Archives for discrimination
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.
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?"
The most wondrous thing about my dogs is their innate "cuddle-ability." Riley and Lucy love nothing more than to be held and petted. They beg for it. And who can resist a face like Riley's?
My dogs have "cuddle-ability"...This is a Dandie Dinmont Terrier trait. They so love to cuddle that at all our Dandie Dinmont Terrier Club of Canada public events we have a special "Cuddling Parlour" where anyone can sit down and "cuddle a Dandie."
What is so magical about cuddling a dog?It's no secret that petting any dog or cat, for that matter, creates a magnificent neuroscientific reaction in the person doing the cuddling and petting. A bonding hormone is produced called Oxytocin, the same hormone nursing mothers produce when they are breast feeding their children. It's also called the hormone of love.
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.
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...
I wasn't there. I cannot attest to the factual accuracy of what I'm about to share with you. But according to a very close relative with whom I visited this weekend, I was given "everything" ~ all the love and attention in the world ~ but "there was something wrong with me." "From birth," the relative pronounced with profound authority, "you were a very, very, very difficult child in every possible way." That is one truth. But is it the only truth? Take a gun. Aim it at my heart or head. Then pull the trigger. I have heard this from this relative and others in my family more times than I can remember. It is in "the family record." It IS the family record. And I am not buying that particular truth anymore. It's old. It's out of date. It's been disproven. It's no longer valid or real. Perhaps I was difficult. So? In 1948, the year of my birth, perhaps I was difficult ~ compared to other children and other "norms" of the period. Who knows? For sure? Perhaps there were other expectations of me. Was I a bad child? Did I hurt other people purposely? I don't know and it's all history now. Ancient history.
You may be wondering where I've been since November 30 ~ Day Three ~ of my outpatient eating disorder treatment program. Read the comments to that last post. You'll see some of my progress. Since then a few things happened... I snapped the picture you see, this morning. It's a tight shot of my right hand. Note the discolouration on my thumb. Not dirt. It's a bruise, black and blue. Also... I am very right-handed and not, as I have discovered ~ in the least, whatsoever, in any remote way ~ ambidextrous. The plaster cast you see goes up to my elbow. It weighs "a ton." Feels like it, anyway. After a stupid fall on Wednesday, December 14 ~ all falls methinks are stupid, right? ~ and an x-ray revealed that I had indeed broken my right arm above my wrist, the technician in the ER fracture clinic said I would be able to have a yellow fibreglass cast in a week. Mmmmmm. My favourite colour.
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.
Since Hurricane Irene visited New York... I am relieved to report that Cherry Grove is still there, but the phone lines are bad and my cousins are busy moving back to Manhattan. I have no other details. As I was saying... It's hard to explain how I felt when I first visited Cherry Grove 15 years ago. Then I found this charming graphic by Fire Island resident and artist Susan Ann Thornton titled "Fire Island Boardwalk." It's from her series of children's books called Adventures of Baby Cat in Cherry Grove and it captures my perception of the ethos and spirit of this heavenly little summer place. It's magic transformed me back then, temporarily, and it did, again, a few weeks ago. As conflicted I am right now about my body and my eating, in Cherry Grove, I found myself wandering about in shorts and halter tops and engaging easily with lots of people, especially those with dogs. My psychiatric 'history' doesn't exist. Nobody's does. People let each other "be" and this total acceptance and inclusivity is utterly liberating.