aware that it is a game are turned off by this unwillingness to follow absurd and manipulative social convention.
“rudeness” is often someone being honest or real in a socially unacceptable way.
when someone asks you how you are, your culture forbids you from honesty. you’re not supposed to say, “i am worried about my parents’ mortality.” you are not supposed to say, “i feel i haven’t accomplished enough by age 30.” you’re not supposed to say, “youth is currency and i’m growing poor.” & you’re definitely not supposed to say, “i’m extremely alone, i have no community, i think my sadness is actually a deep mental illness that is spiraling out of my control and i have nowhere to turn, i have alienated nearly every one of my friends, and i’m constantly contemplating whether or not my consciousness has a right to life.”
so i didn’t say, “i am so depressed. i want a hug.”
i said, hi. i said, how are you doing. i said, you look great.
i said, thank you for coming to my 30th birthday party.
ha-ppy bir-thday to me.
it sounds like a silly question, right?
i know it doesn’t make any sense.
as though it’s wrong to be happy in a world where [whatever thing depresses you the most – colonialism, drone strikes of children, institutionalized racism, hunger, name your own!] is the norm.
and i am implicated in some sense because, as an american, my tax dollars fund wars even if i don’t want those wars.
the suicidal voice in my head always reminds me that one less consumer is one less drain of resources.
the me voice has to chime in and remind me that it is so stupidly brutally insanely important for people like us to exist. we all know this world needs our sensitivity.
but living in a world like this can be too much. too much to handle.
i have been told that when people take joy in something that doesn’t feed into the systems that want to destroy us, we are participating in a revolutionary act. sometimes i think, yes, sure, that feels nice, but i also think, tell that to people whose lives have been destroyed by these systems. tell them, don’t worry about starving; we are having a potluck to celebrate our lives so we don’t get depressed that you are starving to death and in this way, we are helping you. it is absurd. it is funny. and yet, we have to enjoy ourselves, or we will never be able to survive.
but we all know there is nothing we can do, in a global sense. whatever we do to make ourselves feel better about the shitty frustrating state of the world we live in – we all know it isn’t helping.
this is what frees me.
because there is no right answer – no best thing we can do to help every issue that makes us cry – no way to help everyone we love who is in pain – the only thing we can do is be really fucking good at being who we are. which is easy, because our people are naturally a crazy brilliant creative flowering beautiful tangle of dream shit. and sure, it sucks a lot because people do not help us remember how our people are the most important fucking people on earth because we are completely magickal – all of us crazies. look at the writers of symphonies, the tenders of gardens. the mad scientists, the artists who create things that nourish people and make it easier to be them. nutjobs are the ones who innovate and explore. we are poets. we are necessary.
but then again, isn’t it silly to think we can change the planet with our “trying to just sort of be nice to one another and pretend injustice isn’t alive” delusion, everyone’s nose is in their smart phone 24 hours a day, irreparable damage has occurred-
how depressed is too depressed about this frustrating world?
i don’t have an answer.
i found one today, from maya angelou:
if you’re not angry, you’re either a stone, or you’re too sick to be angry. you should be angry… but you must not be bitter. bitterness is like cancer. it eats upon the host. it doesn’t do anything to the object of its displeasure. so you said angry? yes. you write it. you paint it. you dance it. you march it. you vote it. you do everything about it. you talk it. never stop talking it.
i have hated summers my whole life.
i’ve always chalked it up to the obvious – “i guess i have a hard time handling the heat”
but recently i read something that clarified everything for me.
they said something to this effect:
during the winter, everything is dreary and everyone is miserable and you don’t feel so out of place.
but everyone is outside having fun during the summer. you are exposed to so many peoples’ unfettered happiness. and it reminds you of everything you don’t have. everyone is laughing, smiling, happy, eating ice cream and happy, or riding a motorcycle and happy, or just sitting on their porch happily sipping a cold drink. and you just think, fuck you and your stupid happiness. fuck the couples in love, smiling at each other. fuck that woman and her beatific smile. fuck the peaceful and contented baby she is holding. fuck everyone who is happy and enjoying the beautiful weather. why do you get to be happy?
summer reminds me that i am not like everyone else.
on one hand, i am rational, and i know what you mean when you say, “don’t be so depressed! choose happiness instead!”
