Orion's picture

    Coming Out About Mental Illness

    It takes alot to come out with acceptance that one has mental difficulties. My brain is not oriented quite the way a normal man's should. My behavior is erratic and my interest in things tends to be a mix of the obsessive and depressive.

    Given all that, it's not as bad as it could be. I try to keep the darkness and obsessiveness under control and given the right situation, I do all right. The thing about mental illness is that the mentally ill don't often fit in to a neat "box." There is a degree of mental illness - significant people like Frank Sinatra and Winston Churchill dealt with their share of it.

     I got diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome, as did Adam Lanza. I am fairly functional though and have only been dysfunctional in situations that were built that way. I am socially awkward but not really that much - when a parent knows their child isn't quite "right," any diagnosis will stick.

    Whatever the cause, all of the perpetrators of massacres - Cho, Holmes or this most recent guy - had diagnosis of various mental illnesses. Cho had "selective mutism" (whatever the hell that is). Lanza had Asperger's syndrome. They may not have actually fit in to any of those - their parents just knew something wasn't quite right. As I pointed out before, there is a huge degree of mental illness - the Sinatra variety (his wife had several abortions after saying his behavior was not conducive to a sane living environment) is much less pronounced than the horror you see with these mass shooters.

    That this horror keeps happening again and again does pretty obviously show that the way we approach mental illness needs to change. Simply "going back" to the old school of mental institutions isn't really a good idea, in my view. Those places were done away with for a reason - I believe one of Maiello's threads went in to the quality of some being so bad that the public jumped in with the idea of doing away with them. The current pharmacology way may not be quite that good either, as I can attest.

    What may be a good idea would be to engage mental illness right out in the open. It is still hush-hush - people talk of schizophrenia or autism the way old folks would talk about someone who is black - as if they can only admit its existence in very hushed tones. (If we could accept blackness enough to elect a black president, we can learn to talk about mental illness overtly. We have certainly already had mentally ill presidents.) With disclosure about mental illness, people would better know what to look for in potentially violent students and how to deal with it.

    It wouldn't solve the problem but I think it'd be a good step. I've never seen this much talk about mental illness publicly in my life. It's a really uncomfortable topic but alot in this world is uncomfortable - the discomfort doesn't make it go away.



    Thanks. You were brave to write this. I know that therapists are a mixed bag, as is true of all other professions from street cleaners to bishops. But I hope you have been able to find a sensible one. If not,keep looking. And good luck. .

    You raise an important point about not trying to go back in time here.  We're better off without many of the mental institutions that have been shuttered.  We also have to stop using "mental illness" as an easy answer to events that we otherwise can't (or don't want to) explain.  We're stigmatizing people needlessly.

    When gun owners defend themselves they point out that spree shooters and child killers are outliers.  The vast majority of gun owners, they tell us (correctly) are law abiding and not out to hurt anyone.

    And this is also true of the vast, vast majority of people who have been diagnosed with this or that mental illness.  We can't allow ourselves t basically criminalize the human condition because ain't none of us are "normal."

    I agree that we need to start treating mental illness as a 'health' issue and remove that taboo from it.  This is the only way we can get more research, evolution, and better qualified people to engage and support growth in better diagnosing and treating mental illness.

    The field of psychology will not evolve if we keep acting as if mental illness is all about a permanent disability... we are paying a price in so many ways by giving a blind eye to this aspect of human life and that will never result in a healthy society.

    I just had a thought to look at whether Britain does any better and came across this:



    Orion, I recognized some of your past themes reading this, thought you might be interested in case you haven't seen it.

    Wow, aa, that is a fascinating piece and a good find. It rings true.

    One thing about kids is that they're generally smart enough to know deep down that their judgment isn't yet mature, so how the adults around them behave and think about things is actually more important than how they themselves think and feel about things. This is why some kids can be very dark, and yet come through it if they have people around them who let them know that while the feelings of depression may be real, the world is a bigger and happier place than the one they see. Hence the writer's conclusion that his mom's love was larger than his anger.

    We have not talked too much here at Dag about the impact of compassionate, reasonable, caring adults on impressionable young minds, or by extension, the reverse. I suspect that Nancy Lanza's focus on her own  dark perceptions of the world didn't do her son any favors, while this mother's attitude was very helpful.

    At my daughter's school they spent the week doing a very professional job of shedding grief, focusing on the positive, and reassuring kids that in spite of the very small statistical possibility of something terrible happening, they are safe in every way that counts, and bathed in the love of those around them. I believe that was better for our children's future than looking at a couple of armed guards every morning could have been.

    I've been debating what to do with this piece. It's courageous and thought-provoking, so I'm tempted to put it on the front page. On the other hand, I worry that you might come to regret it. I know that you're looking for work, and I worry that some future potential employer might come across it and pass judgment. On the other, other hand, that proves the point you're trying to make--that we don't talk mental illness. One of the well-intentioned reasons for that is a fear of stigmatizing people.

    So that leaves me nowhere in particular, but I still have a nagging feeling that you may one day wish you hadn't published this.

    Mike I made several edits that make things much less about me. Go ahead and spotlight it. Cheers!

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