Friday, November 6, 2009

Title Post

It's okay for me to say 'nut case' because I am one. I have the paperwork to prove it.

Just last week an otherwise very nice alternative healer tried to convince me that I was just sensitive, a healer, and not 'really' mentally ill. I suppose I appreciate the effort. People don't tend to understand that I'm not ashamed of being mentally ill, not afraid of it, and not shy about telling others. They think they are doing me a favor if they deny my condition, like a doctor saying, "Good news! You don't have cancer after all!" But I just don't see it that way. It's a descriptive, it's not a death sentence or a deficiency. It means that your mind, like many millions of minds on the planet, can go to some really peculiar places without effort. Depending on the society you live in, this can be very desirable or it can be very aberrant. The real problem with it, in my view, is that it happens randomly. Most things that happen randomly are a pretty bad idea when you're on a schedule: like a steel safe falling onto your head from an upper window.

I'm not saying it's easy or fun. Mental illness is not for sissies. But when you boil it down, an episode of mental illness is merely an altered state, and altered states are what all the best drugs are designed to produce, at some very high prices! Altered states are what meditation is for. They are what shamans try to use. They are what hypnotherapists learn to produce in their clients. They have uses, they have explanations, they have pluses and minuses (mostly minuses in our culture), and they can be managed, like any other chronic medical condition.

They can also be painful, and in this culture they can make the so-called 'normal' mainstream lifestyle difficult or impossible.

Until very recently they were a complete mystery, so they people who had them were scary, and often treated them horribly (with complete legal sanction). I suspect that deep down, people were afraid that if they allowed us around they would catch it too. We are starting to have some medical and scientific information now, and the whole shebang is changing. But fear and stigma hang around us like clouds of gunpowder. It's a transitional time, and transitional times are chaotic and messy and touchy.

I'm not touchy. Call me anything you want. Call me a healer or a channel or a psychotic or a nut case or just a loud mouthed troublemaker. I really don't care. I'm a writer. That's what counts. Some folks would say I'm entitled to a tilted paradigm. What I know is that I've got a mental illness, and I've learned to live with it. What I know is that there are a lot of us - millions and millions of us - and it's time we started talking to each other.  We don't have to be isolated,  we don't have to be silent. Let's look at what we are, and how we define it, and what we can do about it.

What I want to do is view this issue from as many angles as possible - hence the title. Any poetry lovers out there will recognize that it comes from a famous poem about  different ways to look at  a blackbird;  it is a beautiful, classic poem. If that title bothers you, if it offends you -  let's think about that. Why does it? What would you call yourself?

In a future post, I'll talk about some new labels and phrases to describe who we are. In a year or two, if I'm lucky, they'll be available in a book called Is There Room For Me Too? 12 Steps to Coping with Chronic Mental Illness. But whether that happens or not, this big mouthed writer is here to stay.