a script for mental illness

life happens despite our best efforts! i’m sitting here, sweating like a pig, mostly because we have a heat wave but also because all of a sudden my mother has moved into the old-old stage, complete with confusion, needing to move into a home ASAP, and all of that happening in germany.

and with all of this i’m happy to be back blogging again! what an eventful 5 weeks. my husband was absolutely wonderful in healing this blog, i hardly did anything myself. it’s almost completely back to normal, just a few hiccups left. the people at dreamhost, my new host, were also incredible.

so that’s the hot, sticky, confused and bloggy side of life.

now on to something else.

talking about mental illness!

this is something i’ve discussed before, here and here for example. the question is: how do you talk about mental illness?

how’s that for a conversation:

“how are you?”

“not so hot. i’m on the downswing again.”

if you suffer from depression or bipolar illness, how many people do you know with whom you could casually have this exchange? zero? one?

the thing is, we don’t have a script for this. most casual conversations have a loose script. like

“how’s little lydia?” (script: ask after person’s kid, spouse, dog, etc.)

“oh she’s fine. bit of a problem with math at school but otherwise great. really enjoys skating. and doug?” (script: answer the question, give a bit of detail but not too much. then ask a similar question.)

but there’s no script for mental illness – not in “polite society.”

we all know this needs to change, for so many reasons. the biggest one that comes to mind has to do with isolation. isolation of two kinds: the isolation of stigma is one (because mental illness is not supposed to exist, and if it does, it needs to be swept under the carpet). the other is the isolation that is built into many types of mental illness. in many ways, experiences like depression, anxiety, schizophrenia or anorexia – to give just a few examples – are illnesses of isolation. the sheer act of opening the mouth can seem almost impossible when one’s throat is constricted with fear; the effort of sending forth a sound can so often not be mustered when depression has laid a leaden blanket over everything.

it is in those moments that we need others to help us out of isolation. and once again, there is no script.

in a way this is exciting. those of us who want to change this state of affairs are in the position of helping to open up the world to create a script, maybe even a whole language of mental illness.

who wants to contribute to this new language? what’s your experience with talking about mental illness?

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