Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Comments by gabi taylor

Showing 54 of 54 comments.

  • Just to try and make myself clearer (though I anticipate that you will twist my words in any case):
    I do not condemn or despise people for being fat/thin/otherwise, neither do I see that as okay to do.
    However, I do make certain assumptions about a person who is, for instance, obese – specifically, I assume that emotional issues play a part in their food decisions. Because a person in equilibrium tends towards health whereas a person out of whack doesn’t. And yes, all of us are out of whack, and it shows up in all kinds of ways – obesity is just one of them.
    Nowhere did I imply or state that I look down on such people (though we all know that many people do). If you still feel some kind of pleasure in attacking me, go right ahead. I really don’t care.

  • Why do you assume that I go around telling fat people what to do? (I don’t, by the way.)
    Unfortunately for fat people – and thin ones too – the results of their choices are on public display, like it or not. Yes, many fat people live healthily and exercise, and many thin people eat garbage and sit in an office all day. But in general, obese people are that way for a reason.
    Please, don’t tell me you don’t automatically make all kinds of assumptions about people based on (the little) you know of them. You might consciously fight that, and keep telling yourself that you really don’t know anything, but that’s just the world we live in. We have to make judgments, to an extent, in order to inform our decisions – is this a person I can trust? Is this someone I want to ask advice from? Etc. So while your stance sounds wonderful in theory, that’s just not how the world works.

  • Yes, in some areas, I may know better than someone else. In other areas, someone else knows better than me. If someone is making a truly informed decision to eat pancakes with syrup rather than peanut butter on ricecakes, wonderful. If I decide to open an account with a certain bank and have no idea that another one would be better for me because I lack the ability to make a proper comparison (which could easily happen to me because I am terrible at such things) then I would appreciate a helping hand, and being given affirmations for my choice as a responsible adult would not just not be helpful, but could be harmful.
    It’s your choice – if you want to stubbornly insist on being expert on every aspect of your life, even when you’re not, then you’re likely to make some big mistakes. If you think that’s a price worth paying, go right ahead.

  • Wow, talk about personal attacks…
    So, everyone understands what they understand, and who are you to say I misunderstood the essence of the blog? I guess let Emily and Sara make that judgment for themselves, if they feel so inclined. Personally, I hadn’t noticed that it was specifically about female oppression, but whatever.

    What Kool Aid are you drinking that enables you to continue to believe that socialism is one day suddenly going to succeed after all the failed experiments you’ve seen in your lifetime? I don’t subscribe to the belief that we can cling to an utopian view of how things should be as some kind of answer to current problems. I think that today’s problems need to be dealt with in today’s reality, rather than by wishful thinking about how wonderful things will be when capitalism finally disappears.

    As for my backward beliefs, well, that’s just your view. I understand that you are passionate about women having the right to “control their reproductive processes” but unfortunately, that conflicts sometimes with the right of unborn babies to have a life. So it’s a matter of what’s more important to you.

    Anyway, thanks for the implied compliment about my secondary points.

  • Sara, I really appreciate the depth of your responses and the respectful way you engage with people even those like me who can come off as a bit aggressive! You make excellent points and have added a lot of depth to this debate. I can imagine that your ability to see the other point of view came partly out of disillusionment with the legal profession and you certainly don’t fit the normal paradigm of a lawyer!

    Steve, I think that we can agree that sometimes, an outside person has more perspective on someone’s choices and situation, and can gently lead that person to increased insight. Yes, only that person himself can get the insight in the end, but sometimes it needs that nudge from without to get there.

    I’m reminded of a friend who told me about a difficult time she was going through in her marriage, and how it led to her binge-eating. She said, “Those six doughnuts were the only good thing in my life.” I didn’t comment on her choices, although I could easily have pointed out that she had at the time two healthy children, enough income, a house etc.

    One person on this thread has pointed out that junk food, sugar etc. hijacks the brain processes that give instant gratification, and it’s so easy to trick ourselves into thinking that we are giving ourselves something when we indulge. My point (I think!) is that junk food is seen as an answer when really it is just confounding the problem and covering up the issues. My friend really believed that the only good thing she had was the food, and she’s an intelligent person. This really suggests that something more is going on than just filling our stomachs.

    I’ve known this topic from the other end of the stick – from being anorexic, though I wouldn’t actually say it’s the same in the other direction. However, when I was “indulging” on the sensation of being famished, I was most absolutely not engaging with the world and dealing with my issues. I simply withdrew into my little world of (no) food. As a coping style, it was pretty lousy as it could easily have killed me. I don’t think anyone could make the argument that however bad it is to starve yourself, it might be the right decision at the time. What I most definitely did not need back then was someone telling me, “I respect your choice to starve yourself.” What I might have been open to hearing is “I’m trying to understand what pain you might be feeling that leads you to treat yourself this way.”

    I still insist that a person who is essentially abusing his or her body (by bingeing, starving, or prostituting themselves and making themselves into a physical commodity etc.) is not in need of respect for making that “choice.” You can certainly respect them for struggling to survive in a crazy world, but that is not the same thing as relating to their actions as if they come from a place of free, informed choice.

  • Kate, just to clarify: I specified the aspect of Jewish law rather than an abstract conception of what someone might think Judaism means. The Torah is very specific about what its definition of freedom is – it has nothing at all to do with an “everything goes and each person is the best judge” approach.
    I did not call into question Emily’s Jewishness at all. I simply meant to stress that what people might think Judaism says about oppression and freedom is very different from what the Torah actually does say.

