Thursday, April 29, 2004

A friend in need's a friend indeed, a friend who bleeds is better

When I was waiting for Mike to come out of his meeting on Monday, a friend of mine showed up in the uni cafe. I hadn't seen her in ages, so we had a good chat.
I had known her for quite some time, but I had no idea.
She is another member of the Depressed R Us club.

In the past months, so many many people I know have come out as depressives. Once I started talking about it, everyone did. It felt like everyone was desperate to talk about it and get the weight off their back, and just waiting for someone to make a start.
And this is the crazy thing. All those people did not seem at all like they were. Mon - hell, she's a fiery Spanish cat. I knew she once had an eating disorder... but somehow it seems to be a more "acceptable" disorder, at least it is easier to talk about it, it seems. But depression... and OCD... they are so hidden sometimes. Mental illness sounds like a terrible thing to have, in terms of stigma... but once one is out in the open, a dam seems to burst, and people you never expected it from suddenly show up in the same boat as you. Mental illness is as common as colds, kid you not, more than you think. And suddenly it is not a freaky thing to have anymore... nothing to be ashamed of. And it is such a relief to talk about it. And it bonds.

This is one thing that helped me understand suffering in the big picture. Suffering, in my view, is not part of what God wants. It exists. But God can help turn it into something good and positive. Not that it is positive in itself. But one can get something positive out of it, and that is when you begin to heal.
Suffering teaches you compassion. It softens you for bonding. And bonding based on suffering is deep, because it touches the core of a human being.
Knowing that so many of my friends have similar problems makes me feel like I am less a freak than I thought. Dammit.

As my friend said yesterday: "It's good to know I am not going crazy."
"Hell yeah," I said. "Sometimes it makes me wonder whether my reactions aren't just normal. It's a fucked up world. Guess my responses should be fucked up cause if they weren't, that would make me really fucked up." Does that make sense? Heh.

She talked about her counselling session, and we had a good laugh, because her assessment was so like mine it was obvious it must have been the same person doing it.
"She actually got me furious", my friend said. "She was condescending and made all those assumptions."

"Based on the effin textbooks," I said. "Yeah. Rings a bell. She picks and chooses. If something matches her textbook definitions, she pays attention to that. The rest she just seems to ignore, even if it really matters to me. The way I see things doesn't seem to count. Hell, I may get locked up for something that doesn't even mean anything to me."

"Exactly," my friend said. "She kept telling me, 'You probably still haven't come to terms with being gay' and all that shit cliche stuff. And I kept saying that being gay is not an issue for me. I am fine with that. But she kept bringing it up. I swear, if I had had one more session with her, I would have knocked her out."

"I know", I said. "When I walked out, I actually felt ill. I really regretted having told her all this stuff. She made all those assumptions about me, too. Like when I mentioned that when I was 16, I tried to commit suicide, and she later asks me in response to something else I said: "So that is why you took the overdose?" I wanted to punch her. I NEVER said anything about overdoses, she just assumed that! I really don't want to know what she wrote into her file that I never said. How rude is that?"

The reason why that worries me and one of the reasons why it took me so long to get help (and I may just be paranoid) is that I don't know what kind of consequences this could have for me. In some countries you've got to be careful to mention the word suicide, or they may consider you a danger to yourself and lock you up. You may lose your rights. And that would be based on the warped assessment of a counsellor like this word-twisting bitch who treated me like an utter psycho. Some of my friends have been in psychiatric wards... it's not pretty. The worst is what it does to your record. Try to find a job with a history like that. Based on the unqualified assessment of a counselling robot like that.
Apart from that, it is humiliating to spill your guts to someone who so obviously doesn't give a fuck and doesn't know what the hell she is talking about.

Take this, for instance. One of my fears is that my dad may die. I have mentioned this before, and it's one of those things that haunt me. Four years have passed, and it is still no different. That night when my grandma rang me out of bed to tell me dad had nearly been killed in a car crash, something in me sort of petrified. I had rung him on his mobile at exactly the time it happened, and he didn't pick up, and I got pissed off about it. I had no idea that the reason he didn't pick up was because he was lying upside down in a crashed car, with his girlfriend dead next to him, and her little daughter on the verge of death, and my brother and her son being mash and mince. Something like that just doesn't occur to you.
I just was so happy at that time, things went so well in my life (ignoring that mother aborted me about 22 years too late), ever since I am scared to be happy because the Great Cosmic Balance may send the next catastrophe as soon as I hit a certain level of joy. Just to keep me on the carpet. I know that is nonsense, but I just can't help it.

