I’m Not Crazy, I’m Just A Little Unwell – A blast from the past post 10/12

I’m Not Crazy, I’m Just A Little Unwell – A blast from the past post 10/12

So, are writers mentally ill?

By whose definition?

Look, part of the whole problem with the deinstitutionalisation of the mentally ill, which goes all the way back to the early seventies at least, and as far as theory is concerned probably a lot further, is that health professionals started, DELIBERATELY blurring the lines between mental illness and mental health.

Part of this was – I think – a genuine effort to make it possible for some people classified as “mentally ill” to be able to make a go of it in the community.  A lot of new psychiatric drugs had been discovered which, while they didn’t heal, masked the symptoms of mental illness and therefore made it possible for these people to integrate in normal society – provided they would take their meds (more on that later.)

The other part – I know, my SIL took the mental-health portion of her MD in the late seventies – was the insane “equivalence brigade” which tried very hard to convince themselves that the US too did EXACTLY the same things the USSR did.  Since the USSR put political dissenters in mental hospitals, then the people in US hospitals MUST be also political dissenters.  This was hard to prove, since the Soviet system provided ideological support for mental treatment of dissenters: i.e. the Marxist system was perfect, so anyone disagreeing must be mad, while the American system mostly tried to get people off the streets who would do harm to themselves and/or others.  However the medical profession found their justification in an upside-down of the Marxist system.  Since Capitalism was bad for humans and other living things, then everyone who went mad under capitalism were, ipso facto, political dissenters.  So, if you happened to be a woman who liked to throw rocks at strangers and go into bizarre monologues on the subject of cabbage, you weren’t mad, you were a feminist protesting male aggression.

Now I have no proof this was intentional or a coordinated AGITPROP operation.  It’s entirely possible it was (merely) the predictable mix of ill-intentioned agents and well-intentioned idiot fellow travelers.

However the end result was making people too crazy to live alone into political victims and incidentally to give the USSR room to claim the capitalist system created homelessness.

Fortunately or not, the intervening decades have brought more and more evidence that a lot of mental illnesses have a physical basis.

Also, curiously, just like the “freeing” of women has resulted in a lot of them behaving like Victorian maidens who demand special protection from those all-masterful men, the blurring of boundaries has worked in the other direction too.

I’ve mentioned here before that … must be… 14?  13? Years ago, I had a UTI that didn’t let me sleep for a week, and then on my birthday, all the sixty stories or so that I had out came back rejected.  And I had a cold. Also, Dan was in the middle of one of those projects that caused him to work eighteen hour days.  He got out because it was my birthday, in time to take me to dinner.  We had a babysitter.  As I got in the car, Dan looked at me and said “You look dead.  What’s wrong?”  When I told him, he said, “We’re going to emergency.”

So, there I am on my birthday, getting prescriptions for various ailments and knowing when we got out it would be too late to go to dinner (which I’d been looking forward to for weeks) and the doctor tells me “You look depressed.”  I said “I am a bit” and explained why.  And he told me “No, no,  You misunderstand the process.  Depression is caused by an imbalance in your brain.  If I give you Prozac you’ll feel better and that proves it’s chemical.”

My answer was unprintable, and I think I called him a witch doctor.  BUT he was absolutely convinced of what he was saying.

Since then, older boy has taken psychology.  I read his textbook (you can’t trust these critters.)  And guess what?  ANY fluctuation of mood is now described as bipolar.  Apparently we’re supposed to be on an exact even keel all the time, like robots.  External factors are discounted and it’s all “brain chemicals.”

I think witchdoctoring is light.

But what this means is that more and more, I keep finding the “clinicalization” of perfectly normal conditions.

I mean, I knew growing up that dad was of what we could describe as a “depressive habit.”  Not that he moped, but he read a lot of history and he had this tendency to think our most principled days were behind us.  I also knew mom was bipolar and SHOULD have been on meds, because she could get outright scary.  One of these things is not like the other.  Dad was inclined to be saddish and think the world a sad place, but he never talked about killing himself.  To be honest neither did mom, whose stronger cycles are maniacal and involve things like painting half a house overnight.  BUT to the untrained eye it was very clear who could do harm to him/herself and others, and who wouldn’t.

Even for someone of a depressive habit who might have suicidal thoughts, if never acted upon, it’s probably not a concern (at least if they’re over thirty and aren’t doing anything else related to depression.)  But go to any doctor and admit you’ve thought of opening your wrists in a warm bath, no matter what the provocation, you go on the happy drugs.  EVEN if they had to prod and poke and ask if you ever had the slightest suicidal thoughts, and even if the thought was twenty years ago.

