“One man’s adventure with his peculiar brain”
As a scary movie addict, I love me some mentally unstable villain.
James McAvoy hit it out of the park in Split. Heath Ledger as the Joker made my skin crawl.
And you’d be hard-pressed to find a more complex and frightening character than Alex Forrest (played by Glenn Close) in Fatal Attraction.
It seems to me that anyone (fictional or otherwise) who commits great acts of evil has probably got some underlying issues to work through.
That said, why do we find “psychos” so interesting?
Maybe it’s the same reason we find anything/anyone interesting. These “nut jobs” are different than us… yet also the same. For example, I may know what unrequited love feels like, but, unlike Glenn Close’s character, I probably wouldn’t boil someone’s pet rabbit to get my point across.
In the current political climate many mental-health-rights advocates (such as Caitlin Tyree who would’ve diagnosed Norman Bates with Dissociative Identity Disorder) are calling for a stop to the inaccurate and stereotypical portrayal of “crazy” people in literature and film.
Time out. Did you notice the judicial use of quotation marks earlier? Those were your clues that you’re not supposed to refer to people as crazy anymore. Or psychos, or nut jobs, or idiots. I guess it hurts our feelings.
And if you noticed the pronoun in the last sentence, you’ll realize I just let the emotional support cat out of the carrier.
Yup, I have a special-needs brain. Haven’t quite figured out what that need is, but so far, I’ve tried Prozac, Lexapro, Wellbutrin, Adderall, Ritalin, Zoloft, Celexa, and multilevel marketing miracle supplements. I also tried getting more sleep, eating vegetables, even briefly cutting out sugar (we made up afterwards).
Second time out. How did you feel when I listed my failed medication list? Uncomfortable? Did you chuckle? (I hope so, I was trying hard). Did you have thoughts such as “I wonder what his problem is”, “sounds like a hypochondriac” or “why is this whacko giving us his life story?”
Your reaction to learning that a well-respected and universally adored blogger has “mental problems” may help you examine your own subconscious feelings toward wackos and emotional health issues in general. So, take a minute and figure out if you fall on the spectrum between dangerously compassionate and obnoxiously judgmental.
Back to me. Obviously, I use levity as a defense mechanism when discussing my struggles. If I pretend it’s all a big game, listeners tend to feel more comfortable with the topic. Also, the conversations aren’t as depressing for me.
So why talk about it at all? Why not clam up about my emotional battles and suffer in private?
For one, that’s not as much fun as it sounds. For seconds, that’s what men have been doing for over a century (in the western world at least). And as we currently have record of three thousand US serial killers responsible for ten thousand victims, maybe it wouldn’t hurt to try a different approach.
Even those of us who haven’t killed anyone lately don’t enjoy being thought of as unstable, different, or broken. Yet I’ve taken on all of these labels at some point in my life. It’s hard not to identify with mental illness when countless books, shows, and movies write me off as incompetent or evil.
In my own experience, it seems the more I open up and connect with people in healthy ways, the easier it is to differentiate who I am, from the crap I get to deal with. I am not my mental illness and by my being open and unashamed, hopefully you will reach the same conclusion.
Aside: If your attention span is anything like mine, you’re currently reaching for the wireless mouse. STAHP! I promise, the rant is almost over. Let me make my point, then you can get back to that Harry Potter Quiz on Buzzfeed.
This is my dad. He has some of the same “special needs” as I do. (Anxiety, depression, trying too hard to be funny.) Whether it was because of the prevalent “manly” mantra to never ask for help, the stigma associated with psychiatric needs, or his own top-secret personal reasons, my father chose not to use pharmaceuticals for treatment.
Looking back, (and after having my own kids) I realize my dad worked hard, loved me, and was the best parent he knew how to be.
And before I wax too self-righteous, it should also be noted that I, too, have spent years attempting to “go it alone.”
Hopefully I’ve grown a bit wiser in my late thirties. And hey, sometimes learning from someone else’s mistakes can be as helpful as emulating their model behavior.
Wanton positivity aside, I wonder if our relationship might have been different with a little medication to grease the gears. (Even a bit o’ Ritalin for me, probably would’ve made our home a happier place.)
My less-than-exemplary childhood is one of the reasons I’ve worked so hard on my own issues. And after the meds, therapists, self-help retreats, and endless prayers, I’m finally starting to get a grip on this life thing.
Surprise! It’s supposed to be hard. But that doesn’t mean we male types need to buy into toxic masculinity messages about being tough and going it alone.
Trust me, despite what your high school football coach said, it’s NOT cool to pretend you don’t have feelings or personal problems. And problems with your brain should be no more embarrassing than problems with your heart or your prostate… wait, maybe that was a bad example. You know what I mean.
Elder Holland, one of my favorite mental-health cheerleaders said, “If you had appendicitis, God would expect you to seek a priesthood blessing and get the best medical care available. So too with emotional disorders. Our Father in Heaven expects us to use all of the marvelous gifts He has provided in this glorious dispensation.”
Great advice. And although I make it sound like it’s simple to live by, personally my track record’s not so great. I’ve too often embraced the “manly” notion that if I keep trying on my own, I won’t have to stress anyone else out. I won’t have to embarrass myself for being weak. I won’t have to lose the respect of my wife, kids, parents, or the Bishop who’s clearly got it all together and has no apparent struggles of his own.
Let’s make a deal to stop being so manly and start acting like humans destined for deity.
Now this is the part where my sage advice changes the course of your life:
Fiction is supposed to be fun. While at home watching Netflix with your significants, please enjoy those deranged bad guys (even if they’re not clinically accurate or flattering to crazy people in general.) In real life, however, err on the side of being informed and non-judgmental. And for your own sake (and the sanity of your loved ones) if your brain is messing with your happiness, take a pill. Get some exercise. (Or a lobotomy.)
Also, if you live near Philadelphia, I’ll hook you up with my therapist. He’s almost as smart as my wife.
We’d like to thank Ryan Hancock for contributing this article to Discover Identity.