Beth Mann's Blog

Beth's Urban Tales of Wonder and Decay

Beth Mann

Beth Mann
Location
Long Beach Island, New Jersey, USA
Birthday
November 11
Title
Presidente
Company
Hot Buttered Media
Bio
I'm a writer and creative consultant. I have years of experimental comedy and strange theater under my belt. I surf. I cook. I love wine, men and song. And puppies. I effin' love puppies.

APRIL 7, 2013 10:12AM

You and your Dumb Mental Illness

Rate: 44 Flag

Let's say I had a highly communicable disease. How about we call it mondocrazyitis. This mondocrazyitis of mine was so contagious that if you stood in a room with me, you might catch it. Even talking to me on the phone left you vulnerable to my cooties.

Yet you see me out in the world every day, as sick as a dog, spreading my mondocrazyitis to everyone I meet. You'd be pretty mad, right? You'd think I was careless, selfish and just plain dangerous.

Yet every day it seems I encounter another sicko of the mental variety whose never even have an inkling of a compulsion to treat their mental illness. And every day, people like me are unwilling recipients to their free-floating contagions.

But, you argue, there are tons of people on psychiatric meds. Too many perhaps. But guess who are taking them? People with a modicum of awareness that they have a problem! The rest of the mad cows continue to run amok.

It's amazing in this day and age that people are still so resistant to psychiatric help of any kind. And when the suggestion is presented to them, its often met with a certain haughty arrogance:

"Who me? Nah, I don't see shrinks. I don't have a problem. It's [fill in the blank] that has the problem. Sure my childhood was deeply troubled but I don't see what that has to do with the fact that I have a knife in your back right now."

Let me present a few more examples.

The Flaming Co-dependent. She has been in a highly dysfunctional relationship for years with a verbally abusive, alcoholic partner. She constantly bemoans his latest boozy slip-up. Her work, health and friendships are directly affected. When you're in need, she's a walking zombie, barely able to utter a word. And when she does it’s about him. You suggest Alanon (it's friggin' free!), therapy, even a goddamn book on co-dependency, but noooooo....she won't lift a finger, except to send him another “I love you anyway, baby” text.

The Boozy McPherson. Listen, drinking is great. Big fan of it. But I think we all have a vague idea when we've crossed the line. The typical stuff is affected: your job, your relationship, your ability to walk in a straight line for Joe Cop. "I don't do 12-step programs" I've heard in the past. Really, what do you do then? Drink yourself a solution? If you're so beyond a free program that's worked for decades, then pray tell, what's your alternative? Another stiff martini?

The Manic Panic. A ton of these chataholics out there. Whether its untreated bi-polar or another type of neuroses run horribly amok, these revved-up talking machines wouldn't know the word "listen" if you rammed it in their ear. Generally, as a rule of thumb, if you're doing more than 90% of the talking at any given time or knowingly repeating a protracted story to some poor sap of a listener, you've got a problem.  And you're exhausting the rest of us.

The Deflated Narcissist. This is the “whoa is me” guy who bears the weight of the world on his shoulder. He’s depressed beyond belief but he’d much rather tell you how shitty he feels than do one thing about it. If you tell him about the stalker that’s harassing you, it’s met with “At least someone is paying attention to you.” They rely entirely upon the world feeling sorry for their poor lot in life. Psychiatric help would only interfere with their lifelong pity party.

The Caustic Couple Complex. “We’re staying together for the kids, man.” What? Modeling a horrible relationship so they can experience the same when they grow up? If you’re in a toxic relationship, you have very few options. You either a. get therapy and hope it works or b. Get out! Go ahead…name any other option. Let a few more years go by, in silent torture, while every single person around you feels the wire-tight tension between the two of you? Yay! Good times for all! 

The Romantic Boomerang. If you're dating, you've probably encountered this broken basketcase. The more he likes you, the more he will unconsciously find a reason not to like you and fly off in the other direction. To add insult to injury, this person will make the other person feel riddled with inadequacies, which are conveniently used as an excuse to run. (Also known as the "But you Looked at Me Funny Syndrome.")

I've been in therapy on and off for years. Even on a paperthin budget. Does it work? Hell, I don't know! But I'm sure it beats zero self-examination, right? I’ve also read countless self-help and psychology books. I've meditated, written endlessly in journals and used my creative abilities (I'm even writing this as a form of therapy...hello!)

I've attended Alanon meetings (not because I was in a relationship with an alcoholic but because I was in an unhealthy relationship and couldn't get out of it). I was taught concepts like “boundaries” and “shifting the focus back to myself” with a nice group of people who supported me. It was enough to help me break free from a deadbeat relationship. And I'm not even a fan of 12-step programs. But as they clearly state at every meeting, "Take what you want and leave the rest." You don't even have to buy into the whole friggin' shebang.