And my kid once quoted Ray Bradbury in a school essay to the extent that “I’m seventeen and I’m crazy.  My uncle says both happen together.”  Mind you, he went on to explain he was only fourteen, but he felt that adolescence was a difficult time period.  You guessed it.  They sent him to a psychiatrist without telling us.  Fortunately the younger kid is sane as a rock (literally.  He’s so stubborn and so sure of who he is at his core that he’s like solid rock) so the psychiatrist told the counselor she was making a storm in a teacup.

I would suggest (because I can, because this is my blog, d*mn it) the old definition of mental illness from the village – you might have all sorts of crazy beliefs in your own home, on your own time; you might believe that there is a miraculous shrine of the Virgin formed by mold on your wall, and you might pray to it everyday; you might think your dog is your kid’s reincarnation; you might think you have to wear purple or the demons get you; you might still be mourning your husband who died forty years ago.  No one cares about any of this, and people will laugh a little behind your back (sometimes.  Unless they’re crazier) but you’re still a functioning member of the community.  HOWEVER if you believe you see the devil in your kid’s (or dog’s) eyes and go after the creature with a knife; if you decide you can no longer wear clothes and start wandering the streets stark naked screaming judgment is coming; if you think you’re an onion and start taking slices off yourself, the village elders (after being prodded by their wives) are going to put you in a car and take you to the asylum, because you can’t function as a member of the community.  (Turned out the gentleman who was going around naked did so because he was convinced from the neck down his body wasn’t his, and that someone had replaced it in the night.  Turns out that this isn’t mental illness, but the result of a stroke.  We didn’t know that, and yes, mistakes will happen.  But mistakes will happen either way because we’re human.  He actually went around screaming “This isn’t mine.”  And yes, he died in the asylum, something that upsets my older son very much.)

So, are writers crazy?  Let me say right up front that even if you go by historical standards, no creative person seems to have his/her head on quite the right way.  I mean Da Vinci?  Van Gogh?  In the composers, it’s entirely possible Liszt was sane, but I’d like proof of that.  Among artists, writers are almost sane.  Or at least we can pass.  I mean, I could make guesses about Jane Austen, but no one around her seemed to think she was nuts.

Is this because we’re sane?  Look guys, leveling with you: I’ve had characters appear fully formed in my head and speak in such a compelling voice I had to write it (Lucius Dante Maximillian Keeva of A Few Good Men was one of those.  So was the Athos of the vampire musketeers.)  This can’t be normal.  I’ve had books come to a grinding halt, because I wasn’t getting the dictation right.  This can’t be normal.  I’ve had stories haunt me and hunt me down for years till I write them.  I write 4+ books a year.  THIS CAN’T BE NORMAL.

And yet, I raised my kids no worse than anyone else.  I keep the house clean(ish).  I have been known to curse/throw things at the TV, but only during political campaigns, and who hasn’t?

Am I crazy?  Probably.  Certainly I’m very different from the norm.  However, I can function as a member of the community.

And I’m not going to say that without MY peculiarities society would lose a great deal.  I’m just going to say that without the peculiarities of most artists – if those were cured or masked instead of tolerated, society WOULD have lost a great deal.

So, there is a method to madness, or at least a use.  And if it doesn’t impair your other functions, only a madman would try to “fix” it.

133 responses to “I’m Not Crazy, I’m Just A Little Unwell – A blast from the past post 10/12

  1. Polliwog the 'Ette

    “Am I crazy? Probably. Certainly I’m very different from the norm. However, I can function as a member of the community.”

    Neurosurgeons are a great example of this. If you think about it, the combination of skills and focus required to do the job mean that they *can’t* be “normal”. I suspect that many struggle with being part of the greater community when not in the operating theater. It makes Carson’s relative success in this campaign more impressive.

    • Polliwog the 'Ette

      Perhaps I should add for background, my sister has been a neurosurgery PA for a number of years so I get to hear a lot of stories.

      My over-all point wasn’t actually about Carson, but that there are a number of important careers out there that would be destroyed if the practitioners were “normalized” starting in childhood. Which makes me think of Harrison Bergeron all of a sudden. Is that what is happening by this rush to criminalize and medicate?

  2. Polliwog the 'Ette

    “I’m just going to say that without the peculiarities of most artists – if those were cured or masked instead of tolerated, society WOULD have lost a great deal.”

    You briefly mentioned artists/writers not taking prescribed medication. I read a lot of biographies by people with mental input/processing/output disorders because I am dyslexic. I know at least one of the authors was bipolar, a poet, and a danger to herself when in the manic phase but hated to take medication because there was just a big grey sameness when she was “properly” medicated and the is no poetry in a big grey sameness.

