Friday, April 27, 2007

Dark Day

My heart is heavy today. I don’t know if it’s the weight of two days of rain, of our family member’s most recent delusions, or, in light of those delusions, some of the reading I have been doing. My limbs feel heavy and I’m walking slowly, each footfall an effort. My cheeks even feel heavy and it takes considerable effort to smile a half-hearted insincere grimace at people walking by. My brain is slow and scattered, and I’m having a hard time settling into my work. I’m frustrated again.

A man I work with is a philosopher. I’ve never worked with such a person before. Knowing I have a love of words and writing he has started talking to me about a lot of early 20th-century writers and philosophers, who I may or may not have heard of, and may or may not have actually read. I’m embarrassed that I can barely keep my head above the water of his intelligence and breadth of reading.

Maybe it was just because of our family member, but I swear at least 50 percent of the brilliant folks he mentioned ended up completely mad, their rational minds gone forever or never really there in the first place. He asked, do you have imagination or does your imagination have you? I am even sadder than I was before the conversation.

Is our family member’s rational mind really gone forever or is it just temporarily suppressed. Or, even scarier, was it never really there in the first place? Even though I know she’s not rational, it hurts my feelings that I am one of the people she imagines have wronged her, and that she doesn’t want to see me right now.

Last week I picked up a random book from the library called, A Mind Apart: Travels in a Neurodiverse World by Susanne Antonetta. She is a poet and bipolar, and the prose in this book is beautiful and mindbending. She examines consciousness, and differences in consciousness, or neurodiversity. She illustrates the link that has been identified in psychiatric research between creativity and mental illness, the connections and leaps she makes with language. She mentions that she writes books when she is manic, and indeed, there is a manic energy to this book, flitting from anecdote to philosophy of the mind and evolution to eugenics.

She says that given the chance, no parents would choose to give their child(ren) a gene for bipolar disorder or autism, but she argues that our culture would lose a lot if we lost these individuals. More than we can even know, since we can never know what characteristics will become evolutionarily useful. Apparently there is someone who has argued that we must identify and eradicate the genes for these and other neurological disorders before they take over humanity and destroy the earth.

I am beginning to wonder if our family member is bipolar, maybe always has been, but somehow has managed to control it by herself. Until now, when her delusions are becoming upsetting to her, not fantasies of hope to hang onto on an uncertain and stormy sea of difficult circumstances.

I think about the person who shot 32 innocent people a couple of weeks ago, and how he showed evidence of mental illness long before he pulled the gun out. I think about how hard it is to get help for someone who doesn’t want it, doesn’t see the need for it. I wonder when paranoid delusions get dangerous, and whether we would be able to identify that turning point.

Today I googled stuff to do with mental illness. I came across this site, in particular, I landed on this story. Did you know that there are people on death row in the States who are severely, blatantly, beyond all doubt, mentally ill? I think this is a terrible injustice. Just more reason that the death penalty is wrong, in my opinion. Of course, it’s equally wrong to let a mentally ill person languish in jail instead of getting some form of help, ineffective as the help may be.

I must try and drag my thoughts to the sun again, which hopefully will come out tomorrow (Oh no, I’ve got that Annie song in my head again… which seems fitting, because I LOVED Annie when I was a kid. She was one of my cool redhead role models, along with Pippy Longstocking… there now… my thoughts have already lightened up.)

And I have an exciting weekend planned, and they’re calling for sun.


Christine said...

Hang in there. There is bound to be a little sun tomorrow. Be well. . .

kgirl said...

It is very, very tough when the weight of someone's illness sits on your shoulders. This may be presumptuous, but have you thought about talking to anyone about it? It could help tremendously to get some advice on how to handle it, and some perspective from an objective professional.

cinnamon gurl said...

Yes kgirl, we've been in touch with a very helpful woman at the CMHC. We will likely make another appointment with her soon, once we do all the stuff she suggested at the last one. I think she'll see us as much or as little as we like, and she's really focused on trying to mobilize our forces and watch for opportunities. Still, it gets heavy.

NotSoSage said...

Sin, I can't imagine what you're going through. I hope that the sunshine brings you some respite. Although I know it's hard to be accused of a wrong that is so clearly untrue.

I've seen books on the link between "madness" and genius. It's a hard question to answer. I have had some very difficult conversations with my brother about the genetic illness that he carries and the choice to bring someone into the world who has a good chance of having it. Is the pain that person will suffer worth the lessons that only s/he can bring? And who makes that decision? Since the individual who will experience the pain can't possibly be the one to do it.

I am looking forward to the weekend, too. And hoping for good weather.

bubandpie said...

I'm feeling the same way (though I didn't manage to describe it nearly so well!). Let's hope we're compensating in advance for a really wonderful weekend.

slouching mom said...

Oh, did I ever love that musical Annie.

It is nothing short of outrageous that so many on death row are mentally ill.

I'm sorry it was a tough day. I hope the weekend serves to counter it.

crazymumma said...

Tomoorrow, there's always tomorrow, come what may.... My girls love that song.

What a lousy weight to be carrying. I hope that she finds help coping and you as well.

May the weekend bring you a touch of joy.

mamatulip said...

I can really relate to and understand what you're saying -- although they are completely different circumstances, I felt very similarly when my mother was sick. It's very, very hard to function when someone you love and care about is ill. Hang in there...I hope the sun comes out this weekend (it's awfully dark here today) and brightens up your day.

Kyla said...

Oh Sin. I hope things get brighter for you all.

Mimi said...

You know, that you're even trying to smile at people on the street marks you as a fundamentally positive person. I hope Pippy and Annie are making you feel better, and that even if it's not sunny today, you'll be able to have some fun ;-)

Anonymous said...

I feel like I should have something really profound and helpful to say here, but I don't.

This is what I do for a living. I try to help people like in similar situations to yours understand what is happening, and how to survive and still thrive amidst the chaos.

But I find myself here today, wordless.

I love that you are learning and reading and informing yourself, and I am sorry that your family member is not talking to you now.

I hope she comes around, and I hope you have the strength to keep loving her, and seeking to see the her that is buried beneath her symptoms.

It's hard, and you've been given this role as a support person whether or not you asked for it.

But know how important of a role it is. And that it matters. Your caring matters.

Nancy said...

I am sorry you've had some dark days. I hope that you were able to salvage some of the weekend.


jen said...

ah. yes. so many of my clients over the years who are mentally ill have been jailed or imprisioned. and the treatment in jails is awful.

it's not easy to be wearing this pain, Sin. I am thinking of you.

Aliki2006 said...

I hope you're feeling better...

Carmi said...

I've watched close family members struggle with depression, and it is the most powerless feeling in the world. It is especially difficult when they refuse to get the help they so clearly need.

My extended family has this attitude toward mental illness, that it's shameful to even admit it exists. This has done more harm than good because those victimized by it refuse to admit they've got a problem and that they need help.

The damage it has done is incalculable, and it keeps me awake at night worrying.

Thankfully immediate family seems to be this incredible bubble of sweetness, but the extended fam's landscape seems littered with misery.

I wish I could offer you more than mere words of empathy. I wish I had the power to step in and make it better for you.