  • I would suggest that the outside perspective can also hold value, as long as it is communicated with respect. We all can benefit from friendly advice (yes, even when unsolicited) at times. It doesn’t have to be paternalistic. And although I’ve gleaned from many of your comments that you believe firmly that the only person who can truly understand the situation is the person himself, I still think that this leaves a place for a compassionate other to offer a helping hand (and to accept that same helping hand in another area, where the other person can offer his own valuable insight).
    But Emily has stated quite explicitly in this article that she does not accept that there are more or less healthy choices in food. She argues that what does damage is people condemning others for their choices, and not the choices themselves. That’s an interesting point, but somewhat dodges personal responsibility. After all, as long as we still don’t live in Richard’s ideal world, we will all be dealing with adverse surroundings, so to pin the blame on “them out there” as a constant battle tactic seems rather futile.

  • I’m glad you mentioned your children. I’m sure when they were growing up, you gave them plenty of information and advice on what you think are healthy modes of living, and saw that as intrinsic to being a responsible parent.
    What about someone who grew up with irresponsible parents? Should they never be exposed to good information, because that might inadvertently shame them? I include myself in this category of “irresponsible parents” because one of the damaging ways of coping I learned from my father was to deal with problems using anger. I don’t think that it would have been productive to have been reassured that I was dealing with things my own way and that my choices were valid and not “less.” And yes, I had to confront the fact that my way of doing things was wrong in order to change. I did feel shame when I contemplated the consequences of my actions. (And there are always consequences to our actions.) But that was part of the process.

    Of course people can be revolutionaries regardless of their size and regardless of all kinds of things. However, a person who is consumed with pain and indignant and injustice, and then drowns the feelings in a doughnut is less likely to go out and right the world, than someone who acknowledges the pain and uses it as a motivator to action. Would you not agree?

    The people on MIA who are revolutionary in their stance tend to be those who have been through and out the other side, not those who are still in the throes. Why might that be? Could it possibly be because being in the throes of binge-eating/psychosis/anorexia etc. debilitates the person to the extent that his activities are curtailed and they have withdrawn to an internal life?

    My intention was not to shame anyone. My intention was to illuminate the fact that people are often not making conscious informed choices, and therefore “respecting their choice” really translates to seeing them as less capable of choosing better.

    Yes, I do see some choices as better and others as worse. I see that you do too. In fact, I don’t imagine that there is anyone who disagrees, though some might try hard. This has nothing to do with shaming, just as I don’t shame my young children for acting like children. I just try to help them grow up. Of course, the extreme anarchists might think that children should be best left in the jungle to grow up “free of oppression.” Each to his own.

  • “all those who have developed all types of socially unacceptable coping mechanisms”
    Are you saying that the only thing wrong with, let’s say, binge-eating, is that it’s socially unacceptable? That if we were all to agree that there’s nothing wrong with it, then it would be a perfectly reasonable way to deal with the world?

    Sunsets and justice are not mutually exclusive, by the way.

    So, if you want to go Emily’s way and say that there really is no qualitative difference between finding one’s fulfillment in a cupcake or composing a concerto, go right ahead.

    If someone told me that for me, it’s good enough to eat black bread and onions – that gourmet food is for those sophisticated enough (or sane enough, if you like) to enjoy it, then I would be insulted. I think that all of us have the potential to reach for higher pleasures and not settle for less. Why does that make me judgmental? To the contrary – I think that telling someone to stay happy with what they know and never find out more is totally condescending and demeaning.

  • I really admire your honesty. I think it will get you far.
    I’m sorry that I came across as judgmental, but given that everyone has his own set of values, it’s kind-of inevitable.
    What Emily seems to be saying is that’s there’s no real difference between getting happiness from coke and chips, and getting it from a meaningful relationship – if it “feels right at the time” then go for it, and nobody has any right to consider it “less.”
    I also know what it is to enjoy junk food – and usually, I try to identify what the genuine need in me is at the time, and see how the junk is faking satisfying that need. I think that to look at another person and say “cupcakes is good enough for your happiness” is to degrade them as a human being. But that’s just my opinion.

  • It’s really semantics. If you’re looking for a different environment to thrive in, then that is also a form of “healing” in that it implies that things are not good the way they are, which you clearly admit, though you blame the rest of the world rather than including your own choices as part of the mix, which I would suggest you might examine if you wish.

    As for not being able to afford nice things – you’re taking a very narrow view of enjoyment. Does a sunset cost money? A walk in nature? A swim in a natural lake? A deep conversation with a good friend?

    Also, there are cheap nutritious foods available, though they take time and effort, much more than eating a cupcake. Beans and rice? Brown rice which is so much more filling than cheaper, empty white rice?

    And, you’re saying there’s nothing bad about being sad. You have no preference re: being happy versus sad. Really? I have a hard time believing that.

  • Exactly! This is precisely the problem with this kind of ideology where anything goes (except for the idea that there are limits on “anything goes”). Yet of course, Richard, you open up a huge can of worms when you start talking about moral standards. Whose? For some of us, the answer is easy; for others, the inability to formulate a logical answer pushes people into Emily’s kind of ideology with all its attendant potholes.

    I’m also curious, Emily, why you feel the need to mention your Jewish heritage in the majority if not all of your posts. It doesn’t seem that the laws of Judaism particularly inform your life choices, so why is it important for your readers to know that you’re Jewish by birth?