    • One of the stories in the first Liaden: Constellation anthology is about a human artist who paints beautifully when he is manic, and who took pretty desperate steps to undo the cure for his swings. The story reads very much like a few people I’ve met.

      • Mom designed clothes, which is, believe it or not, artistic. And she refused to take her meds (mostly valium at the time) because it made her lose her lows, but also her highs. And btw she put me on valium at 8 because she couldn’t deal with me. I kicked the habit at 19, on my own. So… I know that grey fog very well.
        I like the lines from Desperado “You’re losing all your highs and lows; ain’t it funny how the feeling goes… away.” I found that being desperately ill does the same, as I had to write Through Fire Three (Four?) times, since it came out completely flat while I was dying. Fact I finished it after major surgery and it was FINALLY right tells you how bad it was before.

        • I’d believe it. For a while there, I couldn’t write but I could design all kinds of fun things to wear. My brain needed an outlet and the words wouldn’t come.

    • I’m dyslexic both with letters and digits, but I’ve worked around most of the issue with letters. However, when doing carpentry, I need someone at my shoulder to remind me that 234″ is NOT the same as 432″.
      I PROBABLY had sensory processing disorder to my teens. It resolves itself fairly early in women, but younger son’s didn’t resolve to his late teens, and the set of behaviors to get around and mask the issue are typical in dad’s family. Poets all, btw.

      • Polliwog the 'Ette

        Totally understand the number thing. I’ve always considered myself fortunate in that reading was never a struggle. Writing, on the other hand. That’s why I’m a big fan of cursive, as I find the connections help everything face the right way, and typing helped for a long time. Over the last couple of years though I’m noticing my hands getting wayward again and hitting random keys.

      • The number thing is why I’m not an engineer. I have to have people double check me at work to make sure I don’t send in garbage numbers every week.

    • SheSellsSeashells

      Yup. I am no world-beating artiste, but I cook well, make jewelry debatably well, and write freelance quite well. Unless I’m on antidepressants, in which case NO. I try to avoid them unless the situation is desperate (husband has veto power) because then nothing fun happens in my head and proceeds from there to my hands.

      • Polliwog the 'Ette

        Having someone who cares and has veto power seems to be the key to making it through life with only the truly necessary level of medication.

      • I don’t understand how you can do this. My experience with ADs is that they take weeks or months to titrate up to a usable concentration; they are no use at all on a short term schedule. So even if your husband gives you one because he’s desperate, I can’t see it would have any effect.

        I must be misreading your words.

        • SheSellsSeashells

          Yeah, but that’s OK because my words occasionally come fast and un-detailed. 🙂 “Veto power” equates to “Yes, I know you think you’re fine but you are not and will be getting a prescription now, k? K.” The ADs I take, when I take them, seem to only take a couple of weeks to kick in effectively. I don’t get fogged out, I just…lose the fine details and can’t create well. Food gets boring and beadwork goes down the tubes. I enjoy the heck out of both of these and therefore try to avoid pills when I can, but I’m thankful they’re not mandatory.

          • Must be hard. At least you trust your guy – and have a system in place. Creative people have interesting little quirks. Too many or too much – we can’t work. Too little or too few – we can’t work. The middle – hard to hang onto. I get 2-3 hours a day usable, and I often don’t realize what’s going on – and miss half of it. I leave the house too many times in one week – I have trouble focusing. I don’t get out once in a while, I go stir-crazy.

            If I could tolerate side effects, I’d probably be on something – but can’t take the beastly things.

            So we keep on truckin’.

          • Here’s an interesting thing — when I block on writing, I block on cooking, too.

  3. “Doc, my brother thinks he’s a chicken!”

    “Why don’t you get him some help?”

    “We would, but we need the eggs.”

  4. We didn’t know that, and yes, mistakes will happen. But mistakes will happen either way because we’re human.

    These sentences capture what I think is really going on here.

    The modern liberal (including, but not just, progressive) school of thought has it that through collective effort, we can make the world perfect. By the magic power of more involvement, which means more government regulation and more tax dollars, we can do anything: give everyone above-average income, good health, above-average education, etc. In a perfect world, everyone that needed mental health care would have it, and no-one that didn’t need mental health care would be forced to get it.

    If I recall right, the massive deinstitutionalization campaign was a product of a large number of stories (in both the journalistic and literary senses) of extreme cases where someone that should not have been institutionalized was, and the revulsion against these horror stories of the system being imperfect led them to fix it by deinstitutionalizing as many people as possible. Instead of a few too many people institutionalized that shouldn’t be, you ended up with a lot of people not institutionalized that should have been.

