Rant: I Absolutely Despise America’s Attitude Towards Mental Health, Part 1

I offer no further preamble than saying I’ll seem inhumanly spiteful in the beginning, but I have a purpose in it. Bear with me, and I offer you things you didn’t know before. Things you need to know.

I originally intended to start this piece by preemptively apologizing and saying, “Oh, but just to be clear, I don’t despise YOU.”

That’s a lovely encapsulation of the problem, isn’t it? All discourse regarding mental illness and especially suicide simply must be bubble-wrapped to protect sensitive, sensitive neurotypical feelings. Heaven fucking forbid that people already burdened with the genetic manacles of depression or Autism or who just haven’t had the same rosy-making life experience as others be able to seek the tiniest understanding without spending hours formatting everything in advance.

We wouldn’t want to offend all those supposedly higher-functioning folks, now would we? Yes, it’s definitely the responsibility of people whose own brain structure is so warped that it frequently grapples with the idea, the longing for self-destruction, to safeguard the emotions of people whose main distinction is supposed to be that they’re free of such burdens. By all means, let’s make it harder on the people who already have it hard by forcing them to make it easier for those who already have it easier.

Not only do they leave us in the trenches alone, but we’re supposed to be our own PR department? Are these people sure they’re the strong ones? Are they sure they’re the hot neuro-shit they think they are? Why is it that when all of them claim they understand we’re the vulnerable ones, they’re the ones who always end up protected? Why exactly is that?

Why is it that growing up, my neurotypical classmates were never punished a fraction as hard for antagonizing me in groups as I was for trying to defend myself? Oh, don’t worry, that’s still relevant. Nothing’s changed. Pretty damn hard for it to do so when no one born outside the issue wants to talk about it.

And if you even think of that vapid, reflexive word, that sickening cop-out deflection used by just about every person who’s ever wanted to care about neurodivergent people without doing any of the actual fucking work of caring, if you so much as breathe the first corrupt syllable of the phrase “medications,” leave my blog and take your lazy talk of silver bullets with you.

My fellows are dying out here on the line, and you can’t even spare the effort to listen before you bring up the tablets. Gods damn you all and the minivans you rode in on, we need allies, not more fucking tablets.

If a goddamn pill could fix all mental health, it would have. Pay your very best attention to this next part: medications work for some peopleFor some people, the ones hammered with depression and anxiety that don’t stem from anything, medications may be the only answer. Me? I’ve struggled with depression and anxiety because my life experiences give me reasons to have depression and anxiety. The medications–comprehend this, if your flimsy, society-cosseted mind can take it–do not alter reality. No amount of off-handed prescriptions are going to change the facts of my life.

I’ve hesitated to mention these things because they sound so fucking generic, but that’s not on me either, is it? That’s on the multitude of neurotypical people who have decided that the legitimacy of a mental illness depends on how uniquely unsettling it is. That’s on those who, functionally, care so little about us that they devised a handy subset of criteria allowing them to throw out anyone whose experience isn’t “raw” in the right way.

Bonus points if they’re physically attractive so they can fantasize about how tragically beautiful they are, and jerk themselves off or flick the bean thinking about how much they want to fuck a smile back onto that poor, sadly gorgeous face.

Here are my generic reasons: I have put effort into this blog that completely belies the results I’m getting. 7 or 8 likes a post is a veritable act of god. Let me be clear: I don’t believe the material on this blog or the title or anything else lends itself to going viral, or heavy daily traffic, or any of that. But I see the results on similar or even more niche blogs, blogs that have just started, blogs that have been inactive for months that post far less than I do, and no matter how meager they are, they outdo mine.

This seems to have no bearing on how I present a post, what it’s about, or even when I post it. It’s completely beyond my control, or at least feels that way. On multiple different occasions I’ve had several people like announcement posts for upcoming articles or stories (Bird’s Eye View has been infuriating for this) but not the actual material I was announcing. And I’ve never once had a single person spontaneously share anything I’ve posted here.

That’s not to mention all the usual stuff: inordinate amounts of effort poured into maintaining relations with friends who forget I exist if I stop messaging them, a catastrophic lack of professional success because no one on this wretched planet gives a damn what I can actually do, only what cringing industry toadies I can dredge up to claim I’m able to do things, and of course, the dark side of Aspergers’.