you mean, “it is possible to work oneself into a panic. it is possible to breathe deeply and lessen the panic.”
you don’t mean to come off like an insufferable know-it-all, like someone who is saying, “if i were you, i wouldn’t suffer like you do. you’re being you wrong.”
but that’s what it sounds like when you tell me to “choose happiness”
when you ask me if i have ever tried meditation
do you expect me to say, “no, actually, i have never fucking heard of meditation or yoga before”?
i have found a great solace and comfort in yoga and meditation and, yes, simple breathing and meditation exercises can alleviate some of the pain of living with deep anxiety and depression.
but for anyone reading this who has never suffered a lifetime of tortured suicidal ideation, who has never fought a constant urge to hurt themselves: just think about how condescending you sound when you try to “help” your bright and creative friends with advice like “become happy somehow”.
when i confide in you that i am hurting, that i am hopeless, that i feel like a piece of fucking discarded garbage, there are a lot of things you can say. you can say an infinite combination of things. you don’t have to say that you understand. you don’t have to say that i am not garbage. you can say whatever you want. or not say anything at all.
just do not tell me i should choose happiness.
do not ever tell someone who is suffering that they should simply stop. you would never tell someone with cancer to stop making themselves sick. your friend who is constantly upset is not choosing unhappiness. they almost definitely wish they were like you – someone who could do yoga and suddenly stop being depressed.
i am not one of these dsm people who desperately tries to draw a divide between “real mental illness” and a typical depressive episode experienced by your average everyday typically-not-sad-dude. however, i think there is something to appreciate in the expertise of someone who has contemplated suicide approximately 4,000 times and survived it. particularly when that person seems fairly worldly…
…you can pretty much guarantee that person has heard that they should stop that choosing to suffer.
yeah, come on, guys. just stop trying to kill yourself. just stop hearing voices. just stop allowing the malaria microbe to reproduce in your bloodstream. just stop allowing your cells to mutate and become affected by a carcinogenic environment – what, do you want cancer? well, then! just quit having it.
again, i am not saying that we as those who suffer should just give into our illnesses and stay in bed every day. i am not saying there is no relief. there is relief. i still fight. you still fight, too – even if you’re in bed all day! surviving is fighting, and you are winning. me, too. & tomorrow is another day. i try to do what seems to help, and i try to avoid what seems to make me worse. this brings relief. sometimes it is worse, and sometimes i can help make it better. but there is no cure-all, no panacea, no now-i’m-well.
studies do show that the vast majority of people who seek “professional help” for a depressive episode experience complete or partial recovery within 12 months. those of us who have suffered for ten, twenty, fifty years – we sometimes experience flux and feel even “well” for a while. many of us experience drastic flux and “well” feels magickal, intense, brilliantly well, finally well, perfectly well. for a while.
for a while.
until it feels that same old way again – that nobody cares feeling.
and i spend hours, which becomes days, which becomes weeks, and months, and years, and chunks of decades dedicated to reminding myself, “fuck off with that. people love you. people appreciate you. people like you.”
so to hear you suggest that i should choose happiness means you think i am choosing depression. it means you think i deserve this, in some sense, because i could easily avoid it.
we the sad people of this earth? many of us attempt every single fucking day to not dwell. to breathe. to focus on the good. whatever the fuck shallow suggestion you have, we have tried it all. and plenty you never heard of. herbs, most of us, and medications, and therapies and hospitalizations and “positive thinking” and changing diet and sleep and working and not working and talking about it and not talking about it and magick and everything you never even considered trying because you never had ten, twenty, thirty years to wish you were well.
do not, please, please do not tell your suicidal, your depressed, your bipolar, your anxious, or any of your fabulous mad friends what will fix them.
we are not children who have not yet learned how to transcend small defeats. we fucking know what meditation is. we are suffering, and our overdoses and panic attacks are symptoms. they are symptoms of a sick, fucked-up culture founded on oppression and dishonesty and imperialism and colonialism with no respect for women or queers or crazies or children or poor people . if you want to help us heal, then you will have to ask how.
if someone tells you, “i am sad,” tell them, “i like you,” or ask them, “would you like a hug?” or ask them “can i help?” or ask them, “why are you sad?” – do not tell them that they should choose not to be depressed.