    We’re human. We make mistakes. This doesn’t mean we stop looking for edge cases that went the wrong way to fix, but it does mean we don’t junk the whole system because it isn’t perfect. Ultimately, it means respecting people as individuals and giving those of us that think Oddly the benefit of the doubt, even when “normals” think we’d be better off if we were “normal”, but even then realizing that there will be extreme edge cases that require intervention.

    • Part of it was the discovery of new drugs that would keep them sane. The problem was that deinstitutionalization meant they could choose whether to take the drugs, and many didn’t.

    • If I recall right, the massive deinstitutionalization campaign was a product of a large number of stories (in both the journalistic and literary senses) of extreme cases where someone that should not have been institutionalized was, and the revulsion against these horror stories of the system being imperfect led them to fix it by deinstitutionalizing….

      I remember there was even a “Rockford Files” episode about people wrongly institutionized.

  5. The new normal: each day, spending your 2.8 hours in front of the TV, 4.4 tweets, 20 minutes on Facebook, 3 hours of smartphone use, 45 minutes of email and 41 texts per day (there’s some overlap there).

    If you don’t meet your quotas, we have a pill for that…

    • I recall some comedian (don’t recall exactly which, alas) saying that NYC didn’t bother him, he could always grab someone and shove them in front of himself if need be. But the country? That scared him, because, “People out in the country… they have time to think.”

  6. Actually, “the new normal” seems to be that literally every quirk of human nature and behavior is deemed “evidence” of some sort of mental disorder, and hey, we have a pill for that!

    What does “sanity” and “normal” mean in such a society?

    . . . Something to keep in mind the next time you hear somebody blathering about keeping guns out of the hands of the “mentally ill.” You might also ask Dinesh D’Souza about that, after a Democrat judge demanded he receive psychiatric “counseling,” among other punishments – over the objections of a couple of actual psychologists, IIRC – for a penny-ante campaign finance violation that wouldn’t even constitute a rounding error in the Clinton Foundation fundraising scandals.

    • Has any psychiatrist, ever, managed to diagnose someone as healthy and normal?

      • Said psychiatrist would be depriving himself of business, and odds are good that the “healthy, normal” person he just diagnosed wouldn’t thank him for it. I don’t think many people going to a psychiatrist want to hear, “You’re fine. You’ve been going through a rough patch lately, so turn on your favorite non-country music, hang out more with your friends, and just accept that being sad sometimes is part of life.”

        • Yes. This is why I have a certificate saying I’m sane. (Well, mom has it.) I PROBABLY had an allergic reaction to something — I’ve since discovered my multitude of respiratory allergies includes household dust — and couldn’t breathe. Mom dragged me to ER not to an allergist but to a psychiatrist. As in, I was taken in as “She’s having a panic attack.” I got anti histamines, but the psychiatrist on duty also came and talked to me. After an hour he told me I was so rock-bottom sane he was tempted to keep me just so he could find out how crazy I REALLY was. That was a joke. I think. He gave me a certificate so mom wouldn’t think I was crazy again.

          • I applied for a summer math program once that required a security clearance. Ended up doing something else that year, but my family still occasionally jokes about that time I was officially declared sane by the US government.

            • Having ADD seems to make the US Navy nervous; that’s my impression from my last DOD physical when I mentioned I might be ADD (and from watching an episode of “Carrier.”) Then again, the ocean is a relentless enemy.

    • There have been several studies by proglodyte “psychologists” purporting to “prove” conservative beliefs and preferences are a “mental disorder.”

      • Which is exactly what the Russians did. Ta-Da! And they wonder why conservatives exhibit paranoia over the sate gaining too much power…

        • And why we’re not real thrilled with the idea of expanding the “mental health” excuses to confiscate guns.

  7. Logically, if you know the characters in your head are fictional, you simply have an unusual mode of imagination. Nobody thinks it is insane to hear music in one’s head as a mode of composition, or to visualize parts as a mode of invention.

    • I seldom get the earworm of a ‘song stuck in my head’. I do on occasion get some chemical (or drug) name stuck and than I have to look it up before it drive me (more?) nuts. Of course when both happen at once it gets… weird:

      Chloramphenicol Lane…

      • Isn’t that a street in a Ring of Fire novel?

      • Sometimes I have an entire soundtrack running in my head. And sometimes I find myself whistling a soundtrack of sorts.