I’ll have to save the last for its own article, because no one seems to want to acknowledge it. And unlike the vast majority of writers, I don’t have even the small chorus of friends and family at my back saying they believe in me. If I do, finally, get a book out, as I’m trying to, my acknowledgments page will have maybe a dozen people on it.

I draft and post in silence, to receive silence. You may have heard that truly sound-proof rooms drive people a little insane.

The point is that with all of this, despite all of this, my despairing moments are still relatively few. We’re looking at a few bad hours out of a whole week when I just can’t take it anymore, and I just need someone to show me a way forward. And still society has the simpering gall to suggest I’m not doing my part because I won’t take a pill. I’ve tried the pills, you imbecilic vultures. They don’t. Work. You know why?

For the same reason that morphine doesn’t stop knife victims from bleeding to death. You need to patch the wound itself or the bleeding’s going to turn mortal no matter how little they feel it. But since it’s not actually their lives on the line–just friends or family who’re more solitary by nature, nice expendable faces–everyone outside mental illness just wants the issue to go away. They just want a nice, tidy, one-size-fits-all, silver bullet that’ll make it not their problem, and that’s the reason we keep hearing medications, medications, medications.

After all the isolation and all the pain and all the grim, silent vigils I’ve kept alone, all the while having advertisements and social media rubbing in my face all the things other people have that I don’t, after all the casual guttings from friends who dare to imply–at the end of yet another day when it took everything I had to get out of bed, and everything I had to make myself eat, and make myself type, make myself work out, and with not a heartbeat’s satisfaction from any of it–at the end of everything, my own parents will imply maybe I’m just not applying myself.

After I’ve dug myself a pit with nothing but application for months, for years, and my fingers are torn bloody trying to claw my way up, the people who struck gold in the first foot or so of digging–usually because they “look nice today”, so the man selling shovels at the counter pointed them to the easy pickings–stand on the lip of my hole, a hundred feet above, and demand to know why I think I can give up.

I used to be the kindest person I knew.

I’m not asking for wealth beyond measure or even above-average success. I want the same thing now I’ve always wanted: a career in writing or martial arts that will pay for itself. And that’s not the smallest thing in the world, I know. Those careers are rare, I understand that, but against the ridiculous sky-mansions found in the average neurotypical person’s dreams, I hope we can agree my wishes are humble.

Even this blog is a monument to that. Skim through the other posts. See how many bloggers like them (few). See how many of them are completely unnoticed (most). I’ve long since stopped posting material here I didn’t care about. I thought initially that this was good, a rational change of direction. I didn’t realize until too late how the throwaway pieces shielded me.

When my careless articles bombed, it made no impression on me. There was little enough investment, and when the better ones failed I told myself it was just lingering discontent with the throwaway material. But there are no more throwaways, not since I restarted the blog again; this is either the third or fourth official reset, and the fourth or fifth counting the dead period after I initially created this space for a college course. I wonder what might’ve been if I’d committed then and there.

I didn’t.

I understand how ugly I’ve been up until these last few paragraphs. As I said at the start, it was for a purpose. I’ve tried so many times to be open, to be vulnerable, and at best I’ve been met with silence, or the jeers of Internet trolls. The latter have long since stopped affecting me; I have legitimate problems, insecure high-schoolers make no impression. No, reader, the terrible moments have been all those when I dared offer my fears and concerns to a friend in the gentlest way possible, and they responded with judgment.

Why is that that neurotypical people are–I won’t ask your forgiveness for this–so alarmingly, idiotically selfish about confessions of suicidal ideation? If one of your friends burst into your home late at night, clutching a gunshot wound to the belly, how would you react? Would it be like this?

“What the hell is wrong with you? Why would you think this is okay?” you demand, shoving your fingers into the hole and tearing at its sides, ripping at every loose scrap of skin and flesh you see. “How could you be so selfish? Why would you want to get shot?” you press, grabbing a vegetable knife and driving it into the wound. You slide it in and out, slicing your way up your friend’s belly, opening their aorta. In the spurting blood, you scream at them, “Why are you bleeding right now?! How do you think this makes me feel?!”

