Friday, March 19, 2010

A Stereotype About Mentally Ill People

Yesterday, I was going through my Xanga home page, looking for blogs that my friends had written or recommended, and discovered fallingsafely's page. The first post I read by her was one about kittens, so obviously I was hooked from the start. I decided to read her other posts to see if I liked what she wrote and see if I wanted to add her as a friend. I started reading and I couldn't stop. She's a beautiful person. She writes incredibly. What really struck me though was this one post that I felt I could completely relate to. It had to do with how people classify mentally ill people the way they do dogs, for example. "Oh my god, he's so cute!" Not all mentally ill patients have lost their faculties. Not all of them are vegetables. They aren't animals or possessions. They're human. They have personalities, likes and dislikes, triggers, and emotions like the rest of us. Of course, they don't act or think the same way that the rest of society does, but that is not to say that they are not made of the same stuff. There are, of course, mentally ill patients that are dangerous and should be treated with the proper care, but there are others who simply are like fallingsafely or some of my friends or even me.

 I have friends who are truly mentally ill and who take medication for it. When you first meet them, you know there's something "wrong" with them. One cannot interact socially. The other has hate problems (though I think they're getting better). The other has a socially unacceptable sexual attraction. The list goes on. However much these problems define and control their lives, the problems are not the people themselves. These people have mind-blowing artistic skills; they argue philosophy, literature, society, history, religion, you name it; they write; they make their own clothes; they enjoy playing video games etc. They can interact socially and do so to the extent that they are able to. They all have friends and people who either do understand them or are reaching out to them to help them in their troubles and issues. Madness leads to mad company--just like the Mad Hatter and the Hare are friends, so my friends have mad friends.

I believe a bit of madness is good for society. Think of all the great artists and writers. Many of them had mental illnesses or were struggling to overcome them but their work is respected nonetheless. The most famous example is van Gogh, who sold only one painting in his entire life, and whose works today are the most expensive. Other media nowadays has also tried to show us that mentally unstable people are not mindless. The movie (and the book) Girl, Interrupted portrays a young girl who is sent to a hospital to be treated for borderline personality disorder. There, she meets other women who have similar illnesses. Though the movie is more romanticized than the book, there are similar scenes where the girls are shown enjoying activities such as playing the guitar, reading, watching TV, listening to music, going outside and walking, eating ice cream, etc.
Another incredible book is Veronika Decides to Die by Paulo Coelho. It's the story of Veronika, who amazingly enough, decides to die (who would have thought) by swallowing pills because she believes that life has nothing left in store for her. She wakes up in the local insane asylum, Villette, to be told that though the pills were not enough to kill her immediately, they had done irreversible damage to her body and that she'd die within the next few days. The whole book deals with her struggle to maintain her will to die while she meets "insane" people and realizes why in truth, she decided to kill herself. Coelho, himself once a hospital patient, questions society and their view of sanity, while he opens up a new world of views that "those" people have. It's an incredible, amazing book. I highly recommend it.

It's not only ignorant to believe that mentally ill people are like dogs or are all pushed into one group on the fringe of society, it's also not very ethical. The ones who believe that it's "cool" to be mentally ill are those who need to learn what it's like to live with a life that does not coincide with the world's view. When you are mentally ill, you do not instantly become loved, looked up to, talked about in awe in a whisper. You are feared, rejected, pushed away, ignored, and discriminated against. What would be so cool about that?

fallingsafely's blog entry and one of my friend's works of art done entirely in sharpie with no rough draft or anything--done on the first try. tell me it's not fucking amazing.

1 comment:

  1. As Dali said: "The only difference between me and a madman is that I am not mad"...