  • Emily, I think there’s an aspect of your argument that has been overlooked and shouldn’t be.
    I’m referring to the concept of a hierarchy of pleasure/wellbeing/whatever you want to call it.
    Let’s take your example of enjoying a Diet Coke and a bag of chips.
    Another person might also enjoy those, but enjoy listening to a string quartet more.
    Another person might also like junk food, but appreciate a gourmet meal even more.
    Another person might like junk food and have never been exposed to gourmet food/classical music in his life, and assume that the summit of his aspirations in pleasure is coke and chips.
    Would you prefer to keep such a person in the dark and allow him to wallow in his baser pleasures (yes, I realize that you might find that expression offensive), or would you think that he deserves to be exposed to a wider spectrum of pleasures, and then, would be more able to make an informed decision as to which he will choose (because, as we all know, nobody can have it all)?

    The same applies to healing, of course. A person who has known nothing other than a life of, for instance, borderline depression, has no experience of feeling true contentment and fulfillment, or whatever other sublime pleasures. Their “choice not to heal” is not really a choice in any meaningful sense. As such, people like samruck, who open up others to seeing the potential that they themselves have no idea exists, should be lauded and supported, not subtly chastised.
    Thus, your seemingly liberal and tolerant stance of “respecting their choice not to heal” can easily be very condescending in many cases, as well as leading to condemning people to an unenlightened life. (Needless to add, many totalitarian regimes have aggressively pursued such tactics, preferring to keep their serfs in the dark – let them be happy with their black bread and onion.)

    You also ignore any motivation for a deed that is not solely in the present. Yes, a can of coke can be delicious and fizzy and “comforting” – and yet, how will the person feel about having guzzled it the next day?
    Conversely, resisting that can of coke will possibly bring “unhappiness” in the moment but a sense of satisfaction at having resisted baser pleasures for a greater goal of health in the long term.

    I also challenge your assumption that people have “fatphobia” are afraid of becoming fat themselves. I think that it is more that they feel the challenge within their own lives, of resisting the easily available empty junk, and see the fat person as unable to resist the challenge. Someone with self-control is very likely to look down on someone without it, although they may feel pity rather than revulsion.

    I do hope you will respond to my comments.
    Gabi

  • Emily, I’m not sure what you’re trying to say. Are you saying that fat people have control over their weight, or not?
    If they don’t have control, and they are what any regular person would categorize as obese, then do you truly believe that they ended up that way for no reason at all?
    If they do have control, then why not accept that just as we all face the consequences of our deeds, so do they? Sure, condemning someone for their physical appearance is terrible – but life’s like that. We can simultaneously fight to change the world and accept the reality of the moment. Perversely resolving to be obese in a world where people are despised for it seems rather curious to me.

  • I made no such assumption that the only legitimate issues that exist are those identified by non-schizophrenics. Read what I wrote again to understand.
    Have you ever met or been a “schizophrenic” in the throes of psychosis? Please give me an example of when psychosis has been a constructive way of, for example, dealing with trauma (which is the cause in the majority of cases). Maybe it is the opening to beginning to deal with issues, but it is most certainly not the end point.

  • How about replacing “schizophrenic” with “someone currently using unusual methods of coping with life, who could use a helping hand to find a more constructive way of dealing with real issues”? There is no sense in romanticizing “schizophrenia” because most if not all “schizophrenics” would call their situation “suffering” and would welcome a better approach to life, just that they didn’t find one yet and maybe gave up on finding it.

  • Well, I don’t see any avalanche of self-absorbed, rude commenters posting on their problems which have nothing to do with the threads. I see the occasional comment here and there, and I don’t understand why anyone should be so concerned about it.

    What does concern me is that there are people who are more worried about moderation guidelines than they are about showing compassion. I think a lot of people fall into psychiatry because they didn’t have compassionate others in their lives at a time of difficulty or crisis.

    I would also hazard a guess that some people simply find it too hard to open up to someone else about their problems, and prefer the anonymity of a psychiatrist and some pills rather than baring their soul to a friend. Some people might feel like they have to maintain a “tough guy” image for the others in their lives, and admitting to feeling depressed or unstable or whatever else would be too much of a knock for their self-image to be entertained.

    Certainly in the highly individualist world most of us live in, there is a stigma attached to being seen as “weak” and “needy” of support, which could definitely push people toward adopting a “I have something wrong with my brain” attitude rather than feeling that they are personally deficient (which of course they aren’t).

    So, oldhead, I think you inadvertently uncovered something that a lot of us can learn from.

  • There are very often people on threads who mix in their own issues even if seemingly only tangentially related. Why? Because a) many people don’t have anywhere else to express themselves where they feel heard and understood; b) because our personal stories often shed light on articles that deal with topics in abstraction. I don’t think that’s a bad thing – if you don’t like reading it, just skip.

  • I know you didn’t mean to be hurtful Rachel, but it takes a certain type of person to understand why some people just don’t feel they can plunge into social situations and break out of loneliness.

    I spent the first 2 decades of my life being told by my parents and others that I was just too shy and “had to stop” being that way. If you never had the (constantly recurring) experience of forcing yourself to go to a social event and then sitting there on the sidelines being ignored by everyone there, then you won’t understand why telling someone to just snap out of it, essentially, isn’t going to help.
    Now, 2 decades later, I came to terms with my loneliness and have ways of dealing with it, which usually don’t include other people, even though I have nothing against (most) people. But as a teenager, my “way of dealing with it” was anorexia (if I can be forgiven for giving it a label – it’s just a convenient way of saying a lot in one word, as long as I won’t be misunderstood though probably I will be).