So why are there are so many people beyond therapy of any kind? Is it that old shame factor from, what, a million years ago? Or is it plain arrogance? Lately when I run into someone who obviously has a psychological issue plaguing them, I can't help but get angry. Why do you think you're above the process I fought my whole life to get through? Do you think you can just beat it with a little "willpower"? Or don't you think you have a problem at all, Mr. Oblivious-to-the-Damage-you-Wreak?

Is it fun working on your mental health issues? No! It sucks. It also sucks finding a decent therapist, because they’re all nuts too. But you know what sucks more? Having a lifelong disease that affects others and which you consistently do nothing about. And guess what?  Untreated mental illness, just like other diseases, gets worse if untreated. It doesn’t fix itself. You don’t make it better with your magic Jedi power. It just gets worse.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m still crazy as a loon. I juggle my mental issues like a clown on crack. But it all comes down to awareness. I realize I have work to do, as a fellow human on this planet. I want to be happy. So I read that book or this article. I write in a journal or cry to a friend. (Crying, hello? One of the easiest—and cheapest—therapies that many men have totally foregone for some John Wayne reason), I exercise every day for my mental health. And I try, though it’s excruciatingly difficult at times, to examine my past and recognize the ways in which it still dictates my behavior today. Because it does, whether you want to believe it or not.

Don’t let your dumb mental illness affect your own happiness or the happiness of others. Do something—anything—to understand it better. It’s your job as a human. But if you choose to stay sick, get the mental equivalent of a Kleenex and cover your proverbial mouth please. 

 

 

kleenex

 

 

 

 

Your tags:

TIP:

Enter the amount, and click "Tip" to submit!
Recipient's email address:
Personal message (optional):

Your email address:

Comments

Type your comment below:
Wow. Outstanding writing. Outstanding subject matter.

Rated a zillion times over.

(are you back in Christie-ville? Or still out west?)
Christieville...classic. I'm stealing that one.

Yes, just got back last week. Settling in, lots of work to do but moving forward slowly. Hope all is well for you. Weird being back here.
Stealing the juggling like a clown on crack part.. haha.
Very good points here, all. Basically, either at least work on your issues or don't let the bloody aftermath of NOT doing so spill onto me, because it IS all about ME (me Beth Mann not no you.. I am the undeflated narcissist).
Your staying together for the kids example strikes me right in the face... yeah.. too.
Writing therapy works. It's my little own self-help deal too. Last thing I want to condone is more people on experimental (at best) mental health drugs, but hey, if you're really that far out wacky, then Christ man.. give the drugs a try. Do something. Anything. Or go away.
Like your new avatar, Trig! And thanks for the feedback. Still some Open Salon community left, I see.
Yes Yes Yes. Thank you for writing this. So many mental health illnesses need treatment. Cooperate and give a dam about what you are doing to the people around you. Cover your mouth when you sneeze!!!!
Yes. I'll echo Joisey's rating on the writing.

Since I've had bouts of depression, I know there are two options: 1) Deal with it; 2) Don't deal with it. The first one may not help, but the second one definitely doesn't. Not dealing with it is daily agony for the people you live with,

I know a few people I could send this to, but they wouldn't realize it's about them.
"Is it that old shame factor from, what, a million years ago?"

It is and the shame lives on. I had a moment of very painful shame when I saw your title which deepened as I read your post. I did everything in my power not to cause so much suffering and annoyance to those I loved and then I tried to get rid of me to spare us all.

I took care to write very carefully and clearly about exactly what it's like in a recent post I did. From the comments it appears it was well written. Partly to help others understand, partly so that have a loved one commit suicide can forgive the sufferer. Hopefully people can forgive the suicides. Sometimes it's too hard to not let it out and they just have to go. This is hard for me to write, my hands are shaking and I don't want to reread my comments for errors so if it's poorly written please forgive me. Rated.

http://open.salon.com/blog/lheure_bleue/2013/03/16/failing_at_suicide_or_living_with_mental_illness
Good post -

But I had a lousy experience with alanon personally...
Mellow!
When you fall off the horse, don't get trampled by the herd!
Ah Myriad, but you had an EXPERIENCE with Alanon...my point in this piece, at least I hope, is to address those who don't feel its their job to even try, in any regard. Like they're above mental health help when they clearly need it.

I mean, I can't tell you how many shitty therapists I've had. Oy.

A l'Heure, I get the injustice of people blaming you for your mental illness and having to feel entirely too responsible for the ways in which it affects others. As someone who deals with depression, I completely understand that frustration.

I hope you see that the topic of my piece is about a certain irresponsibility of people who have never even touched upon the idea that they have a mental illness. Oblivion or denial, where no work is done. Almost the flip side of your piece. Because what you wrote about, and I understand, is a VERY painful thing which I've endured many times (less at this point in my life because if someone makes me feel like a burden because of my problems, I walk away more readily).
J.P., if you fall off the horse and then lie there complacently, hoping all of the other horses jump over you, then yes, you may get trampled by the herd!
Psychiatrists and therapists have high suicide rates. Most of them are very screwy. I think the world needs less therapy, not more. Pyschobabble has infiltrated the world, and it seems, to me, to be making people really callous and really dependent on the words of those who don't know what they are talking about. You are very intelligent, and can figure it out without so much reverence for the DSM. I now feel as if I'm one of those manic freaks who is talking too much, but hey I listen too.
I am thriving off my own dumb mental illness.
I am thriving off my own dumb mental illness.
My experience was with military shrinks who's main goal was to blame the victim, i.e. me, and the military machine that had a mole in the AA group they wanted me to attend. It took me decades to get to where I was willing to trust a therapist, I refuse to see a doctor of psychiatry to this day, and I still shudder when I think of that AA group.

I guess my point is, you can't tell by looking whether or not someone has tried to get help and just been damaged more.
BTW I am so glad to see you back here and writing. Please do not stay away so long. Your work is the writing I always look forward to seeing.

I take it you braved all those storms.

I was truly scared for you when you stayed in your house during that horrible hurricane
Super subject, Beth, and your light hand delivers your message smart sting. The types have me giggling!! haha. Brilliant!
The metaphor I use: I work on my vehicle so I can keep on going down the road. I TRY to stay out of the ruts on the side...sometimes I'm not paying attention and get a wheel stuck. Just as you said though, when you become aware through introspection and learning, you manage to keep moving forward without crashing into others.

Bravo, welcome back. r~~
Beth! Great piece! I have a sister that desperately needs help in some form. Whatever works I imagine would be the goal. Yet, she doesn't think she has a problem so help, to her, is not an option. I'm not sure if she just doesn't realize she's ill or if she does know and hates to admit it's her but it's everyone else.
Heh...
headed out.
Nothing but ordinary today.
No drama, no biz.
Run a shovel, light a fire, play some slide guitar nice and slow at the end of the day.
None of the rest ever worked for me.
hear, hear, my friend. it's certainly sad that people with serious mental illness (or disorders or conditions or whatever term fits) are the way they are - no less sad than a person who has a chronic physical condition that means a difficult daily life. but these things are treatable, same as bulging discs and tendonitis. i've seen a shrink for years to better learn how to live happily and get along with people; whatever my underlying issues are, that's really the point, isn't it? what's nasty about the internet is that lots of folks with significant psychological problems find a willing audience of 'friends' who have never met them but who believe their tales of woe and persecution and tell them to fight on instead of urging them to get help. it's like a big old ocean full of enablers. yikes. good to see you writing, beth. hope the work in jersey gets easier soon. xo
This is hands-down the best, the BEST assessment of mental illness and its foibles that I have EVER read. The wonderful thing about it is that while it states certain inalienable truths, it states them with incredible humor and panache. Thank you so much - I needed to read this today.
@femmeforte:"what's nasty about the internet is that lots of folks with significant psychological problems find a willing audience of 'friends' who have never met them but who believe their tales of woe and persecution and tell them to fight on instead of urging them to get help"
What is nasty about some people is their desire to label everyone as mentally sick , and in need of help.They do so without evidence. They think it is quaint to be so callous. Dumb Dumbs who talk of "issues" and listen to Dr. Drew for wisdom. Lots of malicious characters pretending to be tough lovers. Yuck.
@fernsy,

gosh, do you think all scammin' on the Internet is about getting money out of an unsuspecting victim?

I think femme forte's statement about enablers is legit, same way as there are legit victims as well.

Room for both ... caution for both.
I publicly masturbate like a clown on crack (give me a break...I'm seeing someone, but it's early).
@fernsy - crazy people are easy to spot - they're smart and analytical while also being delusional, which is why you can't lie to a crazy person. They'll catch you in your lie, and delve further into their delusion.

Everyone's got issues. Issues don't make you crazy.
Joisey: Don't understand your question about scamming on the internet. From my perspective, there is a breed of troll that masquerades as a non nonsense truth teller. This type seems to sway many to think that they are in the presence of a "strong character" whose ridicule of others, is some honesty.
I got cut off and it posted by accident. Yeah, there is room for both. Effort should be made to not be abusive to those with genuine beefs. There are fakers and freaks on the internet, but some are not.
Malcolm: um... I can't disagree.
My bro in law needs help, but he'll never seek it. Instead he'll destroy my sister and her family. Its a tough scene under that roof.