Anyways, this was one of the things I told the counsellor at my assessment session. Guess what she responded.
"Well, you will have to accept that one day your father will die!"
Can you believe this?! That is NOT the FUCKING point!! I know he will. I can accept it when people die of old age. The point is that I don't want to be woken by a phone call again bringing me a message that shatters my world from one minute to the next. That this haunts me and terrifies me every time dad goes on a trip, that it makes me worried sick... abnormally sick.

I mean, you don't have to be an effin counsellor to know you just don't say what she said. Where is the fuckin counselling bit in saying: "Your dad will die, so deal with it, kid."
I wonder whether she ever got punched by anyone. If not, it is effin high time. What the hell is she thinking?

But my friend really assured me. Maybe I will get back to counselling now. My friend got a different counsellor, who apparently cares and is cool and really helpful, and I want the same. That old cow can kiss my ass. Get another job, woman!

Knowing that your friends understand is half the therapy. Knowing that you are not crazy, that you are not losing it, sometimes makes all the difference. Knowing that perhaps what you feel is quite normal, and that you should be worried if you didn't feel that way. What makes it so difficult is that you can't really say, "maybe I am normal and it's the rest of society that is sick".

But then there is this book I read called "Deviant Behaviour" by Stuart Palmer and John A. Humphrey. Have an excerpt and a cookie. Food for thought.

"R.D. Laing, a British psychiatrist, takes the position that those portrayed by society as the most seriously mentally ill, that is, abnormal, persons are actually the most normal. For Laing, societies that kill milions in war and deprive millions through economic politics have turned reality on its head, made the sane seem insane and the deranged normal. Inner space versus outer space and a certain form of highly informal political conflict explain this paradox. Inner space has to do with thought, imagination, dreaming, and so on. The person designated as mentally ill is, for Laing, acting in relation to his or her inner space while others are oriented to outer space, reality as we usually construe it. Thus, the person is seen as behaving inappropriately.
Yet inner space is where true self-expression, true mental breakthrough occurs, according to Laing. Those oriented to inner space may themselves be terrified of it. This is because the culture provides so few guidelines to it and condemns those who publicly express their preoccupation with it. In the politics of everyday life, especially in the family, individuals are singled out by others, often their family members, as troublesome. They retreat to inner space, are further condemned for it, and labelled as mentally ill or mad.
They become the scapegoat for the "normals". The latter satisfy their needs to aggress by perpetuating the illusion of madness in the former. This process can indeed occur. Yet there are many who suffer severely from mental illness which is the result of quite different factors."
(p210-11, 1990, New York: Plenum Press).

People can be driven insane by simply making them believe they are insane. I know my depression came to a big part from being rejected because I wasn't like everyone else, because I lived in my inner space.

And yes, that last point needs to be stressed. Mental illness is something one does suffer from. I mean, being depressed mixed with a dose of OC, and on bad days having thoughts intruding your mind that convince you that your dad will die, or you will go to hell, or having horrendous pictures intruding your mind that you can't stop, or being overcome by an anxiety that literally paralyses you... how can I put it... it SUCKS ASS ROYALLY.

But my point is, it makes it worse and absolutely embarrassing to know that these thoughts are stupid and irrational, and that people find it freaky and scary and bizarre, or just laughable. Half of what makes OCD so awful is because of the pressure of having to hide it so you don't embarrass yourself. It makes it worse, not just being anxious of what could happen if you don't do this or that, and knowing how retarded that is, but also being anxious about being treated as abnormal as soon as someone finds out.
Watch a film like "As good as it gets", and have tears in your eyes sensing the anguish the guy is going through, and then see everyone laugh at his compulsions. Know this is what people will do when they see you.

My point is that a lot of the illness is made worse, if not created, by the ways mentally ill are treated.
I wonder how bad mental illness would be for people if they weren't punished for it in one way or the other. In a way that makes me think twice about whether I should hit that submit button...

But you know what? If you think I am a lame whiny bitch because I spoke my mind here, fuck you. If you think this is funny you are an ignorant stupid arse, and let's see how you would cope, schmuck!


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