Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Crazy... it's just you or me, amplified.

I just watched Girl, Interrupted, for the first time since I saw it at the movies in 2000. I remember liking it back then, but in a more distanced way, liking it enough to read the book, as well. It was much more intense this time around, but then again, it was bound to be. Since I last saw that film, I've been "diag-nonsensed" myself (teehee) and been in treatment... there are worlds lying between the two times... it's like watching a play from backstage now. It's like I was a different person back then. Or maybe not. Maybe now I just know who I am.

I love this film so much, because it debates exactly the problem of separating personality and illness I have thought about so often. Where does one end and the other start? Who decides whether you are insane? When you are not part of the mainstream? When you have thoughts that eat at your mind, like in Susanna's case? When you don't want to grow up, like Georgina? When you're terrified of being too ugly to be loved, like Polly? Or when you just speak out loud what everyone else thinks secretly, anyway... just to be called a sociopath, like Lisa?

All simply because you are afraid of having to live the life that is presented to you out there? Because, like Susanna, you don't want to turn into your mother?

It makes me kind of afraid. They say if you want to be loved, just be yourself, but if I am myself, people think I am fucking insane? Do I have to stifle those thoughts, those impulses, or embrace them as a gift? If I stifle them, I can lead a life in seeming normality... if I just tell people I don't see the purple people anymore. But it would be a lie, and I would explode, or be miserable and choke behind the facade.
However, if I express who I truly am - if I embrace what is in me... does that condemn me to a life in the ward? Is it me that people try to restrict or conform, or is it an illness that I need to heal? If it is me, haven't I got the moral obligation to stay that way... as Shakespeare said, to thine own self be true?

The question is, how much of mental illness brings suffering in itself... and how much of it brings suffering because of the prejudice attached to it? Because of the way people treat you as worthless, unlovable, unfit, less human? Do I suffer from my illness or do I suffer from the social consequences of it? How am I to know, if this is so inextricably linked?

The supposed illness Susanna is diagnosed with is the prime example for it: Borderline Personality Disorder. Is that an illness or just the human condition?

Susanna: [reading from a book] "Borderline Personality Disorder. An instability of self-image, relationships and mood... uncertain about goals, impulsive in activities that are self-damaging, such as casual sex."
Lisa: I like that.
Susanna: "Social contrariness and a generally pessimistic attitude are often observed." [pauses] Well that's me.
Lisa: That's everybody.

I mean, if you click the above link and read through the first few paragraphs... I am willing to bet my sherry bottle (and I love that fucker!) on that most of the readers will go: "Hey, that's me!"
And hell, even funnier... taking away the negative aspects of it, isn't that what you're supposed to be like if you don't want to be a generic sell-out?
Isn't that exactly the way the Generation X is described? Does that mean, an entire generation is borderline?
Does that, again, mean, being borderline becomes mainstream and can therefore not be classified as an illness anymore, or does it mean that someone has seriously fucked up to turn a whole generation into a bunch of mental cases?

Just check "Kernberg's Borderline Personality Organization":

"Diagnoses of BPO are based on three categories of criteria. The first, and most
important, category, comprises two signs:
-the absence of psychosis (i.e., the ability to perceive reality accurately)
-impaired ego integration - a diffuse and internally contradictory concept of self. Kernberg is quoted as saying, "Borderlines can describe themselves for five hours without your getting a realistic picture of what they're like."

Perceive reality accurately? What the hell is that supposed to mean?
And who can summarise himself in one sentence? So when you acknowledge that there is no such thing as a set personality or self, or you're trying to make the point that you have many facets, that means you're borderline? Or does that just mean you don't have your head up your arse (man, I am taking kindly to that phrase!)?

But like I said, this is just speculation. Easy thoughts to speak. Almost arrogant. I think most are aware of that the problem with defining mental illness is often one of philosophy and semantics... But I guess, illness begins at the point when you can't snap out of it by yourself anymore.
It's like Susanna Kaysen said:
"When you don't want to feel... death can seem like a dream. But, seeing
death - really seeing it... makes dreaming about it fucking ridiculous."

Crazy... is being "you or me, amplified"... just some can cope with it less than others. And for some, the amplification can simply blow your mind.

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