Monthly Archives: June 2014

The Silent Treatment

I’ve just uncovered what the silent treatment has done to our conversations about mental health: we don’t even know what words to use.

The language for talking about mental health is a thing of great sensitivity and controversy.

After decades of living with family members who have bipolar, I’ve come to think of mental illness, especially bipolar, as a brain disease.

Yet, recently I’ve learned that to call mental illness a “disease” can
1) be offensive
2) add to the stigma
3) make mental illness sound like it’s contagious.

Is mental illness a brain disorder or a brain disease? Or is it an illness?

Why can’t we all agree what to call it? This is curious to me and I wonder about all of the dynamics at play.

The fact that we don’t know what words to use in our conversations is a symptom of our decades of silence.

Now that we are breaking the silence about mental illness, what are we to say and how are we to say it?

So much of our language is contextual, based on our personal experiences.

Among family and friends we often throw around the word “crazy.” This word can be experienced as offensive, inappropriate and dehumanizing. But when my family and friends are talking about ourselves, we use this word crazy.

Is it possible for people impacted by mental illness to reclaim the word “crazy” for ourselves, just as other movements have reclaimed derogatory words as a means of empowerment?

I’m thinking about words that once were used to slander such as “gay,” “queer” or even “Christian.” All of these words originated by outsiders trying to bully and belittle.

I’m not a psychiatrist or a psychologist. I am no neurologist or biologist. I am just a person who knows what it’s like to sense that crazy is in the blood. Because it runs in the family and it’s real no matter what you call it.

Crazysauce

I’m listening to the audio book of John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars and I’m in love with the voice of Hazel, the 16 year old cancer patient. Driving down Florida’s turnpike in the torrential rain, hazard lights flashing, white knuckles gripping, I hear Hazel describing what it feels like to be young and dying and in love.

Hazel says things like awesomesauce, which according to the urban dictionary means “more awesome than awesome.” As in “that home churned Georgia peach ice cream is awesomesauce!”

Does adding the word “sauce” at the end magnify a word’s meaning?

Like annoyingsauce or stupidsauce?

When things get really crazy, are they crazysauce?

What about all the school shootings that have happened like rapid fire in the past weeks?

Is that because of some people with guns who are crazysauce?

Is it primarily mental illness that causes an otherwise normal person to violently murder innocent people?

Listening to public opinion it seems to be commonly argued that one reason these mass shootings keep happening is because too many people are crazysauce.

Therefore one solution to mass shootings being proposed is to improve our mental healthcare system.

Yesterday a friend and I were talking about this and she said something provocative I can’t stop wondering about. She suggested that focusing on an individual shooter’s mental health is actually scapegoating…that is, we blame an individual so that we as a society don’t take any blame.

That kid. He was cray cray, crazysauce, nuts, deranged, a mental case, psycho, off his meds.

Yes it is individuals who commit the crime. But when the mass shootings reoccur so often in the same society it is no longer just about an individual’s behavior or his mental health. It is something else.

And that something else is scary because it’s all of us. We are all responsible.

Yes, we need desperately to improve mental healthcare, to make it more affordable and to reduce the stigma of mental illness so that more people get help.

Could it be that these mass shooters are not crazysauce, but the new normal in America, land of the free?

A majority of people with mental illness are more at risk of self-injury than a risk to others, more likely to cut themselves than cut another person, more likely to shoot themselves than shoot other people.

From what we know about the recent mass shooters there does seem to be a link to mental illness, but it’s not the cause of the shootings.

If mental illness causes mass shootings, then we need a pill asap to make people anti-homocidal like there’s a pill to make people anti-suicidal.

It’s complexsauce.

As a person who loves family and friends who have severe mental illness, I can’t stay quiet about how quickly people equate the shooters with people who have mental illness.

It was already hard to admit to having a mental illness. Now you’ve got to deal with the added stigma of being a possible mass shooter, too.

According to NAMI one out of every four people will have experienced some form of mental illness. Does that mean that one out of every four of us will be a mass shooter?

That would be crazysauce.