On the flip side, when my kids were young and their dad got remarried, they both went off the deep end and resulted in two depressed kids in therapy and on medication. First we tried talk therapy, then the docs wanted to medicate them with anti depressants. My take on all of this was that what I really needed to do was learn how to parent depressed, traumatized by divorce, kids and learn how to reach them. That I was a better "therapist" for my kids than the hired shrinks were. The therapists kind of drove me crazy and made me feel even more over protective of my kids. I think they were annoyed by my constant questions. At one point I was told I had trust issues. Hello, these are my kids, not yours. I never felt like they were partnering with me which I think was a huge oversight. I kept them in therapy for a shorter period of time than the doctors thought I should have, (still amounting to years) but ultimately, they both turned out great.
Hey all, good to see your shining faces and witty comments once again. Back at the Jersey shore and getting life normalized slowly.

As for therapy or AA, really, not a huge fan of both. Though I think a good therapist can make a big difference. I appreciate modalities such as EMDR. I like the idea of bypassing the chatting mind and going to the subconscious, where the crap is stored. I also like the simplicity of cognitive behavioral psychology, which is often a good fit for people who don't like the idea of therapy, because there's something practical and directly applicable about it.

So no, bad or even mediocre therapy isn't worth it. But deciding on *something" is key. I would have liked to have seen a good friend of mine stuck in seriously effed up relationship just READ about co-dependency. Hell, even in a pamphlet.

Ultimately, therapy is by your design. But just as we tend to our physical health, its as important to treat your mental health.

Oh Open Salon...look at you, still here!
I'm of the brooding-morose-keep-to-myself type of mental infirmity. That way I don't bother others, except that I eat all the free pizza-flavored goldfish in bars.
I have spent almost all of my adult life working with people suffering from chronic mental illnesses, so of course i have strong feelings on this subject. frankly if the "just do it" solution were even remotely effective i would have (happily) had to find a completely different career due to lack of clients.

what you describe are symptoms, not illness; the simplistic, exterior view that we all see of mental illness. what lies beneath the surface, what many do not see are the additional symptoms that are the reason some do not seek help. the symptoms that have caused the deterioration of normal social functioning. these symptoms are often much more painful and crippling.

why don't some people seek help? many many reasons.

anosognosia - a deficit of self-awareness, a clinical lack of insight into their disorder. they believe they're 'fine' and often see those who offer help as 'out to get them' or as having some other motive.

fear - the fear of being some sort of medicated zombie, the fear of stigma, the fear making yourself vulnerable through therapy. not everyone has been blessed with the tools necessary to overcome those fears.

there is also the fact that you are asking a person who may already be overwhelmed with their symptoms to now add additional stressors to an already difficult life. they may already be doing everything they can just to survive and cannot imagine adding something on top of that... even seeking help. if they're already making bad decisions, its hard to expect them to suddenly switcheroo and make a good one on the subject of seeking help. sometimes its hard to see the forest for the trees.

having seen beneath the veil, having seen the true pain and fear that lies beneath these obvious, public symptoms of a disease, i find myself feeling compassion, and not so much annoyance and judgement. and (at the risk of sounding judgmental myself) i would suggest that if someone is feeling annoyed or judgmental about people in their lives who exhibit these types of symptoms, perhaps their own boundaries need some work.
Not that many years ago, researchers discovered that people with mental illness had the ability to help each other. Many cities form social centers for the outpatient community, and the data is very encouraging. I wrote about the experience in my own blog: "Gewgaws and Zen Koans". So... if you find that you are in full panic mode, it might be just the ticket to find another panicky person, and scream together!
A funny post about a sad situation. Fortunately, mental problems aren’t truly contagious. It is possible to say gesundheit, wish someone well, then move on.

If someone refuses to seek professional help, it may not be out of arrogance or stupidity, but that they view their world as normal, i.e. nobody is really happy, everyone is wounded. They are unable to see that this is not true, because they haven’t spent time with people who live a different sort of reality. Those who are content seem dull and uninteresting, or in denial. People seek therapy, self-help, restorative practices, because they recognize that a contented life is a possibility, know that others have it, and believe that they can too.

This sounds like a harsh observation, but those who will not seek professional help to change their situations seem content in their discontent. There are benefits: self definition and identity in woundedness can be compelling. Easy explanations, e.g. I’m like this because my mother was an alcoholic, or my brain doesn’t make enough serotonin absolve responsibility. These factors are real. Yet there is always opportunity for change. If not reached for now, opportunity arises again, in the next moment and the next. Willingness to change requires practice, is fraught with failure and back-sliding, must be constantly re-negotiated, and is terribly hard to keep on the table.