    Like some people have commented here, being a social success and “happy” among others is seen as a sign of health; being a recluse isn’t. I felt like a total failure even though academically I had no issues whatsoever, and it could have killed me.

    Pat, I’m so sorry and I admire you so much for soldiering on. Something is giving you the impetus to keep going and keep trying – I hope you can build on that and slowly, slowly find a way to counter the mean voices with your own truth – that you are strong, that you are fighting back, that you have a belief in something that makes it worthwhile.

  • I’d add that a root of the problem is wanting to escape problems or become oblivious of them, rather than dealing with them – either because one doesn’t feel capable of dealing with them, or because it’s just easier to tune out.
    Taking psych drugs that dull one’s sensitivities is one way of tuning out. Getting drunk is another. Getting high is another. Starving oneself (getting anorexic) is another. People have always sought “easy” ways out, for various reasons (the short, long route).

    So, some of them get caught up in psychiatry believing its lies, and then want out, whereas others figure that although the drugs do so much damage, it’s still worth it. I know of one mother who chooses to take anti-depressants even though she knows they dull her emotions and make her “less of a person” if one can say such a thing, because she feels that it’s the only way she can function in her difficult marriage (i.e. not being so aware of her painful feelings). Okay, so better would be to have a productive solution, but some people don’t feel that such an option exists.

    Also, I’d clarify that it’s not just any kind of suffering. It’s more like a feeling that one has failed at life, existential suffering. For my husband, it was preferable to imagine that he was saving the world, to feeling that he was a loser. I have no idea what level of choice he had in adopting interesting beliefs, and I don’t think he has either, but it’s not too hard to identify the basic pattern of this kind of thinking, and to understand where it can lead.

  • Great points, oldhead – particularly about the unwilling victims trapped in psychiatry, which includes those who may not be on the drugs anymore, but have lost confidence in their own ability to self-regulate their moods, emotions etc. (Of course they may actually have impaired ability after years of being on psych drugs as these intentionally damage the frontal cortex.)
    Do you know of any research re: neuroplasticity and the ability of a person to rebuild their brains after psych drug damage? Or not just research, but concrete things that really help to give back a person the sensation that “This is who I am, and I am not a straw blowing in the wind, subject to outside forces – I can hold myself to my center and be strong.”
    Because of course the whole psych brainwashing is “You are weak, you can’t, you are liable to do the most dangerous, craziest things if you aren’t drugged up.” Which often becomes self-fulfilling prophecy – believe me, i’ve seen it happen, it can also be like an escape valve after years of trapped feelings that explode like an uncoiling spring and whoosh – nobody saw that coming…

  • Laura, it sounds like you’re doing something incredibly valuable. I hope you reach many people giving them the knowledge and support they need.
    Do you have any articles (of your own, or of others) that address the specific issue of the decision to take control of your own life and not simply see yourself as a victim?
    On MIA, most if not all articles are by/about people who already reached that stage – but what about people still stuck in the “I’m a helpless victim” mindset? What about people who are too afraid to take responsibility and prefer to hide behind a diagnosis?
    It seems to me that taking this step is already about 80% if not more, of the path to healing.

  • phoenix, obviously you don’t have to answer this, but if you have any pointers – on how to help someone be able to admit responsibility for his/her role in certain dynamics? You wrote how important it was that your boyfriend took responsibility for his behaviour, and you’ve also written in other places of how hard that is for a male to do. What do you think helped your boyfriend to be able to look at himself critically without feeling that his “self” was being destroyed by admitting failings? (As you might guess, my husband has a huge issue here.)

  • And I also wonder, if perhaps the fact that you are in an all-male relationship influences your perception of “everyone is equal.” I don’t think you should presume to extrapolate your experiences to those in traditional marriages, because it is very, very different (and I think much more challenging).

  • Phoenix, I think I will print out your comments and keep them to read and reread. You mention so many valuable points, some of which I had come to myself after many years, some of which are new to me.
    Yes, it took me very many years to detect the aggression and anger beneath my husband’s veneer, hidden first under drugs and now that he is off them, under his effort to suppress his feelings. Dangerous? Perhaps a little bit, but he is someone with a very strong moral code so on the whole, I think it is also healthy for him to feel his strength even if it initially comes out as anger.
    And yes, so important to try to ease him into a position of authority in the relationship (no apologies to feminists) because a woman also has a lot of power and is of course equal to a man but we use our power in very different ways.
    As you write, there are times when I end up being the “tough parent” but the best results seem to happen when I allow myself to be “just a vulnerable wife” which means entering into all of my own issues about showing vulnerability. The place where I have the greatest struggles – that’s the place where I know there is the most to heal.
    There’s so much to write but so little time. Thank you so much for your offer to light a candle (and for the humour!) Please don’t, though, because I am not christian, but I very much treasure your generous wishes nonetheless.
    I don’t believe that “love can conquer all” but I do believe, like I wrote above, that there is some kind of interdependent journey we need to be on. I could run away, but all I would really be running away from is facing my own issues as he brings them out.
    Which is the hardest part – realizing that the “fixing” happens in me and maybe then there’s a spillover, and maybe not – the results in another person aren’t in my hands. Yes, as you write, not everyone wants to be on that journey – some go through the whole of life without moving past the fear. For men it is harder to face up to, because their external “honour” is so important for their self-image, much more than for women.
    So, I salute you, and Sam and Rossa too, and all the others on the journey.
    (And I hope that one day you will dare to bring a child into the world and nurture it, because it sounds like you would be a wonderful mother.)

