December 16, 2012

One Of Us

America is addicted to guns as a solution.  They love their guns, plain and simple.  But the obsession with "freedom" and rights are to my way of thinking an addiction.

The anti-gun lobby can make all the noise they want to, but the American political Establishment- White House, Congress and Courts, will never limit the usage or availability of guns.  Guns are like the National Flower, except they are more like a weed.  Or a cancer.
And the patient just loves to smoke.  Knows it will kill them, but loves to smoke.  Knows that the gun lobby likes to get them young, and make them gun owners at as young an age as is humanly possible.

But the issue of all the shootings is not really guns.  Guns don't kill people; they just make it easier to kill lots of people at one time.  The issue is mental illness and how we accept that it is a part of us, and how we find better solutions and ways of managing it.

People who have cancer often want to be referred to as someone "living with cancer", as opposed to dying of cancer.  They are in the middle of a battle, and they are fighters; they are working on a management of pain, of health and risks.  This is the same situation for people with mental illnesses.
It is not a situation of "pulling up your bootstraps."  Or when I was kid, if a kid acted up and told his mother to fuck off bitch and I want to kill you and everyone you love, they got a beating and that was that.  Mental illness is just that- an illness.

Is it easier to think of mental illness as a cancer of the brain?  It isn't, but as a society, we accept that some people will get cancer.  But mental illness- and there are many many different kinds, variations, and degrees of severity- however ubiqitous, is not accepted.  We turn away, we shuffle it off to the shadows.   Why in the old days, we shut them away, as far away as possible, because we feared as an illness, it may be communicable.

Doug Coupland says All Families Are Psychotic.  It is meant as a glib statement with a certain irony implied.  And he is referring to our familial relationships when he says Family.  But all families may have someone who is psychotic, or neurotic, or more commonly depressed, or bi-polar.  These "illnesses" are only some of the more common states; what about conditions like autism, Aspberger's, ADHD, anxiety or panic attacks.

Who is normal anymore?  What is "normal"?  There are scales and charts and definitions that help us to define these terms and the degrees of severity.  But when you are different, you know it.  You feel it in your bones and every fibre in your body.   It is part of your vision, part of your breathing, it is who you are.

I am 54, going on 55, a white male with a great job, beautiful wife, and gorgeous and talented daughter.  I have a family that loves me, and according to Facebook, almost 800 "friends".

I also have depression, which I manage on a daily basis with pharmacology.  I work hard to be happy, although happiness and sadness are not really part of depression at all.  There are so many variations again that it would take much more than one blog post to divulge.  More friends of mine, often men and women of the same age, also have depression.  Or anxiety to the point that some days, one is severely affected.   It is a manageable mental condition, an illness if you must.  I don't identify myself as being ill.

I am just me, accept me for what and who I am.  I have really have no time for "faking it" anymore.
My depression was diagnosed 6 months after my heart attack, which is also very common.  It was probably brought on by the chemical changes that happened after my heart attack, or perhaps the medication given after my heart attack.  Or perhaps the seeds to it were planted, just like my heart attack, many years before.  Perhaps it is genetic, as depression runs in families.  Perhaps brought on by untold grief, as almost ten friends and family members died within about 4 years.

I remember some of the same feeling many years before, even as a child.  My brain always seemed to work different, and not always in a bad way.   I am very creative, I see the world from what appears to me to be a different vantage point, I am fairly articulate in my thoughts and in my artistic expression.

I am currently reading a book by Andrew Solomon, The Noonday Demon, an Atlas of Depression.  I highly recommend it to anyone who has a interest in this subject.  I have read many books, many memoirs, but this book, and I am only 59 pages into a book that is almost 569 pages, is enlightening on a subject that is so often in the shadows.
I am "coming out" today not for sympathy or shock value, but to hopefully "normalize" mental conditions, mental illnesses.  If we do not start to talk about this subject, and find solutions, we will just have more and more tragedies like the recent tragedy in Connecticut.

In my job as a trader and sales person, I always try to find a "workable" solution.  It is good for me to make a profit, and it is important for my client to keep their costs within their margins.  So to make a sale happen, I need to balance risks, expectations, and find how to make it "workable".

This process is what we need to do as a society- find a way to make mental illnesses and conditions more workable for the people who need help.   In extreme situations, some people need to  be removed from society for their own safety and for our own safety.   Unfortunately the way we usually do that is with the prison system.  A vast majority of prisoners are mentally ill.   A vast majority of people who are homeless are mentally ill.  A vast majority of alcoholics and drug abusers are also mentally ill.

Can we at least admit that the way we handle things today is not working, is not "workable"?
Can we find a way to help people with problems before they become unmanageable?
Before they become toxic?
Before they become dangerous?
After all, they are one of us.

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