Reminder: The questions in this occasional column are posed by actual people.
Dear Savvy Sister,
A few days ago I finally watched “A Beautiful Mind” with Russell Crowe. It was so powerful, and as we have a nephew who deals with bipolar disease, it hit pretty close to home, too. But to see what Dr. John Nash had dealt with and the life he was able to make – even with his mental disability – was inspiring and moving.
Now here is my problem. Recently there has been in the news a story about a flight attendant who lost control and had a mental break before the flight left the ground. EVERYONE was able to video it with their cell phones. It just seems heartbreaking to me that this is now being put all over YouTube for her, her family and everyone else to be constantly reminded of forever. Thank goodness there were not cell phones around when Dr. Nash had his breaks with reality – would they have actually given him a Noble Prize in Economics if there were YouTube videos floating around of him going nuts? I just feel so terribly sorry for the flight attendant and her lack of privacy at this most desperate of times.
I guess there really is nothing to be done in this day and age – maybe all I needed to do was write to you about it – but at least I can tell someone how I feel about it! So thank you for that.
Well, of course there is something to be done. But you’re already doing it by having a keen awareness that illness and disability can be invisible to the untrained eye.
It’s true! Don’t you people watch Private Practice? Why can’t Sam understand that Corinne needs more treatment than he can offer?
Starting in college, I suffered from bulimia. I often drank until I blacked out. I laid in bed crying for hours. After I graduated, I had an uptick – and periods of sadness were intermittent. Around age 25, I sunk into a blackness that made it difficult to face each day. Hot Firefighter Husband, who at that point was just Hot Editor Friend, convinced me to seek help, and I received my first diagnosis of depression. I got me some drugs.
I have been diagnosed with depression at least six times since then, both by therapists and medical doctors – and you know why? Because it took me forever to really believe that there was something amiss in my brain. I was biased against myself, and with good reason: the general population thought it was bogus. It has taken years for me to have the courage to say, HEY, WORLD! I’M SICK IN THE HEAD! DEAL WITH IT, MOFOS! I spent a very long time embarrassed by my depression, and thinking I had to prove that it really existed – even to my nearest and dearest. A friend – a good friend! – once told me that he didn’t understand why his wife needed medication to deal with her sadness. His own mother, he said, “was just stronger than that.” I cupped my hands around his ear and screamed words into it for a good five minutes, and we came to an understanding.
Kudos to you for recognizing that mental illness can be as debilitating as paralysis – and just as limiting. But it can be successfully treated, too, just like diabetes. The problem is that millions of people don’t have the luxury of a proper diagnosis, and so march through life in a fog of madness, with observers just thinking they’re nuts. I’m glad that your nephew has the support of his family, or at least of his aunt, as he moves toward adulthood.
The flight attendant you mentioned apparently knew she was bipolar and maybe had forgotten her meds that day. You’re right, it’s a shame that Big Brother, aka the entire human population, now has access to her break from reality. It’s absolutely a drawback to modern technology that a person can’t even go crazy in private anymore.
So, dear Sadness, I think the answer to your aforementioned sadness is to limit the amount of pity you feel for John Nash, the flight attendant, and Whitney Houston’s ex-husband Bobby Brown. Parlay those thoughts into empathy, and embark on a quest to educate people about the need for tolerance. You can do this in casual conversation by quietly speaking up when somebody says something like, Hey, did you hear that Prudence ended up in the loony bin?
Personally, I could benefit from a few days in the loony bin, as long as the facility offered clean sheets, fresh greens and good coffee. I suffer from depression, remember? It’s a disease. And every so often, I need a tune-up.
Peace out, peeps.
the Savvy Sister
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