  • It’s great that your experience of feminism has been one of increasing respect for women. But my experience has been of increasing demands placed on women, increased expectations. A woman without a career is considered and taught to feel “less” whereas a man who doesn’t feel the inclination to play in the park with his kids doesn’t confront the same inferiority feelings. What this can play out as, is women after birth feeling that their identity has been lost because now they are back to being “just women.”

    What feminism has failed to do, in my opinion, is to teach respect for women as women, not just as human beings. I believe the reason this happened is because it wasn’t the agenda at all. The agenda was to enable women to succeed in a man’s world, which may have worked in a way, but with a tremendous cost paid by the conflict inherent in being a modern woman.
    Since this article is about PPD, I think that this point is particularly relevant. In traditional – and yes, very hierarchical – societies, women after birth are pampered and given often a month off to recuperate and devote themselves to their new babies. In the western “equal” world, women are expected to manage it all – be a great mother, and go back to their careers. The fact is that most women cannot succeed at both. Mothers and children suffer.

  • Well, I guess I’m just as much entitled to my subjective opinion as anyone else here. For sure there have been some side-benefits to the feminist movement, but I would argue that the basic premise of the movement – that we’re all just the same with accidentally different bodies – has done a huge amount of damage, apart from the fact that it’s a lie.
    But as oldhead pointed out already, this is a total waste of time because certain people are not even arguing facts and ideas – they’re just spouting propaganda.

  • God forbid I am not a feminist. I think what feminism has “achieved” for women has been a disaster. Women are definitely equal to men, and definitely different from them.

    Reproductive rights is such a ridiculous term. Unless you define it, it doesn’t mean a thing. Do you support abortion right up to the last second before natural birth? Or do you have some magical arbitrary line between clump of cells and baby?
    Yes, I have no doubt that many people are so convinced that what they did was right. So? Many murderers of adults also feel the same.
    LavenderSage, I’m so sorry that you with you were never born. But don’t make the same assumption for everyone else who wasn’t aborted but might have been. I would hazard a guess that most of them are happy to be alive.

    Richard, you’re fighting against reality – you don’t like, for whatever reason, the fact that physical acts have consequences that we are supposed to take responsibility for. You want to pretend that a woman can “have it all.” Nobody can have it all. There are consequences to every choice we make. Even women who were raped and had abortions often express anguish in later life about their decisions. Plenty have their babies and don’t regret it. Others have abortions and become infertile. An abortion is not like blowing your nose and poof, it’s gone. Open your mind a little to the other side of the story. I regularly donate to an organization that provides financial help to expectant mothers who would otherwise have abortions, and do you have any idea how many really want to have their babies but are scared they won’t be able to provide for them?
    Again – please look at the whole picture and put the propaganda to one side at least temporarily.

  • As “the woman with the psychotic husband” you mention – not all people who go through psychosis come to an understanding of what happened and why. My husband still clings to aspects of his unusual beliefs as literally true although others he realizes were rather strange. I think this is because it’s more comfortable than thinking “I was crazy then.” But of course I can’t be sure. Yes, I’m sure he subjectively felt what he did, and I can see why in many cases. His family of origin is so typically schizophrenogenic. His father even told me, “We [i.e. he and his wife] know exactly what goes on in all of our [married] children’s lives,” and thinks that is a) normal and b) something to be proud of.

    Thank you so much for your amazing posts. I don’t think I’ve ever read anything before that made things so clear. You do write that the drugs slowed you down enough to give you rest and the opportunity to slow your thinking. I also saw with my husband that they don’t stop the psychosis. Are there any non-drug options you know of that could do the same – better?

    You also mention that your life was boring before psychosis. Dr. Rufus May writes similarly of his own experience, and I think my husband would agree re: his own life.

    By the way, it’s not just highly uncomfortable to be around someone psychotic. It is absolutely terrifying, especially if it is someone you love and can no longer access because of this “something” that seems to have possessed them.

    What helped you most in your own life? Can you recommend anything specific such as books or healing modalities?

  • Richard, if you were the “fetus” created when your mother made the “righteous” choice to have a relationship with someone, would you also categorize her choice as “righteous” when you were terminated?
    Of course having a baby has an enormous impact on a woman’s life. But didn’t she know how babies are made?
    Is a fetus (which is known to be capable of feeling pain) really just a mess to be cleared up?
    Today, we have “fetuses” being born at 20 weeks and surviving. Your camp is having in increasingly tougher time categorizing such lives as “just a clump of cells.”
    By the way, I’m not right wing.