That you wrote this post, and that I wrote this comment, indicates that we both on occasion, find our pathways blocked by various someones with disabled views, despite knowing how to ease our way around without purchase. They say that there is no one quite as annoyed by cigarette smoke as a former smoker. Seventeen years now for me. You?

Glad you’re back!
Everyone is fucked up. There are those who manifest their issues by being self-destructive, and those who manifest them by being destructive to others.

I much prefer the former.
"Crazy as a loon" yep that's me! I know so many folks that would read this and shake their heads thinking poor sad people...when it is really written about them. I agree wholeheartedly...
Odd how I never considered the effects of undiagnosed mental illness as a contagion, but I think you're on to something here. I'm guessing here and it's just my subjective opinion, but in my experience I see that on any given day about 35-55% of the people I encounter are undiagnosed, untreated neurotics and another 5-10% are borderline psychotic. So if there are all these crazy people out there in the world, in massive denial and we are by our nature social animals; how can that not effect the mental health of the entire population of hairless monkeys? R&L ;-)
"As for therapy or AA, really, not a huge fan of both. Though I think a good therapist can make a big difference. I appreciate modalities such as EMDR. I like the idea of bypassing the chatting mind and going to the subconscious, where the crap is stored. I also like the simplicity of cognitive behavioral psychology, which is often a good fit for people who don't like the idea of therapy, because there's something practical and directly applicable about it."

Absolutely, Beth.

To which I would add: Trauma Releasing Exercises developed by David Berceli ( http://traumaprevention.com/2009/12/31/what-is-tre/)

Also: Landmark Education. I'd suggest doing more than the Forum, preferably their entire Curriculum for Living, the most effective way to actually experience the machinery of being human at work, access the parts that result in behavior it would be preferable not to have and have very definite structures available to modify, that I have ever encountered. I say that after a lifetime of realizing there has to be a better way to access rational behavior and I'd like to have it.

The excellent book on how the subconscious is programmed and how to reprogram it: What to Say When You Talk to Yourself by Shad Helmsetter. If nothing else, read Chapter 8, the best breakdown of why people do the things they do (over and over) I've ever seen, in just a few pages.

Of course, all of this in in consideration that certain physical structures or chemical imbalances in anyone may need to be brought closer to balance, for them to reasonably be able to follow a better path. Besides pharmaceutical products, it's also been shown that in some cases and to some degree, learning to act as if you are different, really can create new chemical balance and then, different, will be what it seems right to be.

Finally, as Helmsetter says in his book, and Landmark emphasizes all the time, for things to change you have to do the work. And that means you have to do it, especially when it seems (because who you think you are will resist all efforts to change) it's not going to work. Because if you do, one day you will realize you are doing things differently without any effort to do so and that your life is working better, better than you could have every imagined it could be. Really.

And to anyone who may think that the various modalities, from therapy to all of the things others here have mentioned, are needless and bad, please tell everyone you meet that as soon as possible, so that they may have the ability to decide whom they wish to associate and build relationships with before finding that out.

I would like to thank you in advance, of our possible, certain to be very momentary, association.
So right on. What happens to someone with diabetes who doesn't take his or her insulin or pills? Yeah, we all know. Why doesn't this translate to illnesses of the mental variety?
It's a little like brushing your teeth or washing your privates.
Hygiene is hygiene. Mental flossing, if you will. People will begin begin inching away from you, crossing the street, changing seats and dodging into the restroom if you neglect your hygiene.

"I've been in therapy on and off for years. Even on a paperthin budget. Does it work? Hell, I don't know! But I'm sure it beats zero self-examination". Good swing Beth. You hit the bell here.
Lorianne, it sounds like you misunderstood my piece on several levels, including the overall semi-satirical tone it. I never advocated, "just do it" in regards to making mental issues disappear. I *did* advocate *responsibility* for your mental health.

You said you'd be out of business, but if you understood what I was saying, it would be just the opposite: you'd have tons of business if people were more responsible for consistently poor mental health.

But my piece isn't meant to be some in-depth psychiatric treatise on the topic, as I'm guessing you should know; it’s meant to be a tad tongue-in-cheek and came from an average onlooker's point of view, not Sigmund Freud's.

FWIW, it wouldn't be my boundaries that would need worked on. People with untreated mental illnesses infiltrate most of our lives, at any given time, and its not because our boundaries aren’t in place. And the recipients have the right to be annoyed by it, especially when that person does nothing for years and years. That seems like a healthy response, no? Don’t you ever deal with people who are simply frustrated by another’s sickness? Do you only advocate compassion, never normal, healthy anger? What about compassion for the frustrated person?