        While I come from a musical family, I never thought of myself as a music person, certainly not to compose music. But Saturday I had a tune going through my head that I was sure was Fum Fum Fum. I ended up picking up the recorder and picking out the tune. Then I found Fum Fum Fum and the song wasn’t it. It was something completely different. I thought of jotting it down, but I was able to play it over and over again on the recorder, and figured I had it memorized.

        Sunday, the song was gone. I’ve tried to jog my memory and bring it back, but it’s completely gone. I should have written it down.

    • I was startled the first time I had a smell in my head, but after consideration I thought it probably wasn’t any more concerning than a song. If it had been a bad smell I’d have been much more upset.

  8. I think that any creative endeavor requires the turning off of a limiter. To build a world in your head either consciously or arriving fully formed and getting it down on paper requires turning off something. I don’t write, my back hurts and I get restless if I sit in one place to long, and I lose my train of thought never to come back at lunch time.

    But I do know what happens to me if I’m sorting out an interesting and demanding technical problem; I wander about muttering to myself, my wife has to sometimes physically bring me back to the real world. I photograph wildlife and have lost the normal fear of dangerous beasts; I feel perfectly calm 30 metres away from a female bear with cubs. That is about 3 seconds. The photos are amazing, but any rational person would keep their distance. A friend who is even worse than me in this regard was told by his wife that he does seem to keep coming home. No conclusion, just a stoic acceptance of his affliction.

    I’m certain there are names for those disorders. I don’t want a pill. I consider the desire to categorize and medicate the broad human experience evidence of a mind that has trouble dealing with complexity and disorder.

    • I recall being Truly Absorbed in some book or other or with some Problem and being asked, “What’s going on, I’ve been calling for you 5 (or 10) minutes!” When I first read of hypnotic trance/focus my reaction was, “This is unusual?”

      • Truly Really Absorbed is when someone has to pass a hand between your eyes and the book to get your attention

        Really Truly Really Absorbed is when passing a hand is not enough; the person has to hold the hand there until it’s impossible to ignore it and continue reading

    • Hmm. When I’m writing code there’s two daemons active. The articulate one is blurging out code, the inarticulate one is saying “no.” when it’s wrong. The blurgeur is unacceptably carefree. The limiter is absolutely required for a quality product. And he’s always right.

      It’s very annoying that he knows the right answer and won’t tell me, but they do talk to each other while I’m asleep. I wake up, return to a problem, and get “What took you so long?”.
      And it just looks like I’m sitting at a keyboard talking to martians.

      • It’s the way you move in your sleep. Sometimes you can get the same effect just by walking around. That jostles the ideas in your head, and they form new configurations.

      • In my first job, I had a boss and owner of the company who was the PHB before Scott Adams ever put pen to paper. He walked through the developers area and one of our developers was kicked back in his chair thinking about a problem.

        Warren: What are you doing?!?
        Charles: Thinking.
        Warren: Can’t you do that at home?


        • Jack Warner once walked past the writers’ building at his studio. He could see the writers through the cwindows, smoking, staring at the ceiling, moving from office to office, talking.

          Standing in the street, he screamed, “Isn’t anybody working around here?!”

          Instant barrage of typing clatter.


  9. Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

    C. S. Lewis talked about a movement in England that wanted to treat crime as a “medical condition” requiring “treatment”.

    The believers in this idea wanted to take over the criminal justice system as “of course judges and juries weren’t capable of judging medical conditions”.

    Among other things, Lewis was concerned that if even minor crimes were considered medical conditions, a person could be held until the “doctors” thought he was cured which could be never.

    Note, I don’t know if this article was written before the news came out about how the Soviet Union treated dissidents.

    • Christie mentions this in a few books.

      • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

        For that matter, the old Doc Savage books had criminals being given (by Doc) “special treatment” to cure them.

        Oh, apparently in the later Doc Savage books, some of the criminals had relapses and came after Doc again. Understandable IMO. [Evil Grin]

      • And not entirely disapprovingly, if I’m recalling correctly. Poirot at least believed that psychiatrists had their place in the criminal justice system. The problem was putting them in charge because “when one has studied these things intently, one sees nothing but mental conditions and complexes,” and becomes incapable of recognizing that while some criminals might be sick, others are just evil.

        Speaking of sane artists…I don’t know too much about Christie’s personal life, but her major characters always seemed to me to have their heads on remarkably straight (even considering Poirot’s OCD).

        • You’re not recalling accurately. She was very scathing about the notion.

          • I’m at home now and can look up the passage I was thinking of:

            “Nowadays it is the maladjusted lives and the complexes…”

            “All such nonsense,” said Mrs. Hubbard.

