Mental Health is a big topic of late. With the passing of Robin Williams and Carey Fisher to a current Mississippi bill that is slashing funding for mental health, or the overturning of a national bill denying individuals with severe mental health problems from purchasing guns; the topic of mental health is everywhere.
Robin Williams was battling depression and committed suicide two years ago this coming August. Though Carrie Fishers’ death was not mental health related, she was an advocate for mental health awareness. Her cremated ashes were put into a Prozac pill urn. It was one of her favourite possessions, this giant Prozac pill, and it was not unknown that she suffered from depression and bi-polar disorder.
Autistic spectrum disorders are being highlighted in television series and films including Parenthood, Snow Cake, Mary and Max, and Temple Grandin. Females are now being identified as falling into the Autistic Spectrum denoted as Asperger’s Syndrome, when it was previously thought that it was a male dominant syndrome.
There is a huge stigma with anything related to mental health, though people are trying to change that, to show it in a better light; a more real light. Crazy has never been seen as good and to see anyone who falls into the category of “crazy” or “not normal” is going to take a bit to change.
My own family is no stranger to “the crazy”. My mom was adopted. The woman who adopted her was a paranoid schizophrenic, as was her mother before her, and her grandmother. But her mother and grandmother were carted off to insane asylums and strapped to beds. I’m not certain if she ever visited her grandmother, but she did visit her mother and it upset her greatly to see her in such circumstances. The man my grandmother married never had her committed to an institution because he too had a family member confined to one and knew how horrible those places were.
Should she have been allowed to adopt children? No. But, in the mid-late forties it wasn’t an issue. If you grow up in a household with an undiagnosed and un-medicated paranoid schizophrenic, you yourself will not suddenly develop the disorder, but you will adopt things by learning them from your schizophrenic parent. You won’t have hallucinations, but you can certainly learn paranoia or withdrawing or may suffer from depression or anxiety because of a strained family life.
So certain behaviors and abuse that might not have been prevalent in the home except for my grandmothers condition, weasled their way into my mother and aunts way of thinking, which they in turn inflicted upon or taught to their own children. It’s a bit of a sticky wicket. Also, the stigma of being crazy certainly permeated.
“You don’t see a therapist because he’ll lock you away and never let you out.” “You don’t see a therapist because you’ll be strapped to a bed.” “Pills are bad.” “Therapists are bad.” “Crazy people are bad.” I’ve heard it all my life. I also heard that mental health issues aren’t real. Bi-polar, or manic-depressive disorder, “well everyone’s sad and happy.” “Depression is normal and if you’re sad then just make yourself be happy!” “ADHD? Everyone’s got that. Certainly all artists have that. This isn’t a disorder!”
Besides the fact that “therapists are evil”, I’ve also never seen one because they cost a lot of money. A lot of money we don’t have and insurance wouldn’t cover it because I don’t qualify for it now that I’m old enough to think that perhaps talking to someone might be beneficial.
I have personally known people who have seen a therapist and they never work out their issues. I’m not above believing that you can fix something overnight, but to be working on the exact same issue for seven years and there’s been no headway? Either you have a therapist who doesn’t know what they are doing and perhaps just wants a lot of money, or you aren’t ready to even look at that issue, much less fix it.
I’ve always personally known people who have gone into the mental health profession as therapists. These people are crazy. OK, perhaps they are not crazy and I should probably stop using that term, but these people haven’t worked out their own issues yet, so how do they expect to help other people… and in fact from their track records they aren’t really good at their jobs.
It’s not to say that the few people I’ve known on either side of the mental health fence are the absolute and finite word for therapy. I’m sure there are lovely therapists out there, who don’t have a lot of serious issues of their own and who actually know how to do their jobs properly. It’s the same with doctors I would think. There are doctors who only care about the money and doctors who are so consumed with their own arrogance that they’ll ship you out the door because there’s nothing they need to look up. Or doctors who have personal hang ups with certain types of people so their prejudice gets in the way of their job. But, not all medical doctors are these examples, though these examples certainly do exist.
I have debated however, should I find myself with insurance or money, if I would actually go to a therapist. I am undecided. Even if I decided that I would, I would never tell my family, because there’d be no support from them. But if I decided that I would, who would be a good person to choose? Does one just jump in and hope for the best; figure out if sessions are working for them and find another therapist if the first one isn’t cutting it? It is difficult to get away from the stigma either socially or familial-wise.