Eh, this is what I DON'T miss about OS; readers taking these pieces too seriously instead of simply looking at the writing. I mean, come on, who the hell wants to spend all of this time defending a point of view that I have the right to creatively express? THAT'S judgmental, in my opinion. And its what's kept me away from here, these enmeshments and all-too-serious debate club mentality. Some of its great and I get what you're saying for the most part, but reign the haughtiness in just a bit...its just a piece I wrote, that's all. I might not feel the same way this afternoon.
Just Phyllis, asia rein and others who had bad psychiatric experiences, I hear you. And as I stated, the answer doesn't lie only in therapy or 12-step programs--both of which I can take serious issue with. But at the very least, a sick person should be in the *exploration* of some form of self-help.

I hold true to my analogy: if you're sick, its like a contagious illness; it has its effects on others. To let it run rampant seems lazy sometimes. (Though apparently many have a clinical issue whereby the have *no* kind of self-awareness.)

Steven Bridenbaugh, that sounds amazing. I was going to mention something about a special island where all of the like-minded crazies could go, just to bang into each other and have a sense of community.

Greenheron, glad to see you too. "Yet there is always opportunity for change." I think that's my ultimate point. And it IS a tremendous amount of work. I've put the hours in. (And I still smoke cigarettes when I feel like it! Rebel, I know.)

jmac, well put! "So if there are all these crazy people out there in the world, in massive denial and we are by our nature social animals; how can that not effect the mental health of the entire population of hairless monkeys?" Ha....

Samisiam, wonderful points. I'd like to read the Helmsetter book you mentioned. Will put it in my queue. Great to hear from you and thanks for our momentary association as well.

Gabby Abby and others, good to hear from you and thank you for your comments, even if we don't agree. Trying to see if OS is still a good fit for me. Guess I have to thicken my skin once again. Or not, we'll see.

Again, it's just writing. As I wrote in the piece, simply writing this was a form of therapy. It's not the end all, be all as to how I feel; its simply creative expression. Let's all leave some breathing room for it.
Just to clarify Beth: The "momentary association" comment refered to how I'd relate to people who think no one needs to work on mental health (sometimes I get way too dry and obtuse...).

As for you, you're the kind of person I seek to have ongoing associations with. People kind of like you, in case you hadn't noticed... ;)
interesting pov, thx for sharing. am stuck in expensive therapy hell myself since beginning of year. you have an excellent point but it would seem that something you might be learning in therapy is *tolerance* right? wink.... yeah, seriously though americans and frankly, the whole human race is screwed up. beam me up scotty, theres no intelligent life down here. ps reminds me of reality tv where its pretty much Dysfunctional Galore. oh and hey, cyberspace is even crazier at times. it would be interesting to compile a list of crazy bloggers and their blogs. pretty rampant. yikes! you talk about boundaries, hey, figuring out a way to evade these people is half the battle doncha think?
Our illnesses, our psychoses land on the people around us ..... I think some folks are painfully unaware of that fact, its like, "it's my head, not yours." Except that's wrong, their head screws up my head. Excellent writing by the way.
Excellence insights and writing. R.
The writing's first-rate, as always. Humorous, succinct and sharply observant; a delicious read from beginning to end.

But as I'm sure you know, when you write about a subject as serious and complicated as this, no matter how tongue-in-cheek, it becomes about more than just the writing. Almost everyone knows someone who's been touched by mental illness or they have themselves, so it's not surprising you're getting the type of comments you are. Also, Newtown and other incidents are still fresh in peoples' minds. It's hard to think about it sometimes without connecting it to tragedy.

This piece is more than creative expression; you're not only stating your opinion on dealing with mental illness, you're telling readers what to do, very specifically, in your last paragraph, i.e., "Do something—anything—to understand it better. It’s your job as a human." So it becomes persuasive as well.

From the comments I've read so far, it doesn't sound like anyone's picking this apart; rather they're analyzing it and adding their own takes - to me, the highest compliment you can receive here or anywhere. I love the different POVs that are generated by pieces like this and also the personal stories.

And now I'd like to add my own pet peeve. It has to do with using the term "crazy" when discussing mental illness. As in "crazy as a loon" (where did that come from anyway - are loons crazy?) or as I've seen in the comments. Crazy means deranged. You don't sound crazy to me. People who are deranged generally can't function and are often hospitalized. Most people who live with some type of mental illness are not crazy.

I guess I've fallen into the category of taking this too seriously but I've found when "crazy" is used even satirically alongside "mental illness" it subtly changes the message from mental illness being a common, treatable condition like diabetes, to something scarier and darker.

