Archives for advocacy
Yesterday, a speech I made about fighting discrimination and prejudice against people with mental illnesses through changing the way we use language made the evening news and that's why I'm back. I've missed you and for months I've felt guilty about not being here. I've even avoided PsychCentral.com. Here's why: In April, my darling dog Riley died after a four month fight with kidney cancer. He never suffered, but he was only nine years old and he was my best boy, my muse. I adored this little fellow and I still miss him terribly. I stopped writing. One month ago, after months of excruciating pain, my husband Marty had a total hip replacement. He's recovering beautifully, but it's kept me really busy. There have been other illnesses in my family that have demanded a great deal of my time. I wasn't thinking about mental health issues and my mental illness. I didn't have time.
I felt I had lost my voice, that I nothing more to say...I know these are not excuses to abandon you and my blog, but I was really beginning to think I had nothing more to offer in this forum.
Sunday night, a LinkedIn request from a chap named Stuart Ellis-Myers popped into my inbox. "Hi Sandy - I just spoke at the Winnipeg Mental Health conference - May I Please Link In with you? - Stuart Ellis-Myers" After connecting, he immediately followed up: "Thanks Sandy Winnipeg . . . . icy cold brrrrrrr the conference focus was on suicide I live with Tourette's and the buffet table of disorders that comes along with the diagnosis so know the depression driven suicide experience well The audience were awesome, everyone from parents, practitioners, government . . even a school district leader I shone the light of recognition for attending. may I send you a YouTube shot from the conference? I just need your real email mine is firstname.lastname@example.org cheers and all the best would love to speak with you sometime soon Twitchy" The first thing that jumped out was that Stuart said he "lived with" Tourette's rather than "suffered from" it. I loved that. He signed his note "Twitchy." I loved that, too.
What is Sherry Turkle's "Goldilocks Effect?"In her new book, "Alone Together, Why We Expect More From Technology and Less From Each Other," cultural analyst and psychologist Sherry Turkle describes the Goldilocks Effect like this: "Not too close. Not too far. Just right." It's also known as the Goldilocks Principle. (Last year, when I was in the throes of my eating disorder I was driving myself and everyone around me to distraction by wanting to be "just right." But it was an ephemeral obsession because "just right" for me was always five pounds less. Impossible, of course.) This is the new normal of our digital age of texting and emailing and posting and online connecting in all its many forms and endless platforms. It's a factor in digital intimacy, but I'm not going into the Robotics side of this story here. Too much for me to handle right now.
Less is more for me...You know, I have lost count of my Facebook "Friends." At this very moment, as I am in Blogging overdrive so I don't care about the numbers of Twitter or Linked In or Pinterest connections I have. I hate numbers anyway. "Less is more," for me. But then, I'm not normal in any way, new or otherwise. We know that, don't we?
Today, I'm still pretty tired. Feeling "written out." Exhausted. Overwhelmed by my commitment to blog for 31 days straight. I have another 17 days to go. (Eeeeeek!) For some reason I cannot manage to get a few posts written and "in the can" so I can rest a bit. And breathe. But this might be that post.
Ideas are still flooding into my headFor example, I had considered posting about the heinous bullying of Karen Klein, the 68-year-old school bus monitor by four teenage boys in Greece, N.Y. That repulsive story has already received too much air time and was well-handled here by Psych Central Founder and Editor-in-Chief John M. Grohol, PhD on June 21st in a World of Psychology post. I have some other perspectives on this incident that feed into my discussion earlier this month about discrimination and prejudice. Right now, however, I simply do not have the energy to explore them, so I'm going to recharge before I do.
Something else is really bothering me...So, I'm going muse about that. It's more than just bothering me, I'm worried. Seriously. Perhaps it's a social ill. Or just a social trend. I don't know. I don't even know if it's fair to call it "social." I think it's anti-social. You tell me. We live in an increasingly quiet household. Besides our dogs who live to alert us to at any activity they see outside, our phones almost never ring. I've disconnected one of our two landlines because they are becoming obsolete. Most people prefer email or texting, besides my mother and my youngest step-daughter who do call us and we love to hear their voices. Several years ago, I posted about this in my earlier incarnation of Coming Out Crazy. In that July 3rd, 2009 post, I asked "Is Texting versus Talking destroying the human dialogue?"
Okay. I decided to do this blogathon on an impulse. No posts were in the bank, so they're going up late in the day. For this, I apologize. Today, from the crack of dawn, I was out of the house and tramping around town in the heat. No fun. I had an appointment with my psychologist and our next is in one month. We're winding down... Then back uptown we had another appointment with our financial advisor. Never fun and games either. In between, a quick trip to the pharmacy to have a prescription filled. Walks with the dogs. The stuff of daily life that helps to keep us running. I was thinking about you... Still, all along, you were in the back of my mind. I knew I would have to get my new installment in fast. And late. Really late. It's going to be short, too. Here's what I have to report. It's about The 10th Mirror. "The Mirror of Consciousness" or the inner mirror. It's about body-image. The power of the inner gaze.