There are several reasons I would want to see a therapist. As a teenager, I was a cutter. I would become so emotionally distraught that I would cry and sort of go into catatonic crazy person mode and cut myself until I felt the need to stop; until I felt better. It was not uncommon for me to go into crazy, undecipherable yelling mode. This was not normal teenager angst. I also beat people up. People who bullied me to my breaking point. My breaking points would have me not really remembering that I beat them up.
I did stop cutting, but there have been times with I went into freak out mode into my twenties and thirties; lots of anger, lots of throwing things or screaming. The last event happened just a week ago, and I’ll not lie, it was scary. I haven’t hit that point in a while. I also don’t beat people up anymore. But I do retreat within myself a lot. Not finding joy in things, not wanting to be in the world or of the world. Crying, but mostly I’m just numb and don’t want anything to do with anymore. I fake it till I make it, but sometimes my heart just isn’t in it.
I don’t know if these things are normal, or if there is a problem. For all I know I could have a hormone imbalance… or it could be something else.
I know people say to never read up on diseases or disorders because one will become convinced that they have all the things. I do read up on things, but never convince myself that I have it. I can logically look at symptoms for something and say yes, no, I don’t know. Hell, I convinced myself out of gallbladder problems. I in fact did have a problem with my gallbladder, where it was twisted up on itself, and I needed emergency surgery for it.
The point is, I’m more likely to look at things objectively or convince myself out of it, than to convince myself that I have something. However, when I read items about the Autistic Spectrum or Asperger’s syndrome it’s hard to convince myself that these things aren’t me. There’s just too many things, almost like someone read my secret diary and then published it. It is weird. Am I on the Autistic Spectrum? I’m inclined to say yes, but I don’t say yes, unless someone who really knew about such matters were to concur.
I read an article recently about the scapegoat. That it’s undue stress on one particular member of a family. Someone who can’t live up to perceived expectations, who’s always pointed out, singled out, and never for anything good. I would definitely say I was the scapegoat of the family. Anyone would agree with that knowing my particulars, or people outside of my family, who have seen it first hand. Hell, if my sister were in a good mood, she would agree as well. However, my family for the most part wouldn’t agree with it. Even over the years when I’ve told my sister things that would happen to me, or how I’d been treated by our parents she wouldn’t believe me. Then one day she’d actually see it for herself a few times and suddenly she’d say, “You were right.”
So, perhaps the things that I go through are only because of what I have been through. Learned behaviors and undue stress from my family. Remove me from my family and would I be the same person? Or would I be a different person? But, I won’t really ever know unless I leave my family behind or see someone whose job it is to either detect hormonal imbalances in women or who knows the workings of the mind.
My father even told me, on Valentines Day, that I was socially retarded and didn’t understand how to live and work in the world. I honestly didn’t know if he was joking or not. He was not. I relayed it to my sister and her “expert” opinion is that I am emotionally and socially retarded, but that I do it for sympathy. It really hurt. It’s the same reason as when I’m sad, I don’t tell my family. Not anymore. Why I always try to muster a good face and pretend that I’m just peachy keen, which apparently I’m not very good at. But it’s because my family tells me I’m a sissy and I just need to get over being sad and to just learn to be happy.
I do have a hard time fitting in with society or being something other than what comes naturally to me. I feel that by her saying that I’m purposefully trying not to fit into society so that people will pity me is the same as when she says I should just get over being sad. I’ve tried my whole life to follow the beat of other people’s drummers, and it just doesn’t feel right. But following my own drummer ends up getting me mocked by my family as a ploy for sympathy?
I’m pretty sure I’m not acting for sympathy. It doesn’t feel like it, besides the fact that I really do suck at acting. I was in theatre and I was never cast for an acting position because I just didn’t have it in me to be believable as something that I wasn’t. Also this post is not a ploy for sympathy or even for people to shout out their opinions on matters. These are just things that have been swimming around in my head and genuinely do wonder about it. Also to discuss that there certainly is a stigma surrounding mental health.
Anyway, for the current moment, none of those are actual options; the leaving my family and so forth. So, I’ll just continue to muddle through life the best I can. Trying to feel sane when I don’t. Trying to feel normal when I don’t. Continuing to hide how I’m really feeling from my family. Trying to put on a happy face and be brave whether I feel it or not. And apparently these thoughts will continue to circle around in my head from time to time, like thoughts do. But they’ll be mixed with thoughts of kittens and cupcakes and me hoping it will rain along with some article on history or science that I’ve just read among many other things.