Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Mental illness analysed

It was 955 posts already to the last one, not 916, they've really mounted up. Just get that correction out of the way. I was just reading something that reminded me how much Jewish humour is centred round mental illness. I said that people aren't bipolar, batteries are, but they fixed them when they started adding lithium. That is a typical example. Woody Allen made his millions purely by expressing neurosis, Seinfeld, the new series I love the Big Bang theory taking the mickey out of autistic spectrum disorders, and most of my own jokes since starting school. The world is a threatening place and anyone that sensitive reacts in ways that can only be joked about otherwise we'd all pack it in.

Jews don't get drunk as a rule, if they suffer they either complain or make jokes about it, usually a combination of both. I carry on this tradition and was so interested in mental health I made a profession treating it, as a calling. We are trained to see the funny side of problems so the sufferers can, although I don't laugh or make fart jokes as I would if not working. They do have boundaries. Maybe if I set myself up as the childish humour cure and made cracks about wetting pants, skid marks and opening the window maybe it would distract some people from their problems enough to distance themselves from them. Or maybe not. So I do it here instead. And everywhere else. But technically mental problems are only funny as an observer. If you have them they are no fun at all even when we make fun of ourselves. I'd rather not see crowds as threatening or travelling as a potential for disaster but if I can tell stories about looking for public toilets or queuing for hours to change flights home it can make it sound almost dramatic. In fact these experiences are hell, being stuck in any situation you can't escape is the ultimate driver of severe stress and easier to spend your life avoiding it rather than ever become immune to it, if that was even possible without tablets.

So although we can joke about counting cars and road signs and memorising phone and car numbers the actual reality is besides being able to recall lists from about the age of three, there is no other benefit in having a sharp mind as the rest means we notice every event and feeling and can't turn the reactions down. It also drives genius but in a world generally driven by averageness and mediocraty most people are prepared to put up with almost anything while we few can't bear the slightest discomfort, like the princess and the pea. But while royalty can just about escape the real world we are in the middle of it, and besides turning down 99% of invitations and avoiding half of the areas we live in then we are totally exposed to it all, worms and warts. But take away the heightened awareness and you become a zombie so hard to win. So make jokes about being stuck on the motorway, visiting psychiatrists, side effects of tablets etc but it's the price many of us seem to have to pay for our greater awareness of everything. Each time I read a list of famous sufferers from mental illness I wonder how many actually didn't have it.

So to conclude the story, my friends past and present include (at least) three bipolar, two psychotic depression, three paranoid schizophrenics, two depressives, an epileptic, an anxiety disorder, and probably quite a few more I've lost track of. Some also have none of the above and strangely enough tend to be the ones who disappear while the others are usually happy to hang around. I wonder if anyone else who hasn't actually met their friends in hospital as many do has the same collection or somehow I seem to have been fed these people, even though most had nothing wrong when I met them so can't say I had any part in it. I can't see my anxiety changing as it's no less part of me as my eyes, unless enlightenment is real and happens to me. Now if I became enlightened and kept it then I'd be a real curiosity, although I don't think it's meant to be possible to have both. Yet...


diver said...

'...my friends past and present include...'

Ha ha, mine too. Current friends include one bi-polar, one chronic depressive, and a bunch of online agoraphobics.

I guess it's either a case of 'birds of a feather flocking together'; or the fact that having experienced mental health issues of my own I can comfortably relate to others with them also.

Come to think of it ... the few mentally disordered friends I've got nowadays are about the nicest most genuine people I've ever met in my whole life.

David said...

It's weird for me as most developed it since I knew them. There's nothing wrong with any of them as people (besides one who is an alcoholic which made him aggressive when drunk), and half of them are still around now and mainly pretty well medicated. And I still think it comes with the creative and intelligent ones the most as the more complex the more sensitive.