            Poirot dissented.

            “…The underlying principles are sound enough–but when one is an earnest young researcher, one sees nothing but complexes and the unhappy home life.”

            –Chapter 5 of Hickory, Dickory, Dock

            There, at least, she Christie doesn’t seem hostile towards the notion of a bit of psychological analysis as part of the justice system, as long as it didn’t take over everything. Of course, the woman was publishing for a LONG time (56 years between her first novel and her last!), and it probably isn’t surprising that the views expressed by her characters didn’t remain entirely consistent throughout.

            • Weird. In Miss Marple, she takes them to the woodshed several times. Also this is her thrillers, which I have trouble finishing 😉

            • I suspect that Agatha Christie understood that her characters were not all extensions of herself … or each other … and that they might hold beliefs or make statements with which she might disagree. Moreover that her characters might change positions over the years as the information available to them directed and they matured.

              (Taking in account that Miss Marple started rather mature and more than a bit jaundiced about people in general…)

      • The Other Sean

        Agatha, not Chris, I assume. 🙂

    • Not to mention that since the treatment would, of course, be compulsory, anything the authorities deemed mental illness could be a crime.

      • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

        Oh No Mary!

        Not a Crime!

        Those people need help and are too sick to know that they need help so the government has to give them help no matter what they think! [Sarcastic Grin]

    • In the early Doc Savage books, Doc and his posse would haul miscreants to their secret hospital and perform brain surgery on them to decriminalize them.

      Even as a kid I thought there were problems with that…

      • richardmcenroe

        Except that that was actually being done at the time.

      • I read a LOT of those, and don’t remember such surgeries.

        • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

          Quote From https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Doc_Savage

          In earlier stories, some of the criminals captured by Doc receive “a delicate brain operation” to cure their criminal tendencies. These criminals return to society, unaware of their past, to lead productive lives. The operation is mentioned in Truman Capote’s novel In Cold Blood, as an older Kansan recalls Doc’s “fixing” of the criminals he had caught.

          End Quote

          To the best of my knowledge, these “brain operations” were off-screen.

  10. Round hole square peg syndrome

  11. The Midnight Disease: The Drive to Write, Writer’s Block, and the Creative Brain by Alice Weaver Flaherty

    A fascinating look at the mental illnesses most closely related to writing. Recommended to all and sundry.

  12. What’s the difference between medicine and poison? Often, only the dose.

    Likewise, what’s the difference between a personality trait and a mood disorder? Often, only the degree.

    The “witch doctor” you describe wasn’t wrong about major depressive disorder being a chemical imbalance issue: where he erred is not bothering to distinguish between exogenic/situational ‘blues’ and an endogenic depressive disorder 😉

    • It is the dose that makes the poison. Oldest axiom toxicology’s got.

    • I found it unusual. What I’ve encountered is the understanding that some sadness is completely expected in some circumstances, and if it doesn’t exist it could mean there are other problems. Such as a girl I remember who was entirely too chipper at a funeral. The minister picked up on it and took her aside and talked with her to see how she was doing.

  13. Last day of voting, since we had a one-day delay, and we — have a tie!

  14. The concept of “normal” has gotten rather narrow, hasn’t it? I mean, I can recall similar things from my childhood, too. We had the aunt that didn’t get to go out on her own, because she thought that every dog she saw was “Bluebell,” her German shorthaired pointer she lost years ago, whether the dog in question was a terrier or a mastiff, with firm and solid conviction, too. This was the quirk everybody *saw,* and created problems in public- her other issues weren’t as noticeable or troublesome. Seemed like everyone knew someone like my aunt, actually.

    I also knew a kid down the street a few years younger than me. His father got sent to jail after he beat his kid and wife badly, the once. Well, hospital, then jail, but that’s a different story. Said kid wasn’t quite right in the head after, and his mother didn’t help much- called him “stupid” all the time. Not stupid, but slow. Solid worker, give you the shirt off his back, wouldn’t lie to you even if it made him look bad either. Today, I don’t know what the psychologists would make of him, but he works and makes a living on his own, pays his bills, feeds his dog, and is a lot better citizen than some I could name.

    I do wonder what the current drug fad is going to do to kids who grow up on Ritalin or the like these days. Will they ever be off of it? Will they have trouble learning to keep an even keel in daily life without ever doing so growing up? What happens to the kids like me, who even teachers thought was autistic (at the time, they meant “slow” or “stupid,” not what it means now to people who know)?