Of course not, because that would be monstrous. Of course, telling someone who’s contemplating suicide due to feelings of futility and low self-worth that you don’t believe they’re trying, that they’re selfish to even think of this, that they should feel bad, that’s not the same, is it? No, it isn’t. In the knife example, you would never have the diseased need to claim that you were cutting your friend’s guts out because you just care so much, would you?

So much of mental health discourse in the United States repeats the same pattern: the instant neurodivergent people come forward with our trauma, the neurotypical community seizes control of discourse to make it about how painful it is for them to hear that we don’t want to live.

These pampered spouses and commercial mavens, these well-adjusted school teachers and forever-suited politicians all whine, because you bet your beating heart it’s whining, how hard it is for them that our genetic code suffered hiccups during replication that prevent us fitting into the counterintuitive, frequently incoherent world they’ve constructed.

We, as spheres, are not asking for a ground-up conversion of the entire square-peg-based economy, we’re simply suggesting that there are places with spherical hollows already which we would be better suited for than the undersized rectangles currently occupying them, please, sir?

But instead of acknowledging those spherical hollows exist and trying to help us get there, our so-called friends lose their minds (ironically), getting defensive or angry that we trusted them enough to say anything at all. The people weeping over the loss of their friends or family to suicide are the same who reliably played into society’s main method of dealing with mental illness: guilt the mentally ill for their condition until they stop talking to you about it.

The primary physical response associated with the emotion of guilt is silence. We only feel half so tongue-tied when we’re in love as when we feel guilty. This creates an absolutely brilliant feedback loop wherein neurodivergent individuals bottle up their emotions until they can’t any more, are told we’re overreacting, so we bottle up our emotions, repeat until hopelessness sets in, and if this goes on for long enough without relief: suicide.

And then after the fact the people who supposedly loved us can’t manage to stop talking about how selfish the suicide was, thus guilting other mentally-ill individuals into staying silent instead of seeking health, and the cycle begins anew. Are you people sure you’re not on-board with eugenics? Because it sure feels as though every aspect of the way you treat us is intended to eradicate us from society.

The sick irony of mental illness is that those of us who suffer from it reliably develop a level of self-control that mentally “normal” people never have to. Because we grow up keenly aware of our insufficiencies in these areas, we continue to criticize, refine and improve our emotional responses and projection to a point where we appear higher functioning than most neurotypicals. We take such emotional control and empathy for others for granted, and so we’re completely unprepared when our neurotypical friends lash out at us in our most vulnerable moments.

In that instant, it doesn’t occur to us to defend ourselves. It doesn’t occur to us that what they’re doing is wrong. Because,  it is. It’s horribly, horribly wrong. When someone comes to you to open up about their depression, and your first response is to make the conversation about how uncomfortable they’ve made you, that’s monstrous. You’re sticking your fingers into that bullet wound again, tearing more gristly strips out of the bleeding mass.

“Have you tried medication?” is just as bad in its own way. What they hear is you telling them that their attempts to parse or understand their disorder–which, rationally, they have to in order to live with it–are futile, maybe even childish. What they hear is that you, who claim to be their friend, are not willing to help them. They’re so fucked up only professionals can help, and they’re selfish idiots for hoping they’ll ever surpass that.

I’ll talk more about the cult-like mentality of professionalism in U.S. mental health shortly, but for now? So much of the psychological trauma felt by so many in the States comes from feeling like they don’t have friends, that they can’t function in normal society. When you, with the very best intentions, default to saying “you need professional help,” you’re widening that wound again. Yes, professional help can be vital for some. But mental health isn’t physical health. It doesn’t follow the same rules.

Think on this: why is it that psychology trusts the mentally ill to give the symptoms whereby diagnoses must be made, but not to understand their disorder personally? How are we mentally ill people supposed to properly convey symptoms we don’t understand?

 

4 thoughts on “Rant: I Absolutely Despise America’s Attitude Towards Mental Health, Part 1

    1. I’m glad you appreciated it, and thanks for speaking up on this article in particular! I’m always bothered by the irony of speaking out about mental health and hearing nothing back.

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