“I think that we're all mentally ill. Those of us outside the asylums only hide it a little better - and maybe not all that much better after all.”
|Drawn by early 20th-century commercial cat illustrator Louis Wain near the beginning of his mental illness (Photo credit: Wikipedia)|
When I was in high school I became concerned that I might have had or had been becoming afflicted with a mental disorder. I felt out of place, unable to fit in well with the culture of my peers. Most of the time when I wasn't at school I stayed home watching television, reading, writing--doing solitary activities. Having few friends, I was certain that there was something not quite right with me.
In my concern, I began doing research about "mental illness". I read every book and article I could find on the subject. When I enrolled in college, I started out with a major in psychology with my aim set on become a psychiatrist or a psychoanalyst or something related to these fields, partly in hopes of curing my own affliction.
As I was completing my second year in my pursuit of my major in psychology, I began to rethink my original intentions. This was partly due to my struggle with the required statistics classes which I could not understand why they were important to what I wanted to do. In retrospect I wish I had focused better on those classes as statistics is now a topic that does interest me. At the time it just seemed like another difficult degree requirement that I would have rather not had to contend with.
That's when I changed my major to English and pursued a general liberal arts education that left me with a fairly well-rounded acquisition of appreciation of fine arts and general knowledge in a whole realm of different subjects. This is the course I pursued for five years until dropping out of the University of Tennessee just a few credits shy of a degree.
Soon after that I found myself with a career in show business traveling on the road and discovering that I wasn't any more mentally ill than most average people. What I had earlier mistaken for "mental illness" was merely a state of mind called adolescence and then later it went on to become aimless meandering of young adulthood.
Reflecting with old friends and acquaintances as years went by I discovered that not only many of them had the same self doubts and fears that I had, but some suffered to a greater degree. Through the years I've seen people I know struggle with problems of dependency and depression. A few even committed suicide. Some came out of those years just fine while others fared far less well than I.
I guess we've all had our moments of craziness and periods when life tried to batter us down. I can't think of anyone that I've known who hasn't at least considered therapy, counseling, or some kind of treatment whether it be from someone else or their own pursuits of self-help. What we ourselves do with major or minor mental crises determines how our own stories turn out in the end.
My Brother's Story
My youngest brother by eleven years difference began his own struggle with mental disorder after he entered high school. By that time I was mostly away from home so I wasn't close to what was happening in his life or the lives of my parents. I didn't understand the seriousness of his condition until after he was hospitalized with a diagnosis of schizophrenia. And being away like I was, the situation didn't have that much of an impact on me.
My brother's condition was a great burden of sorrow on my father until the time of his death at age 67. My father kept my brother in the best hospitals until his insurance would no longer cover the cost. Over time my father researched the disorder and sought out whatever treatment he thought might help and yet to no avail. His youngest son seemed to be hopelessly ill with no cure that would even bring a semblance of normalcy to his life. There came a resignation that his youngest son, my youngest brother whom I discovered that I had never really gotten to know very well, would probably be institutionalized for the remainder of his life.
After my father died in 1990, my mother was left to shoulder that burden which was a burden that she carried mostly on her own (with the help of the mental health professionals) for the next 24 years. Fortunately she did meet a kind devoted man who became her partner in 1997 who did help her tremendously until his death in 2012. And though I spoke to my mother regularly--and after 2009 almost daily--on the phone and visited her as often as I could, she being in Tennessee and me in California, and she received some emotional support from my other siblings, this was still a relatively small solace in contending with a mother's baby who was in such a sad condition of mental health.
Then my mother died in November of 2014. Still institutionalized in Nashville, his closest family living three hours away, my brother was an orphan in his fifties. The responsibility of attending to his affairs fell upon me. Correspondence and reporting from the care facility is directed towards me and now it is I who is responsible for making important medical and life decisions for my brother.
He calls me several times a week and sometimes several times a day mostly to talk about music CD's he wants me to order for him. Most of that CD conversation is redundant if not a bit perplexing to me since he seems to be buying music that he has owned in the past that has been lost or stolen. All of the music is from the seventies and eighties or newer releases that those same artists might have put out. Sometimes he tells me about other things he needs like clothes. The CD's, the clothes, and whatever else he wants or needs I order online and have drop shipped to him at the hospital where he lives.
Occasionally, I'll try to get him to change the subject of what he wants me to order for him to something about him and his life. In some rare instances he'll talk about the past or he'll talk about his life now. Often I don't quite understand what he is referring to or the stories will seem so outlandish that I don't know if they're real or not. He often tells me about his pain, mostly due to his legs and neck being broken. I tell him that he wouldn't be able to get around if his neck and legs were broken, but that doesn't convince him that they are not broken.
Some readers of my previous posts of the past week might have thought that I take the topic of mental disorders lightly. Believe me, I have first hand experience with the subject of mental disorders. I understand the difficulties that those directly affected by mental afflictions go through as well as the pain and sadness that the families and others might face. Mental affliction is a serious matter and yet like most serious matters you can laugh about them sometimes. One almost has to laugh about them now and then. Life can heap enough pain, sadness, and misery upon us that can wear us away and even destroy us if we allow the negatives to beat us down. There are times to weep as well as times to laugh, so laugh I will when I feel like laughing and laugh I will in the face of defeat and adversity. Laughter is, as the cliche goes, the best medicine and that is something I firmly believe.
I have a great tendency towards being a patient person. I also attempt to be one who will try to reason with those who are being unreasonable. This is partly why I've taken on my President Trump Acclimation Series. I've been hearing the craziness all around me for eighteen months now.
Unlike trying to reason with my brother, I have hope that some of the vehement anti-Trumpers can be reasoned with. There are also times I tip to the edge of humor with poking a bit of fun at what I see as lunacy on the left. Even my brother has brief flashes of what seems like a brilliant clarity that makes me want to believe he's been scamming all of us all along. However, I know that's not true but only my glimmer of hope that one day he'll suddenly say with lucidity that he wants to come back and be a part of the reasoning world. When he explains concepts of wants versus needs or contemplates spiritual issues I have a hope that the man that my father dreamed of my brother becoming one day has finally emerged from a distant dim place of confused thinking. When he comes up with an insightful bit of wit that brings laughter to the both of us, I feel like somehow he gets the humorous aspect of life's darker sides.
I don't really expect that he will be better any time soon because he has been medicated for too many years and probably could not exist without being in some type of institutionalized setting where others have to make decisions for him. It's doubtful that he can ever live normally like most of the society around me.
Then I look at the insanity that is going around in this supposedly normal society. In my post Is Extreme Anti-Trumpism a Mental Illness I might have seemed to be making light of a serious situation, but I was indeed as serious as I could be about this current socio-political phenomena. Consistently taking things to an extreme and fixating upon them can, in my opinion, start leading to some serious problems within an individual as well as within our society.
A Closing Thought with Example
I realize this has been a long post, but I felt a need to clarify where I'm coming from about mental afflictions and fixations and such related things. Before I close, I'd like to leave you with an exchange between myself and a blogger who has seemed to have developed what I think is a peculiar almost unhealthy fixation regarding President Trump, Trump supporters, and the beliefs those supporters have. I've decided to no longer identify or link to this blogger, but as illustrated in an exchange which began prior to Donald Trump's announcement to run for president and continued to shortly before his inauguration. The nature of the relationship as it progresses strikes me as weird, but I'll let you decide.
To set up the comment thread, the original post was what I found to be a rather cynical, but entertaining review of the film Whiplash. Take note that I was interested in the conversation with this blogger enough to remember the initial exchange and return to the conversation over a year after it began. Here is the thread that ensued with dates of each comment and response: