Tag Archives: tales of a high-functioning madman

He took his hands back. “Well, I did know you were a manipulative bitch,” he said.

Zahra smothered a laugh. I was surprised. I’d never heard him use the word before. I heard it now as a sound of frustration. He wasn’t going to leave. He was a last bit of home that I didn’t have to give up yet. How did he feel about that? Was he angry with me for almost breaking up the group? He had reason to be, I suppose.

“I don’t understand how you could have been like this all the time,” he said. “how could you hide your sharing from everyone?”

“My father taught me to hide it,” I told him.” He was right. In this world, there isn’t any room for housebound, frightened squeamish people, and that’s what I might have become if everyone had known about me–all the other kids for instance. Little kids are vicious. Haven’t you noticed?”

“But your brothers must have known.”

“My father put the fear of God into them about it. He could do that. As far as I know, they never told anyone. Keith used to play ‘funny’ tricks on me though.”

“So … you faked everyone out. You must be a hell of an actor.”

“I *had* to learn to pretend to be normal. My father kept trying to convince me that I was normal. He was wrong about that, but I’m glad he taught me the way he did.”

“Maybe you are normal. I mean if the pain isn’t real, then maybe—”

“Maybe this sharing thing is all in my head? Of course it is! and I can’t get it out. Believe me, I’d love to.”

— Octavia Butler, Parable of the Sower, p. 194. (Grand Central Publishing, 2007 edition.) 

Depression isn’t Simple

I read this piece with some irritation, then rethought my reaction and realized the piece was more about politics than psychology or depression. I agree with most of Rhyd’s politics but disagree on the framing with depression.

Perhaps because I just got to see West Side Story over the weekend, I’m immediately reminded of “Officer Krupke,” in which, the Jets mock simplistic attempts to explain their lives via cause-effect theories.

There is a certain degree of crazymaking behind modern theories of mental illness that say waking up on a morning where the air tastes like Giger, Lovecraft, and Poe is really about my grandparents, my rapist, my job, my culture, my politics, or my religion. In some ways, I suspect that ideas about humors and demonic possession were more honest to the experience of having your mind hijacked. There is a big need for a WYFIWYG (what you feel is what you got) psychology that treats depressive/anxiety episodes as depressive/anxiety episodes and not distant baggage or social or religious malaise.

Because just as those episodes are qualitatively different from mystical experiences or the regular blues, they’re qualitatively different from political anger as well. My bad days combine the worst features of amphetamines, espresso jitters, a weepy drunk, and psychedelics. My worst night had some of the symptoms of the DTs, with nothing stronger in my system than an aspirin. There’s a very weird double-standard in our culture where we take for granted the effects of prescription and recreational drugs (including alcohol and coffee) but explain away the effects of mental illness as politics, religion, relationship, or fantasy.

It’s not that those distal factors are irrelevant. To construct a metaphor, I’m sitting on a levee watching the waters rise and fall on a daily basis without a satellite view of exactly where in the watershed the flood is coming from. Some of the tributaries are frequently traveled and mapped, others are unknown. Some of them (since I come originally from Karst land) are likely underground and unknowable.

When the levee breaks, you move and you clean up the damage after. Focusing on this tributary or that tributary isn’t a panacea. Depression and Anxiety Disorders, like life, and rivers, are fractal hydras that can’t be slain by hitting on one head. When we simplify that to religion or politics, we skate on the edge of victim-blaming, and fail to understand either the problems, or the people who have them. 

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28 March 2014: Pray for the Survivors

You can probably guess that this is about recent child porn charges.

Pray for the survivors
for the ones that come forward
and the ones that can’t.

Pray for parents
who think and rethink
could have, should have
or were denied
their suspicions.

Pray for hard truths buried,
denied, and challenged
by adversarial justice
and time.

Pray for the survivors,
but not one syllable
or one breath
for your image
in the eyes of others.