Love the post and the comments too.
Thanks for the perspective, Margaret. I appreciate it and agree for the most part. I just think as a rule, we should remember that we're reviewing writing first, not the material. It devolves too quickly into an opinionfest otherwise.

And yes, sometimes those exchanges can be fun and part of what OS is about. But I think I'll be more judicious about my participation the next time. It's not always fun for me. I want to write a creative piece from a certain POV and not defend it like its the gospel. It loses some joy for me when that happens too much. Just because I gave a line or two of very general instruction at the end doesn't change the tone of the piece, which is pretty clearly wry.

As for crazy, I hear you. Yet I kinda like crazy as a broad albeit incorrect descriptor. Mainly because I think we're all so terrified of *going* crazy or *appearing* crazy that its fun to allow it, break past it, even encourage it. As the pop singer says, "We're never gonna get by unless we go a little crazy."

I personally prefer lunacy because its tied in with the moon. "My lunacy's acting up again today."
Found this by accident in a moment of utterly panicked boredom (which is usually the only time I can be found here; that, or someone else points me to a worthy post).

Was clapping and nodding and smiling so much, those around me seemed to think that *I* might be in need of some special meds. Great piece of writing, and I happen to think that one of the biggest problems with blogging today is that it provides a ready-made audience for those who really ought to be seeking professional therapy.

I can't tell you how many posts I can find in a week that scream, "I NEED A JACKET THAT TIES IN THE BACK!", and not just here - there are tons of WP blogs that are obviously being posted by people who either have serious mental health issues or are consummate scammers.

I think, though that you need a few more categories in your post - I didn't see the one that would apply to me. ;-)

Rated. Nicely done.
This is brilliant. I can read your stuff all day.
I'm very happy to see you back and, as usual, in excellent form. The drawback to becoming more aware of your own mental issues (and God knows mine have dug in for a long fight against therapy and prescriptions) is that you become more aware of others's issues. Eventually you can only come to the conclusion that the world is crazy. And, yes, I'm using Maragret's definition - deranged. A conclusion that can trigger your own trip back down the rabbit hole.
Loved it; perfect summary in your last paragraph.
Oh, this is funny!
For me, it's that damned Deflated Narcissist. Notice the rainbow, would you? No, it was not produced just for you, you, you and no, it's not a reason to bemoan that your tie-dye shirt is just not as bright.
(and yes, there are definitely some old DN hippie types around here *still* wearing tie-dyes...)
That's a great honest piece Beth, and it's been recognized, so you ain't alone. Some of us are simply born with a "black hole" inside that we have to keep throwing everything that we can into it or it will consume us.
Trying to "do my job as a human." Never able to afford therapy but I have done 12-step (al-anon and ACOA.) Hoping I'm more of a blessing than a burden most of the time. I've certainly known plenty of folk who fit all the categories you describe.
a smart person i know posted this on FB earlier today. it *is* only about a person suffering from depression, not any of the other conditions/illnesses you mention, beth, but it's relevant. and funny. and helpful. and i will point out that #3 says: seek the help of a professional.

p.s. i'm hoping i typed that loooong link right and that it works

21 Tips to Keep Your Shit Together When You're Depressed
ok. i officially hate the way OS handles comments. the hot link won't work. to go to the site, copy and paste this URL:

http://www.diycouturier.com/post/47249603128/21-tips-to-keep-your-shit-together-when-youre
The sanest woman I've ever been with is the only one actually diagnosed as crazy. I think that speaks to your point.
Nice to see all the action on this. Good work.
"I just think as a rule, we should remember that we're reviewing writing first, not the material."

I wasn't aware of this.
[r] a good and amusing and sensible read, beth.

there is often a sophomoric period of the recovery process whereby people take other people's "recoveries" frequently and hungrily BEFORE they take their own. That expression "you can see a flea on someone else before you can see an elephant on yourself" always made me nod in agreement.

I fret over the "sociopaths" among us who don't have a capacity for conscience. And I want the people who have been made "learned helpless" from their childhood slings and arrows to recover so they won't be the victim of said sociopaths!

First step is to acknowledge how troubled one actually is and that is fighting a whole lot of denial shored up by E-G-O. Ego is a tough master. It drives us to be only capable of conditional self-love and because of that it is so hard to face down our real troubling defects because if we see them then the EGO will vilify us because it is incapable of unconditional love.

Self-honesty comes with self-compassion and working on unconditional self love. I think that is why the 12 step groups often help. Sometimes people have compassion for defect-admitting others sitting alongside them and that brings them around to cultivate self-compassion by identifying with their struggles of their imperfect but still lovable selves.