    I think Elizabeth Moon wrote a story about an autistic man who, given the chance to become normal, chooses not to, because it would change something fundamental in who he was. That makes sense to me. I like the idea of being on the Odd end of the bell curve, not chopped off of it and labeled abnormal, and not forced to *be* normal through medication or otherwise.

    Personality quirks aren’t genes, though I think they are tied in some way, but I believe there’s a reason the Odds and such like keep popping up every generation. Maybe we breed true, maybe having Odds in the population makes things better, somehow (inventiveness or “if its crazy, but it works…”). I am more comfortable being Odd than I think I would being normal, though. The company’s better here. *grin*

    • I think Odds have the same genesis as homosexuals: The brain is an incredibly complex thing, and there is more than a little random input into its wiring, so it’s no surprise that occasionally that wiring ends up “wrong.”

    • I do wonder what the current drug fad is going to do to kids who grow up on Ritalin or the like these days. Will they ever be off of it? Will they have trouble learning to keep an even keel in daily life without ever doing so growing up?

      Yes, they come off it. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen a kid with ADHD, but it’s not normal kid-getting-into-everything. Have you ever seen a kid that breathing medicine has made hyper? I remember one (before ours were born), who ended up standing on top of the TV.. A kid with ADHD puts me in mind of this. it’s not a matter of learning to calm down: It’s that calming down isn’t possible. It’s like they’re stuck in perpetual “Ooh, shinny,” mode. I once saw one that took as much effort to monitor as an entire birthday party of younger kids.

      Fortunately, many seem to outgrow it. The thing is, while Ritalin may be over-prescribed, it doesn’t mean Ritalin is never needed.

    • Today, I don’t know what the psychologists would make of him, but he works and makes a living on his own, pays his bills, feeds his dog, and is a lot better citizen than some I could name.

      This is the crux that gets mentioned in every Abnormal Psych Class (generally in the part where the instructor goes over the Psych student tendency to diagnosis everyone with whatever is being studied that week): If you look at the symptoms in the DSM, everyone has almost everything, but it doesn’t actually count until the point where it impacts (negatively) a persons daily life and relationships.

    • will they ever be off of it? yes, if they were on it through Medicaid, they’re kicked off of it when they get to be adults and it’s not good – trust me, I know, one of them ended up marrying my son

  15. Actually, functional MRIs of the brains of writers are carbon copies of the scans obtained from people with verified multiple personality disorder.
    So when we talk about the other people in our head, we really do mean it.

  16. Because of reading this, I now have a story idea. So now I have to ditched the rest of my school work for now and try and anchor it down:) Something to do with The “Odds” trying to get away from the “normal” who are trying to force then with pill to be “normal” we’ll see how it goes:)

    But on another note, everyone in my family could probably me diagnosed with something or other. We’re just odd. It’s how we are. But really, that’s just going off some sort of vague standers, so I don’t really care. I keep my more odd traits and quirks to the minimum when out in public or with new people. Like physically talking to characters while other people are present.

    Hmmm, is talking too much something they might have a pill for? Although I’d never take it, (others will just have to suffer or be entertained, which ever it may be. But I’ve never been rudely told to shut up or had an object thrown at me while talking, so I’m guessing towards the latter)

    Anyhow, even if I have mutable personality disorder, I don’t think it could harm me because it’s very clear in my head who is who, and I keep things separated. The one I talk to the most is probably Muse, he’s my “muse” in writing so to say:) And goes in the form of a very snarky cat with butterfly wings. God he can be annoying sometimes though, like I think he switches off my filters while I was writing this, perhaps because I was going into writing mode because of getting a story idea. I better turn them back on and finishes this mini rant with a little more dignity. But Muse you better not leave or stop of my switches because I’m going to need you in a few minutes with this story!

    Ok, well sorry about that. But I guess in a way you could see a glimpse into how my mind works when I’m writing, especially in a more “inspired” moment. It’s kind of like I have these switches and filters in my head that help keep me a little more sane and thinking straight. But when I want to get creative or the muse strikes me, (That cat can be so mean!) it’s like the switches have to come off.

    In conclusion (before this thing gets any longer) I think everyone is a little crazy in some way or other, but as long as you can work, function, and even use what you got, we’ll be fine. But we’re also human, so nothings perfect.

    (sorry for the rant!)

    • I think everyone is a little crazy in some way or other, but as long as you can work, function, and even use what you got, we’ll be fine.

      That’s the problem with some of us. We desperately NEED our meds. Without them we couldn’t function. Taking my meds I am functional. Without them I’m not. Just one comment to say that while psychotropics can be abused, and even, given with malicious intent, they are quite essential for some people. Ask hubby if you don’t believe me. Ask what I’m like without my meds.