  • Maybe I am pushing your argument further than you see it yourself, but I would like to understand better what you are suggesting.
    You write of the interconnnectedness of families, and how it’s not “them and us.” In a way, all of society – all of humanity – is interconnected. So, you have husband and wife relationships with let’s say the husband is “bipolar” and the wife is “codependent” or you can define it (or not) any way you like. You could also find “reasons” why he “uses being bipolar” to escape from trauma (etc.) and even “reasons” why she contributes/causes her husband’s “disease.”
    Let’s take another example of a husband and wife where he is a murderer and she is the victim. You could also find reasons why he is “a victim” (and was intolerably provoked etc.) and why she is “a shrew” who “provoked him beyond human endurance.”
    What is getting lost here is any concept of right and wrong.
    If there is a husband who gets married committed to providing for his family, but then lies in bed all day saying he’s depressed leaving his wife to cope alone, then is this right/wrong/neutral?
    If there is a wife who gets married and commits to looking after the kids but disappears every once in a while because of “stress” then is this right/wrong/neutral?
    Is there really no line between “it just got too much for me and I couldn’t cope any more so I had to leave everyone else holding the can” and “I was in bed all day yesterday and the world didn’t fall apart so I guess my spouse can cope with this and I’m not cut out for it.” Or whatever else.
    Those of us who find ourselves dealing with people on a 24/7 basis, whom you might meet in other circumstances and categorize as slackers, deserve more than being told we are in a relationship and everyone’s basically equal. Many other people in my and samruck’s position would have divorced years ago and nobody would have blamed them if they chose to reveal the reasons why. Instead, we shut up and keep going, and there are no forums or websites for us apart from nami and obviously we are not going there.
    I can understand my husband from today till infinity but that doesn’t make my life much easier in most ways. If he was in a wheelchair, nobody would attempt to tell me that I don’t have it harder in many ways. No, he is not “diseased” but he does not see himself as on a road to healing or whatever you want to call it. He is not like you – highly articulate and finding a path to greater understanding and whatever else. Yes, I am far from perfect myself. But when I have a hard day, I still come through for my kids because it’s me or no one else. I can’t rely on my husband to pick up where I leave off. I can’t rely on him to listen when I have a hard day – he seems to be actually incapable, mostly, of putting himself to the side and being with someone else in their struggles. It’s usually, “Yeah, I felt like that once…” or “Oh.”
    Because the guy in a wheelchair might look for ways to help his spouse with the things he can do, whereas the person who is conditioned to see himself as hopeless and helpless, just gives up as the default option.
    The reason – the only reason – I can deal with this without seeking an escape of some kind, is my faith that God put me in this situation for a reason. (I am Jewish, by the way.) I have no idea how someone without faith could find a way to continue unless they have some kind of martyr wish. I don’t want to be a martyr. Nobody in my life has an inkling of what I deal with. That’s actually fine, because when I did have someone I used to tell some things to, it made things worse.
    It’s wonderful that you are helping people to get past trauma. I hope very much that what I’m feeling between the lines, that you are in a way partially blaming the significant other for the situation, is just me being oversensitive. Please do understand where this oversensitivity is coming from – it’s like the pendulum swinging back to the old days when mothers were blamed for their kids’ “autism.” Today we have wives of alcoholics being told they are enablers/codependent which may even be true, but they went into the situation trying to help, not trying to harm.
    I’m sorry if this isn’t coherent. I could have structured it better but I think you’ll get the gist anyway.

  • Yes – they often see themselves as the ultimate arbiters of who their patients are – i.e. are they okay or not – and of course they’re not, because otherwise they wouldn’t have come for “treatment.”
    I had one therapist tell me (on our first meeting) that I don’t love my kids unconditionally and that if I don’t fix that, they’ll be going to therapists 20 years down the line. She also told me that my idea of wanting to become a therapist myself (because I knew I could do what they were doing so much better and with less damage…) was a waste of time because I lacked charisma.
    But who can understand the ways of Providence? When I recall that, I recall too telling that to my father, with whom I have a very problematic relationship, and him telling me that he thought I had a lot of charisma. Coming from someone who spent most of his life putting me down, that meant a lot. So everything can be mined for the diamonds, I guess.
    Julie, where do you get your strength from?

  • No. What’s the choice though? You tried, you stood bravely at his side, and it still didn’t turn out great.
    The thing with the Turkey Prince is that he could take out time from life to get himself sorted. Not all of us – probably hardly any of us – have that option. Can we envision a society where there are enough Soteria Houses for the people that need them? (Or a society where we won’t need them at all?)

  • Well, I’m happy for him that he had someone so understanding to be at his side.
    I found it difficult if not impossible to do the same when my husband was running through the streets yelling “Murderers!” He wanted to take “them” (most of whome remained forever unnamed) to court to sue for damages. He still blames “them” for his troubles. I’ve tried lots of things, including agreeing with him about certain members of “them” but if “they” are a convenient scapegoat to avoid taking responsibility, then it’s tricky. One of his doctors, years ago, actually told me that he wasn’t worried about the strange ideas. He said lots of people have weird ideas, and nobody has to even know. It’s the consequences that can get tricky. If you think “they” are out to get you, you might preempt the attack with one of your own. Expressing sympathy might help – it also might not. Going out armed because you’re scared might seem like a good idea unless it gets you arrested. It’s not as simple as some people would like to make it out to be.

  • just wanted to mention that being paranoid delusional that you have to wear a tinfoil hat to ward off the aliens is rooted in fear.
    Being religiously observant is sometimes rooted in fear but more often (I believe) rooted in belief of an additional aspect to life beyond the physical and has nothing to do with fear at all.
    There’s no point in romanticizing the fear of paranoid delusions because people who have them want them to stop. They are great learning experiences but nobody wants to live their life that way.

