Category Archives: Language

The DSM is a Medical Text, Not a Plot Generator

I am tired of feeling like every time I see a mental illness article, I need to shield myself from the comments.

I am sick with fear every time I hear “mental health registry”.

I am undone by the lies media tells in their plotlines, using PTSD, schizophrenia, anxiety, depression, and therapy as plot points, punch lines and things people get over.

We can medicate, we can use therapists and we can find pieces of truth which comfort us in the darkness of our own existences – but this is something we all live with. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is not a repetitive joke, it is not the thing which makes a private detective funny. PTSD is not the thing which makes Charlotte King angry and mean, anxiety is not merely fixed with a pill, and therapy should not be the joke of a 30 minute sitcom.

When do we stop using mental illness as a punching bag and start considering ways to help people who live with it?

It seems as though those with mental illnesses are cast into four categories in media: Out of Their Heads Crazy Violent, Nonsensical Crazy,  Functional But Silly Crazy, and Angry Crazy. These all have varying levels. For example, a savant might be in either the functional or in the nonsensical category, whereas often people with PTSD are only cast as angry crazy. schizophrenics are cast as out of their heads and violent. Always, or at least that’s how it feels.

These depictions are wrong.

Mental illnesses are diagnostic tools. They are not all the same.

My experience with PTSD is very different from someone elses’ and my triggers will be different. The way that I express my feelings about the diagnosis which I hold – very different from someone else.

The solutions are different too. For someone who is violent, perhaps medication and time in a hospital setting may help. For that matter, people who have mental health issues which impact their whole lives may need to be hospitalized just so they can get a grip on their own lives – hospitals are not places for just the violent. They are places where people can learn skills they need out in a world which is often harsh on those whose realities are different from the general populations. For someone with PTSD it may be a place to regain control of an episode, and to remember where they are in time.

We don’t need television shows to continue getting it wrong, to keep telling the stories of the mentally ill for us – and telling them badly. We don’t need to have the general public hear stories time after time that PTSD only affects people in the military. We don’t need to have the myths of OCD as funny fill the gaps in where knowledge should be. We should be learning about one another by asking questions, by listening, and by thinking harder than the TV set will encourage us to.

The fact is, mental illness isn’t just about being quirky or different. It is what makes us people. For some of those people, it makes them artists. It makes them see the world in different ways.

I have an ability to understand sorrow, and past pain in a way that some don’t. I have friends whose schizophrenia makes them better writers. Photographers whose stories tell tales of depression – and we wouldn’t know what that looked like were it not for them. Beethoven would not have been the artist he was without his madness and his deafness. Emily Dickinson would not have been the poet we love were it not for her profound agoraphobia. Sometimes these differences are what make us beautiful, and we can’t forget that even though we fear each other.

Perspective is everything – and we cannot forget the beauty inherent in a world of difference.


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Filed under Disability Issues, Language

Having Fun Isn’t Always Fun and Games

I’m always up for sharing the work of those I know on the internet watercooler, and today I’m talking about the piece Lillian Cohen Moore wrote about Cards Against Humanity – a game which I love dearly, but always struggle with in some instances.

Cards Against Humanity is billed as Apples to Apples for Horrible People.

Sure, we’re all pretty terrible in my group of friends, but as Lillian explains – that can be a really big problem. Please read the article here: Save Vs. Sexism: Cards Against Humanity

So, I left a comment, but I’ll expand on it here:

Humor to cope with sadness is a major coping mechanism for me. In fact, I’m the person who makes her therapist laugh pretty frequently. But I think a lot of that. much like what’s hurtful, is in the eye of the beholder. The reason I find people being “PC” problematic sometimes is that we’re all going to have different issues, and we’re all going to get hurt in different ways. it can be hard to avoid every single hurtful thing ever – so we have to try. We have to strive to be better to one another – which is why the house rule I mentioned in my comment was instituted. I didn’t see the  South Park movie because I chose not to see a movie in which HIV/AIDS was a punchline. I sometimes struggle with listening to the ‘Book of Mormon” soundtrack because there are AIDS jokes that hit me where it hurts more often than not.

Giving me the AIDS cards is giving me the ability to choose whether or not to laugh at my pain. It would be significantly more difficult to change the deck to get rid of all the rape cards and give them to one person, or all the DV cards to one individual. And perhaps there’s a certain sense to avoiding this game if you really can’t handle certain jokes – I don’t suggest it to anyone who would be offended by violent imagery of Glenn Beck, for example. But I think this game can be a useful tool for those of us who do find hurt in some of the cards, and in this I think it’s useful. We can laugh at our pain, we can take the power away from our pain – and we can mock it into the ground.

So, play Cards Against Humanity thoughtfully – and don’t eat all the cookies at the AIDS bake sale.

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Filed under Feminism, Language, Sound Reflections

The Power of Hate

There’s a word I’ve been hearing a lot lately: Hate.

I hate white people.

I hate straight people.

I hate republicans.

I hate men.

Hate is a really powerful word.  I feel pretty strongly that blanket statements of hate don’t get us anywhere – but I especially feel that way when it comes to those of us who fall under the blanket of “liberalism”. I’ve always found myself believing that being liberal is a part of being accepting.

Where has the ability to agree to disagree gone? Furthermore, where has the ability to get along with those who aren’t like us gone? We live in a difficult political era. There are people who want women to have no rights to their bodies, there are those who say that gay marriage is a sin. There are those who don’t believe that being trans is real.

But those people have always been a reality. Since forever,  there have always been conservatives, there have always been people more interested in removing rights rather than giving them to people. There have always been those who do not believe they have equals. There are always those who put down others.

We don’t need to speak in this way.

We don’t have to shriek that we hate a blanket group, just because portions of that group are difficult to live with.

I do it too. I’m trying to learn how not to hate people I’ve never met. It’s difficult to not hate the Wesboro Baptist Church, for example. Because they do things I find unspeakable. I find it difficult to not hate Mitt Romney, because to me he presents a threat to my way of life. It is difficult to not hate those who ascribe gender normativity to those who will not conform. It is difficult to not hate those who want to keep gay men and women from marriage.

But I need to learn not to. I need to learn that there are better ways to make my point known than to hate. I can disagree vehemently with another person and not hate them.  Hate is such a deep-seated emotion – but the word almost loses meaning with how much I see it used today. If we all hated as much as we say we do, then I fear for the very fabric of society. I fear for feminism, because if we hate men, then we’re just falling straight into the trap of being precisely what the anti-feminists fear. Strength is not hate. We can have strength and conviction without the means of rage.

Not only that, but it hurts. It hurts when you area straight ally and don’t participate in gay bashing, but you hear that your friends hate straight people. It hurts to think that just because of orientation, you end up being lumped in with the very people you disagree with.

Hatred creates so many things. It is responsible for lynchings, for murders, for rapes, for many things which I would never do, and you probably wouldn’t either.

Stop hating. Start disagreeing. Start having convictions. Start talking rationally.

I’m not saying to stop being angry, but I want us to voice our anger differently than through hate.

Just stop hating your fellow human beings, and start talking in productive ways that change things.

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Filed under Language, Politics