Thursday, December 23, 2010

Let the Madness Begin

Madness? THIS. IS. SPARTA!!!!!! ::kick::

Okay, that out of the way, let's get on to some serious business.

Welcome to the Madness Weekly. (No affiliation with Krinkels' Madness on Newgrounds) My goal here is to post one rant about what I call "Madness," and related issues, every week. So this week I'd like to begin with the basic answer to the basic question: "R, how do you define 'madness?'"

In a world gone wrong, only the mad can see the truth. On websites like, you can find the concept of a "mad" identity beginning to circulate amidst those frequently referred to as "mentally ill." Rather than viewing our condition as a medical illness that we must quietly accept and try to treat until we are "normal" again, some of us view our different perspectives and experiences as "dangerous gifts" that require careful cultivation. Others have other views, but the central point of my argument here is that "madness" can be a rallying cry for anyone who rejects the labels of psychiatry; anyone who rejects the language of "mental illness."

Perhaps the word "mad" is not right for you, and of course, I respect that. I am hugely supportive of comments that encourage respectful discussion of alternatives. But for my part, let me further explain the decision to rally under the term "mad."

There is a certain energy invoked with this word, and a certain counter-culture sense to it. It is a way to invoke pride where there was once shame; a way to face plainly the truth of a situation. Because when faced with a world that does not understand us or respect our perspectives or our distress, we DO get mad. I, for one, get EXTREMELY mad when people like Katy Perry use the term "bipolar" to flippantly describe the mood swings of her "Hot and Cold" boyfriend (because this has little to nothing to do with the actual diagnosis). I get mad when doctors ask me if my behavior and emotions are conforming to the standard norms that they, the doctors, have established, and when they note any deviations as "symptoms." I get mad when my friends and loved ones must hide the depths of their distress, because the medical system might hospitalize them if that system found out the truth - and as many who have been hospitalized will tell you, that process usually makes things worse.

I am MAD that mental health and emotional wellness are so difficult to discuss and that emotional responses to things are often viewed as signs of immaturity or downright "illness." Yet these are the realities I am regularly forced to confront, especially in academic and professional settings; my feelings and beliefs and experiences must be kept hidden for fear of persecution, and yet this makes me one of the lucky ones because I am actually ABLE to keep things hidden.

Madness, for me, is about far more than an archaic terminology that has since been replaced by a medical terminology; it is about an emotional reaction to the current state of the world. Emotional distress is hyper-medicalized, with only a few exceptions, if not outright dismissed. Here's a good example of some of what I'm talking about:

The thing is, the language of "mental illness" completely locks emotional distress into the purview of the Medical Academy, and prevents anyone from having legitimacy in their distress for longer than a few days (in some rare cases, weeks or months) without being labeled as "mentally ill." I see this as a problem. Here on the Weekly Madness, we will not be dealing with "mental illness" exclusively, but rather with emotional and mental distress. This includes virtually anything that could upset someone: racism, sexism, bigotry of any kind, really; rape, assault, death, loss of any kind; even issues of physical impairment or, (and I use this word VERY cautiously) "disability;" anything that could affect someone's mental health, which is essentially anything at all. Our weekly dose of Madness will aim to change the way we think about distress in general, not "mental illness" specifically.

Another question you may be asking yourself right now is what qualifies me to speak on these issues. The full answer to that is too long for a single blog post, so let me offer a simplification:
I have been diagnosed with one form of "mental illness" or another since I was about 12 years old, receiving "bipolar type II" at 15 or 16, and I am currently 22. I have seen many therapists and psychiatrists and visited the inpatient hospital a few times as well, and have come out relatively balanced, if not what they would traditionally call "stable." I owe this largely to the support network I have amassed, which has nothing to do with psychiatry and only one therapist to do with psychology. Many of my issues I have worked through entirely with myself and my friends, and far more effectively than "medicine" could ever do. This has only weakened my confidence in the medical establishment. Now, I have come to question it so severely that I have started this blog, a crystalization of many varied attempts to invoke my feelings on the subject. Let's hope it works.

That said, here's, a few guidelines for what you can expect here:
1. I am not religious, nor do I encourage religious discussion of these issues. However, I understand that some experiences of distress can be chalked up to spiritual causes, and I would like to explore these in due time; but this is an incredibly sensitive subject and must be addressed cautiously, and at the discretion of the person experiencing them. ANY AND ALL EVANGELICAL SUGGESTIONS ABOUT DISTRESS/"MENTAL ILLNESS" WILL BE DELETED. Careful, cautious possibilities will be considered.
2. I lean heavily towards the political left, but very careful and respectful discussion of politics relevant to these subjects is acceptable. You can expect me to step in and shut you down if you are a jack about it, however.
3. Please read and regularly consult It is an extremely thorough and funny site about how people with privilege will try to shut down people speaking from a position of hardship. If I see anyone doing the things that are listed on this site, your comment will be replaced with a citation of what you did wrong.
4. Probably more to come in the future, but generally, just don't be a jack. The whole point of my movement is to create an emotionally sensitive society; if we are jerks to each other in the process, we have already failed. 

I am hoping this blog will eventually grow to be one of the sign posts of what I am tentatively calling "The New Mad Nation." Ambitious? Hell yes. Most of us "bipolar" people are. Aim for the moon, land amongst the stars, as they say. So, I am hoping that all of my readers will share their thoughts on this idea, as well as links to other comics/news articles/research studies/anything else you can think of that elaborate on these themes. Also, if you have any suggestions for rants that I can go on about these topics, I am elated to receive them. A few things you can expect to see in the next few weeks:
1. Why Katy Perry completely sucks
2. Why "It Gets Better" has some serious issues
3. Lots and LOTS of stuff about psychiatry/medicine (open to suggestions on specifics)
4. Crash courses in how to help a friend in distress
5. Just what the heck is "Bipolar" anyway?
6. The trick with "personality disorders."

Thanks for reading, everyone! Let's turn the world inside out until it comes out right.


1 comment:

  1. I think this is a pretty good post and I like your suggestions for the future :). You should totally let me guest-blog sometime.