I just read Jenise Harmon's enlightening Sorting Out Your Life blog here at Psych Central. It's titled Live Beyond Normal and it's one of today's most popular. It deserves to be and I urge you to read it... Before I rhapsodize about her insights into that misunderstood word, normal, not one of my favourites, I read more posts by Jenise. Thinking Outside The Box hit home for me. "Everyone sees the world through their own frame, or box," Jenise says. "Early on in life, people are given labels, told who they are and what is expected of them. They are ‘put in boxes.’ A teacher may label a student as gifted or slow. Parents see one child as the athlete, one as the smart kid, one as the comedian. Peers give the labels of stupid, ugly, dumb, fat, or loser.""But boxes, no matter how ornate or beautiful, are limiting." So true. So beautifully stated.
Language and mental health/psychiatric illnesses/conditions/diagnoses/challenges/differences ~ labels ~ are hot button, triggering issues for me. They drive me crazy and feed into our collective consciousness, our prejudices and discrimination. Our negative stereotypes. Our sick public discourse. Language is political and words matter... It's time to stop and think about the words we use. To heal that discourse. I'm hypersensitive to language. So, first, let us consider the seemingly innocuous little article "the"... It sounds innocent enough, but not always. I cringe at the term, "the mentally ill." Who are the mentally ill? What exactly does that mean? Who are "the mentally ill?" Are they one group of people or many different, unique individuals? What do "the" mentally ill look like? What are their mental illnesses? Do they have productive jobs and careers? Do they have families and friends? What exactly are we saying when we talk about "the mentally ill?" And how about "the homeless"? I really get upset when I hear or read that one. The article "the" when describing a group of people instantly labels them and no one wants to be labeled... Linguistically, the word "the" used that way is an insidious device to take away our individuality, our uniquenesses.
I detest the word "stigma." It makes my skin crawl because no one takes personal responsibility for it. I hate the way it sounds. I hate to even say it. I prefer calling it the "S" word, but nobody knows what I mean because "stigma" is so ubiquitous and so convenient. Do you know what it means? Discrimination and Prejudice. Add two more words to that definition: Fear and Ignorance. Negative Stereotyping. Unnecessary Barriers. Get the picture? There is no stigma. Just prejudice and discrimination. When you say the word "stigma" you actually incite "stigma." Linguistically, it's an etymological trick, a praeteritio. Nasty stuff. Let us ban that word and call it by its proper names. Discrimination and Prejudice. Perhaps then, people will take personal responsibility for their own attitudes and ignorance and fear and prejudices and discrimination. May even attempt to change their attitudes. Learn more. Understand more. Become more empathetic. Compassionate. Kind. Inclusive. Maybe. But will anyone accept that their attitudes are prejudicial and discriminatory, that they have a problem? Perhaps by changing the language we can begin to change our culture, and our collective conscience? Am I asking too much? Certainly, we, who live with our psychiatric histories, who internalize our diagnoses, seem to suffer the most as a result of these sick misguided prejudices and discrimination. This irrational fear and ignorance. "Stigma" isn't some black cloud, out there in "society." The word is constantly misused and misunderstood. Here's some background on this blighted word...
This afternoon I met with the service manager of the Canadian National Institute of the Blind ~ the CNIB. Kids with mental illnesses and visual impairments... She and a group of teachers, parents and professionals working with blind or visually-impaired kids had asked me to speak at an annual conference ~ about mental health A New Challenge... Admittedly, I have never spoken or facilitated any kind of workshop on the subject of mental and emotional health for children and youth who are visually-impaired, had never even thought about this particular demographic The topic fascinated me, so I was anxious to continue our dialogue.
In February, my family doctor began cautioning me about my obsessive dieting. She explained that eating disorders are psychiatric conditions, mental illnesses. She used the "A" word. Anorexia. I thought she was out of her mind... I am not thin. I've never been thin. Certainly never too thin. I feel I need to lose more weight. To get thinner. She began monitoring me, monthly. By May, overly concerned about my inability to perceive myself realistically and my relentless determination to lose weight, she said this was related to my "mania" ~ my bipolar disorder. She sent a note to my psychiatrist. He referred me to an Eating Disorders Clinic... Last month, my kidney transplant specialist expressed similar concerns. He didn't want my electrolytes to go out of whack. When I diet, my sodium levels plummet. When these three doctors, the team that keeps me alive, showed such alarm, I decided to investigate eating disorders myself.