  17. Pingback: Mental Illness, Leftism, and Denial of Reality

  18. Not the cause of all mental problems, but- Can you remember your dreams for more then 2 or 3 minutes after awakening? I can’t. No matter how interesting I thought the dream I was awakened from might have been, within seconds it fades away into nothingness. Completely erased from memory. I know that when I wake with sleep paralysis (which is frightening in itself) I’ve been awakened from a dream state that seemed very real. And my mind spends minutes crawling out of it to reality, even though in reality, it’s only seconds.

    A lot of descriptions I read of some crazy people’s worlds reads like they’re living in a dream. Literally. Mayhaps they’re missing the chemical/electrical reaction that allow the brain to differentiate between real world and dream world. That instantly erases the dream world upon awakening. As a result, the memories they recall and the stories they tell could be very real- from the dream world, that never erased. And because their brain cannot tell the difference, functioning in the real world becomes a problem.

    Just a thought of mine I’ve had for a while, and this seemed like a good spot to throw it out there.

    • Not being able to distinguish them would certainly be a problem, but while I definitely lose details rather quickly in some cases, I still remember some dreams from when I was a kid. Some of them more vividly than real memories.

      • Another part, which I was thinking about, but didn’t write. Could be others who can remember their dreams have a little toggle on their memories, zero for dream, one for real. Because I do know people who remember a lot of their dreams. Most are artistic in some way. (I’m not, in the least.) In my case, dreams are simply erased.

    • I do recall my dreams. I’ve dreamed entire novels.

    • I very seldom remember my dreams; consciousness flicks on and off pretty much instantly. (as opposed to my wife, to suffers from both insomnia and “why does the snooze alarm stop working at 40 minutes?”)

      Every now and then I do remember a dream; most of them are trivial, usually re-living some daily activity. On occasion they’re lengthy extravaganzas; sometimes I write them down later.

      Sometimes they’re just… different. Like the time I was eating a sandwich in the break room, and the muzak system was playing Elvis Presley’s cover of Cheap Trick’s “Surrender” from his 1981 Comeback Tour.

      “Mother told me, yes, she told me /
      I’d meet girls like you.
      She also told me, ‘Stay away /
      you never know what you’ll catch.’ “

    • That means you dream deeply. The more altered your consciousness during your dreams, the less you can remember.

      I can’t remember except in the rarest of cases.

  19. S’balance. If you’re weird but productive, you are neurotic. When you can’t live anymore, whether the issue is irrational suicide or attacking members of an imaginary gang in the street…that’s mentally ill. Honestly, after the knife issues with a friend and the murder of a distant neighbor, I really do favor some weapons restrictions for the mentally ill.

    Unfortunately, of the artists and mathematicians I know, too many have edged over into category II. And that is really scary. It may be a necessary price, but it is a high one.

    I will say that St Johns Wort appears moderately (similar to antidepressants) effective against depression and may work faster.

  20. I’ve spent several years underwater, up to 72 days at a time. There are a lot of people who upon finding out I’m a submariner who act thereafter as if I’m a little bit off.

    Now, all submariners are psychologically screened. Question is, are they screening us to see if we’re more sane and therefore able to tolerate living conditions on board subs? Or are they screening us to see if we possess the right type of insanity to tolerate the living conditions?

    There are a lot of people who tell me right off they couldn’t do it. And I wonder why.

    • At least in Minuteman launch control centers the crew is only down for 24 hours. Unless they get snowed in and the relief crew is snowed out.

  21. I found this blog post very offensive. I am going to sit in my safe place where they give me cookies and fluffy bunnies to pet.

    Tell me about the rabbits, George.

  22. What this post wants is a Victorian otter in a tinfoil hat:

  23. One of the things that bothers me is that there seem to be so many more people with mental illnesses these days. I don’t know if it’s overdiagnosed, we’re more aware and willing to talk about it, or if there are other factors.

    I have found with many younger people that I’ve met that depression and anxiety often get paired with a victim complex. I don’t know if that’s just a teen-early-twenties thing that should wear off as they get older, or if it’s a disturbing trend with how we are handling mental illness these days. And of course, it’s just my experience. I certainly don’t have a statistically significant sample.

  24. Polliwog the 'Ette

    I realize this thread is probably dead, but if it’s not….I just saw on Tumblr that there is a Kick Starter for “Mental Illness Plushies”. Is this a good thing or a bad thing? To me, literally hugging representations of one’s mental afflictions to one’s self seems like something that would lead to a worsening of the condition. What do other readers here say?