High-functioning loons represent!

People who know me or who are longtime readers are aware that I’m a recovering anorexic.  I take a little pill every night before bed that keeps me from panicking and helps me to eat.  I also went through a period for four months earlier this year where I had delusions with mirrors.  I could take a picture on my phone of my image in a mirror, hold it up to the image in the mirror, and see two completely different things.

I’m crazy – and that’s perfectly fine.

I have learned to manage it such that I can lead a mostly normal life and so that I can work to succeed in spite of my condition.  Sadly, many who live with mental illness are convinced by a society that places a great stigma on psychological problems that if they could only be tougher, they could be well.  That mentality is a crock of shit.  Widespread amongst our peers, the idea that those suffering from mental illness are somehow at fault for not overcoming their disease by force of will buries the victims under a mountain of guilt – guilt that causes them to hide their condition (as it caused me to hide mine for a very long time).  This serves to make their condition worse and often drives them to death.  Anorexia, my ailment, has the highest death rate of any mental illness.

The remedy for this unfortunate outlook held by many Americans is for more high-functioning crazy people like Hugh Laurie (clinical depression), Harrison Ford (clinical depression), Kirsten Dunst (clinical depression), and Catherine Zeta-Jones (bi-polar II) to come out and be public about their afflictions.  People must know that mental illness strikes everybody, no matter how strong they are or how stable their life may be, and that such conditions are nothing to be ashamed of.  This will empower those suffering from mental illness to get the treatment that would not only allow them to live better, but very well may save their lives entirely.

This is why I’m always happy to see people like James Durbin, one of the four finalists of this year’s American Idol, willing to be open about their disease.  Durbin suffers from Tourette’s and Asperger’s Syndrome.  Kudos to him for being brave enough to throw it out there, even as he’s being judged by millions – and for rocking pretty hard while he does it.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nSAs15y7Mjw&feature=related

I was once an opera singer, so I hope that lends me some credibility when I say the guy has a phenomenal voice.

For me, getting up on a stage to perform is scary.  I still get terribly nervous before and after I speak or sing.  But telling the world your brain doesn’t work properly and expecting them to understand, that’s downright mortifying.  I have no doubt it is only worse with fame.  That’s why, in terms of impressiveness, Durbin’s voice lives in the shadow of his courage.  To me, his legacy is that he is saving lives when those with mental illnesses have their conditions normalized by watching him succeed.  Forget his voice, the man is saving lives and augmenting the quality of life for the victims of mental illness when they are given strength through his openness.

  • Vanessa

    Thanks for this. I have major depression, and while it’s mostly under control now, when it was really bad I had people tell me to just “get over it and cheer up.” It’s hard enough to live with a mental illness, but it’s harder when people who don’t understand it think you’re just not trying hard enough.

    P.S. Hi from Jen’s college roommate! I figured if I start reading your blog I’ll figure out why she likes you so much XP

  • http://www.articlesbase.com/sleep-articles/5-ways-to-make-yourself-fall-asleep-4632280.html Lenny Mikita

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  • Frank Wall

    Excellent post JT.

    I have what is sometimes referred to as “double depression” – dysthymia (chronic “mild” depression) with recurrent major depression. Between that and having previously worked for a mental health agency for 18 years (working mostly with schizophrenics), I’ve witnessed my fair share of stigma. Interestingly this stigma stems from the same things that drive racism, homophobia, and the demonization of atheists – ignorance and fear (I’m still surprised when otherwise intelligent adults asked me: “Aren’t you afraid, working with schizophrenics?”). In all of these cases coming out and trying to educate the public – or at least ones friends and family – are the best potential “cures” for such bigotry. And as you note, when famous people come out, this helps to get the word out to a wider audience.

    As a side note, I’m a bit of a psychopharmacology buff so I’m curious as to what medication you’re taking. I’m guessing Remeron (mirtazapine). My second guess would be Elavil (amitriptyline), but that seems less likely given that Elavil is an older drug with more side effects.

    It seems only fair that I share with you what meds I take for depression: Cymbalta, Wellbutrin, and Lamictal.

  • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T5iGbBpGqN4 uninterested

    take some time down where you can break up. it was most junk.


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