  • I like your idea – I wonder if you know of any examples where it’s been used and found effective. My personal experience with someone with extreme paranoia (my husband) is that he didn’t open up and tell me about his fears because he had enmeshed me in them and feared me too. There was no one left in his world that he trusted. But each case is different.
    The story about the woman who thought she was a fish is a plagiarism of a very old (over 200 year old) story attributed to the Jewish Rabbi Nachman of Breslov. It’s called “The Turkey Prince” and is about a prince who thought he was a turkey and spent his time undressed under the table eating crumbs and picking at bones. He was healed by a wise man who joined him there in his situation, and then said, “You know what? We can be turkeys and get dressed too.” They got dressed. “You know what? We can be turkeys and eat regular food.” They did. Eventually, the prince came out from under the table and started acting like a prince again. And his state of mind reflected his actions (which is also a Jewish principle, that a person is influenced by his behavior).

  • Thank you. I wish you would write that book – I would love to read it and learn from it.
    I just thought that I would also mention another trap that is hard to guard oneself from – codependence. For a long time (and still today, a lot of the time) I tried to heal my husband. That involved some positive things – wanting him to find his own path, getting him off the drugs – and also many negative – not looking at my own issues (which often mirrored mine) and making him, as you write, the one who carries the burden of “all that’s wrong here.”
    I still find it a huge challenge not to “understand” him when I really don’t and can’t, when something seems so obvious yet isn’t. And it challenges the modern idea of marriage – that it involves total understanding and openness etc – which is impossible and probably leads to so many failed marriages.

    As an aside, the first time my husband came off the drugs (lithium and risperdal) it was very grudgingly on his part because he had been brainwashed by his family to believe that they were saving his life. And he did have a terrible time withdrawing, with insomnia leading to psychosis leading to being dragged to a psych to be forcibly injected (yes, that was his family too).
    The next time I got him off the drugs I was smarter. This time he was on Geodon which conveniently comes in capsules. So I emptied them out, doing a slow titration that way. He never guessed a thing for 18 months. I told him after that – and guess what? He “went mad” soon after. Funny that he doesn’t suspect me again – but again, without his knowledge, he’s been off drugs for over a year and still doesn’t guess it. This time, maybe I won’t tell him for another 5 years or so.

  • I hear where you’re coming from and I agree with a lot of what you write – maybe even all of it. I don’t know you, or your history, but you sound like a deeply responsible, insightful, and caring person. Please understand that some of us are married to people who for whatever reason choose not to take responsibility for their “mental health” for want of a better word, and actively choose to adopt the role of patient. In my case, my husband’s problems existed from years before we married and in many ways, he seeks in me a kind-of perfect mother. I think things would look very different if my husband were set on being on a healing journey of his own – instead, however, he is basically struggling to keep his head above water, or at least, that’s how it seems to me.
    I don’t deny that I’ve learned a great deal about myself, my weaknesses, own issues, own tendencies to run away from responsibility and so much more along the way. But when the other person is set on “othering” himself, then it is a huge challenge not to get sucked in and finding the right balance is so hard. I think all of us in this situation struggles to know how much to take on in order not to overstress the other person, and when to stop and say, “Sorry, this time I can’t, you’re going to have to manage whatever it is yourself.” On the one hand, my husband wants to feel like the head of the family; on the other hand, much/most of the time he is a figurehead and not only that, because he is personally struggling with so much that I can’t see or access (because he will not talk about stuff), he wants recognition for the little he does as it doesn’t come easily. Sorry for the value judgment that it’s “little” but if you could peer into our lives, I suspect you would agree!
    At the end of the day, the situation is one long reminder that we can never understand another person and have to judge favorably as far as possible. And that “we didn’t come into this world in order to lick honey” as the saying goes.
    Thanks for the thought-provoking words and I will try to internalize your ideas more.

  • Thank you so much Rossa, for this beautiful article.
    You are a very brave mother, and doubly brave for posting here, where so often the message family members of the “mentally ill” are given subtly or not-so-subtly is: keep away.
    Often it seems that the pendulum swings back and forth without knowing how to stop at a reasonable place in the middle. What I mean is that perhaps in the past, there was the argument that “mental illness” was the fault of the parent/spouse/other for inflicting trauma/causing autism/etc. and then it swung to the opposite extreme that it’s “just an illness.” Then, people who reject the drugs (rightly!) sometimes swing all the way back and blame the people in their lives for causing them so much angst that they “went mad.”
    I wish there was a forum for people like you and me who are living and interacting with close family members who have “issues” and either don’t have or don’t choose the option of walking away when it gets tough. If you know of anything, please let me know.
    My experience here on MIA has been that I should shut up about any of the challenges I face with my situation as “the other person” because it’s upsetting for some readers to entertain the idea that they create challenges. So I don’t know if I would dare to publicize my story, and in any case, I don’t think anyone is interested in reading it.
    Again, thank you, and wishing you much strength, wisdom, and mental space to keep going with a smile on your face!
    Gabi

  • We’re talking about murder too, not just suicide.
    Yes, most of the cases where people who are not naturally homicidal and become so, are caused by these drugs. But not always.
    There’s the case of Andrea Yates – probably caused by the drugs she had taken.
    But there was a similar case about 200 years previously in Maine, documented in a book by a midwife who worked in the community. No drugs involved, obviously.
    Sometimes, there isn’t time to deal with a problem via the long (of course more effective) non-drug route – dealing with trauma, giving empathy etc
    Sometimes you need to inject someone with something quickly, and then, when they cool off a bit, you can go the long route. Sometimes you don’t realize things have escalated so far until the situation explodes and it’s too late to intervene less drastically.
    You may argue that the injection violates their rights or whatever – but of course, murder violates rights too.
    Yes, thank you Chaya! I’m presuming that with your candy bar analogy you are acknowledging that there can be a very limited, short-term place for use of these otherwise life-destroying drugs. If someone has another emergency first-aid way of getting someone “down” from a mad spell that threatens to turn very violent, I’d like to hear it – truly. It’s all very well to write, “They just need to be in a supportive, loving environment,” or whatever, but people who are in the grip of terrible paranoia do not recognize that environment for being supportive – they believe themselves under attack from all sides and that can have disastrous results.