The Higher Power in 12 step meetings seems to be a super-parent to all members, offering UNCONDITIONAL love that many members did not enjoy from their parents, nor did they parents enjoy a lot maybe from their parents.

my two cents!

best, libby
ps sorry, I meant to say "inventories" not "recoveries" in paragraph two of my comment above. oops.
I would have commented earlier but, alas, OS was down yet again. And I was having trouble signing in when it was up.

Anyway, some quick responses:

Margaret, yes, I think so. The site is for writing not therapy. We are writers here and should address the writing first and foremost, regardless of what we think of the content.

I realize that that's not always the case...sometimes the subject matter resonates us with us so deeply, we forget about the writing. I don' think we should. Keeping a critical eye on the writing (again, not the content) keeps a certain level of professionalism to our endeavor.

Of course, content will be discussed--and on some levels, that's an indicator of good writing; the reader didn't notice the writing, it was so effective. But we should always give a nod to style, structure, clarity of point, etc. Again, it's a site for *writers*. The focus should always be on the writing.

libby, I'd like to write about sociopaths at some point. They are in their own category and one must always be on the look-out for those cold cats. They can wreak utter havoc and not bat an eye. And they're often hard to notice. They make a point of fitting in just so, then blowing up your world.

Your observations re: 12-step programs are spot on. There's something deeply therapeutic about accepting, even embracing, the defects of others, therefore allowing them in yourselves. Plus there's something that's very unique to group therapy, sharing with others, having others witness your pain...that's something that goes way back, when we lived in more communal/tribal communities. We don't have that anymore. We share pain with a friend or a therapist, but it never quite fits the shoes of sharing with a group. Witnessing. And again, I take issue with several aspects of 12-step programs...but *that* aspect, I respect deeply.

Sheila, thank you and its nice to be back. It was a little rough at first but perhaps I'm moving past it and ready to visit more frequently.

Yes, Cap'n, indeed it does.

femme, a lot of people really liked that piece. I'm glad its getting some attention. Good timing for it.

Eva, big supporter of Alanon for people who can't afford therapy. Its helped me a lot over the years. Certain aspects of it I return to over and over again.

Ben, indeed. Black hole recognized. And much has been done in my lifetime to understand it. And I'm nowhere close to it...but I'm still glad I work on it.

Justthinking, tie-dye is definitely being worn by OS members as we speak!

Thanks to others. More to say, but paid work is calling my name!
hi all here is an exceptionally good book on the subject by George Simon, an expert on the subj
character disturbance: the phenomenon of our age. he also has a great book called in sheeps clothing, highly recommend it. he is singlehandedly rewriting freudian therapy/psychology.
Thanks, vzn...just added them to my book list. I've heard of "In Sheep's Clothing."

Here's an interview:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kegc-NGwcEY
I swung back by to see if a good comment thread had developed on this because I thought it was a crazy good rant and enjoyed every minute I spent reading it. I completely agree that 'tone' gets lost sometimes and there are any number of people on any/every blog site that will just not *get* it. They don't have that bone. (the humorous). I hope you'll stick here Beth, but if you are posting elsewhere, I hope you'll leave the info here.
ps my twin brother died of schizoaffective disorder mixed with anorexia ~3yr ago. long story. maybe will tell it someday.
I didn't notice that you were gone because I just returned to the fold myself after a long absence.

Some quick comments:

Landmark? You've got to be kidding. Seriously. They're still around. Snake oil never goes out of style.

The reason it is so difficult to find a good therapist is that the good therapists quit early on, as soon as they realize they're part of the problem not part of the solution. That's what happened in my case.

In college, I had a close friend who wanted to become a psychiatrist to get free therapy. He said that having a therapist was like having a paid friend to whom you could say anything you wanted without having to be afraid of hurting your friend's feelings...and that, right there, is what's wrong with therapy, because the process itself actually encourages pathological behaviors.

Most talk therapists depend upon repeat business for their livelihoods, so they have don't have any incentive to achieve a cure, but a strong incentive to keep the relationship going. Most psychiatrists, on the other hand, are just drug pushers pushing the drugs of their choice upon their patients, which enables them to see large numbers of patients for very short visits. This means that they don't care when they lose patients because they are working on a volume approach rather than a value proposition.

The core problem in mental health is that we don't know what normal is, because there is no normal. All we have are descriptions of aberrant behavior in the field literature. There is no definition of what constitutes a normally organized socially effective personality profile because, even when a person outwardly manifests normal behavior, they an also be a seething cauldron of symptomatic conditions that are hidden under their superficial behavior.

That said, this is a beautiful piece of writing with an appreciable effect. Good.