My book, “Inside the Insane,” caused a scene in Los Angeles County when it first came out. I was immediately escorted out of my job at the hospital and served papers which said I was under investigation for publishing my book and conducting myself in “inappropriate behavior.” For what?
For telling my truth. My truth. We all have a different idea or concept of truth, which is great, but only if we use that truth toward bettering society.
Upon catching wind of my book, the county banned me from speaking to anyone from the Department of Mental Health (DMH) or the Department of Health Services (DHS) and moved me to the basement at headquarters to do data entry. OK.
John Stuart Mill “On Liberty”
“Truth, in the great practical concerns of life, is so much of a question of the reconciling and combining of opposites that very few have minds sufficiently impartial to make the adjustment with an approach to correctness, and it has to be made by the rough process of a struggle between combatants fighting under hostile banners.” (1859)
I believe truth has lost its voice in our culture, specifically when discussing the mentally ill. I can’t tell you how many people have approached me after reading my book and said it was brave or courageous. It’s not brave to tell the truth. To not speak out for current concerns regarding the mentally ill in our society is scary, ’cause where does that leave us? We live in a culture that tends to ignore or not want to address obvious realities surrounding mental illness.
In my experiences in inpatient psych wards, I witnessed families in despair, afraid for anyone to know they have a sick son or nephew, or just completely at a loss over what to do because the disease is so under-known.
After I published my book, random people I would come across that I would talk to about mental illness would, halfway through the conversation, admit they had a mother or friend that was bipolar, but didn’t want me to “tell anyone.” Who am I going to tell? And why is it a secret?
Where along the continual evolving spirit of our culture did we get to a place where it’s not an open discussion at the dining room table?
So son, how’s the arm healing? You gonna be able to play ball this season? Or suck it up and play with your sprained ankle?
A sprained brain without acknowledgement or treatment becomes broken beyond repair. It’s not going to be fixed on its own, so it better be addressed now before it grows into something unmanageable.
Why are there so many people who have come out to me and cry in their loneliness, dealing with a disease that no one seems to want to understand? Ignorance.
Ignorance is a choice. When you choose to close a door to an open dialogue in our world, you only isolate the sick and end up paying for it, literally, in a county with a broken mental health infrastructure.
I bring up these concerns in my book, which I hope you take a close look at. Fundamentally, we do not have a chance to progress and make crucial changes if we have shame and silence.
John Stuart Mill “On Liberty.”
“Eccentricity has always abounded when and where strength of character has abounded; and the amount of eccentricity in a society has generally been proportional to the amount of genius, mental vigor, and moral courage which is contained. That so few now dare to be eccentric marks a chief danger of the time.” (1859)
I went through life with people calling me “crazy” like it was some funny oh Erica catch phase. It continued to haunt me as I got older, and my hypo-manic condition continued to grow inside my brain and on top of my conscience. I do not regret that I didn’t learn of my illness until I was 28. I am thankful I had writing to get me through my mind. It was hard to read a lot of those early years but I did not touch a single word. I stuck to the truth of that time, even when it was beyond embarrassing, ’cause the truth is important.
Now, I touched on the evolving nature of our culture and the spirit that fuels change. When I walked into my first day on the ward, it was not my intention to write a book, but I went home and couldn’t help myself. I was confused and mad. How is this the process of handling half of the human condition, the other half being physical?
Rene Descartes “Discourse on Method and Meditations on First Philosophy.”
“Now my observation here is that there is a great difference between a mind and a body in that a body, by its very nature, is always divisible. On the other hand, the mind is utterly indivisible.” (1637)
I was appalled at so much that I witnessed in the ward and that frustration bred truths. The more I experienced, the more pissed off I got ,and it’s there in the writing. I firmly believe anger is necessary for change. And I also believe at the root of all my frustration and what the hell is going on in this world? is love. I love human kind and its potential to be more too much not to be angry at the stigma of mental illness and use that to challenge the system.
Fury, in my opinion, is a necessary tool for change. We can’t go through life and pretend mental illness doesn’t affect you or you or her ’cause it will affect you, either personally or with someone close to you at some point. So take my words of fierce passion and find it an inspiration to promote change. Make it your goal to find a way to get angry enough to have a voice in our cultural dialogue and be a part of pioneering change. Don’t wait till your son smashes a glass door in schizophrenic episode to be aware. Do not be ashamed of the mental illness that runs in your family or through your veins.
I’ll take a hit from the county, no problem. I’m not going to kid myself; things will change slowly. But at least I’ll try. Go ahead and stuff me in a basement doing remedial work. I’m not going anywhere.
Your job is harder. I’ve dealt with my breakdown and recovery and the reality that I have to take medication twice a day for the rest of my life. You’re starting from scratch. But you have a chance and gift to stop where we are still heading since the 1800’s.
Talk to your family about mental illness. Open the door to a discussion of family ancestry. Talk to yourself in the mirror
Ask yourself, how you are doing? Do you need help?
You have a huge role and duty to acknowledge that mental illness is a portal into a world that’s unknown and can produce great things and it can only happen with a platform of truth. We need to be honest with each other and with ourselves. Truth is our only hope for a chance at change.
Sigmund Freud Studies of Hysteria
“Her own established disgust at habits had persisted undiminishished because she was obligated constantly to suppress it, instead of getting rid of it by reaction.” (1893)
Suppressing, denying, avoiding, rejecting… this is not reacting. It will not progress our civilization toward a common good that entails truth which will ultimately result in change.