  • This is a reply to Steve McCrea – that the only one who knows what’s going on with a person is the person himself.
    You could possibly make a case for this always being true by defining “knowing” in very broad terms, but the “knowing” of a psychotic person is not the “knowing” most of us are familiar with.
    For instance, when my husband was psychotic (and please don’t shoot me down for using that word – it happens to be rather useful if not 100% accurate) he “knew” all kinds of things that may have been true in a sense if he truly was accessing the other person’s subconscious and “knew” things that they didn’t consciously know themselves. He “knew” that a whole list of people were conspiring to kill him, for instance. He “knew” that people were watching him on CCTV.
    Attempts to rationalize were hopeless, as you will know yourself if you ever interacted with someone in such a mindset. As a person on the outside looking in, it was far more easy for me to understand the roots of his fears, paranoia, beliefs etc. than it was for him – and in fact, it remains so.

  • Yes! I told the doctor that the drugs my husband was prescribed for “schizophrenia” (valproate) were making him depressed. The doctor said yes, they do that – and that yes, they were supposed to do that, because if a “schizophrenic” is too happy, he might jump off a roof. Unbelievable? No, not from a shrink. (PS my husband is happily off valproate)

  • I’m glad that the book is gaining publicity and hope that it continues to do so – it has the potential of being something that reaches many people that otherwise would never even approach the topic.
    I am toying with the idea of writing a book of my own on a similar-different topic – in the first person, about a woman who was given SSRIs after “PPD” and ended up killing her baby. There’s a case in Israel right now, with the details under court-imposed gag order, but the rumors are that the woman “was suffering from PPD” and she’s been in jail for the last 2 weeks. The baby is rumored to have drowned in a jacuzzi. Of course people say “look how terrible when depression isn’t treated…” The only problem is that I’ve never taken SSRIs, so I’m worried that I wouldn’t be able to portray it properly. On the other hand, nobody else is writing this book as far as I know – so maybe something is better than nothing. I wonder what any people here who have taken SSRIs (especially for “PPD”) think of the idea? I’d appreciate feedback very much. Thank you.

  • My husband had been off psych drugs (geodon) for over 2 years when he became delusional. (Of course there were all kinds of things going on that precipitated what happened.) One night he was picked up by the police because he was in the street screaming that his son had been killed (at least, that is what they told me). The police banged on my door in the middle of the night (my husband was still in the police station) wanting to check up on our son, who was asleep. Afterwards, I have wondered many times if my husband thought he himself had killed him, or had intended to. I don’t want to ask him. I doubt I would get a truthful answer in any case. But this story has me really freaked out. I would like to know – how can you help a person who’s delusional? How do you help them not get there in the first place?
    And, do people once on those poisons have a life-long sensitivity to tipping into delusions? He’s almost tipped over a few times since.

  • Totally! SSRIs are prescribed to little kids for “selective mutism” or whatever they called it. I thought it was a sick joke when I first heard about it. I had a few kids who were “selective mutes.” Both times with the same teacher, a very tall, stern-looking woman. Even I found her a bit intimidating though she was definitely a nice person. But when I suggested that my daughter found the teacher a bit scary (I didn’t use that word), I was told it “couldn’t” be as she was such a nice teacher. yes, but…
    But some adults use the drugs specifically to reduce inhibitions, just like others would use alcohol. So basically what you seen to be saying (and I agree) is that the drugs don’t create something that wasn’t there before, they just enhance it, possibly millions of times. Could benzos take a truly nice decent person and turn them into a murderer? I really doubt it.

  • I’m no expert, but I think that most of what we know about the ancient world relates only to the upper class patricians. We know virtually nothing about the vast majority living then, as they were barely considered human. I would imagine that their “mental health” was not too great. No, they had no lunatic asylums, but they had a much freer hand when it came to killing “inconvenient” people. How about Socrates?! I don’t know if we have too much to learn from such “great” cultures, and I don’t know that their experiences are so relevant to ours anyway.

  • Right – lots of people, even when they’re being called “peers,” are going to feel like a one-up if they’re the ones doing the helping right then, even if it was them needing the help last week. It’s just human nature to want to feel one-up. So any kind of organization is going to promote that feeling.
    It sounds like it should be human nature to just be human and help others, but truth is, most people do a lot of damage to others without being professionals of any kind! How to get around that? I have no idea. It’s the rare person who can really “be with” and support, without giving the other person a feeling of inferiority. Maybe it’s an innate potential in all of us to help others as equals, but that doesn’t mean that we instinctively react that way. So maybe it does need to be taught in some way.

  • would that help? Because these kinds of tragedies just draw the same lines over again – those who say “it’s the drugs” and those who say “it’s the inadequately treated mental illness.”
    I think other stories tell the truth better, like one i can’t recall where i saw it, a kid who killed his grandparents – who he loved – when on drugs, and said afterward that it was like he had no choice in the matter.
    in most (all?) of the school shootings, you get drugs making a problem worse (which is bad enough of course). but there are cases where the drugs invent the problem – that speaks more powerfully, to my mind.