Showing 22 of 22 comments.
That sounds like a perfect balance!
Thank you for sharing about your cats, Joku. My cats were my spiritual guides as well. I cremated Klimky and Ilia and buried their ashes together after Ilia died. On their gravestone I wrote, “Thank you for saving me.” I think one of the things I struggle with is letting go of the pain, which feels like letting go of my cats, even though I know I shouldn’t confuse those two things.
I currently take care of a feral cat in my parents’ backyard. But I won’t allow myself to ever get attached again, because it’s too painful. I haven’t even named the cat and it has been three years now. I also feed all the wildlife in the yard, including the squirrels and a pair of ducks that visits our pond for two months in spring every year. I can’t bear the thought of animals suffering or starving if I can help it.
Last week I was actually looking into volunteer opportunities with local animal rescue organizations. When I was a soldier stationed at Fort Campbell in Kentucky, I volunteered a few weeks at the animal shelter on base, but I didn’t last long because it was too depressing to see all the animals coming in and being euthanized every week. I have so much respect for people who do rescue work, because they are able to put themselves behind the bigger picture. I’ll keep trying to find a way to get involved though. Thank you for your rescue work.
Finland sounds like a beautiful country. When I got out of the hospital last year and was looking at places to live, I was considering moving to Iceland, because I read that the culture there is also more suited to my personality. I hope your country doesn’t become too broken by importing American culture. What is the title of the book about introverts? I know of one that came out a few years ago, by a lawyer named Susan Cain. But I think the situation for introverts and neurodivergent people has only become more precarious in the years since.
Brazil is a movie on my watchlist, but I’ll move it up on your suggestion!
Thanks Paula. And thanks for your work in giving veterans a voice. You’re so right that keeping Americans in the dark about our wars only causes further harm to veterans.
I actually identify as gender nonbinary, but I appreciate your comment. My last semester at Columbia, I actually tried to capture these incidents on my smartphone, but it meant that the camera would always have to be at the ready, and it felt awkward to hold my phone up like that while I was walking. It also felt like a very oppositional thing to be doing on campus, and I didn’t want to make other people uncomfortable, even though I was being made uncomfortable. If I could do it over, I would have documented everything. I just think it’s a sad way to navigate the world. But yea, I mean, if you walk around campus, you see surveillance cameras on every corner of every classroom of every building, so it’s not like there is much trust coming from the administration’s side either.
I wouldn’t necessarily say my family is loving. I’d say they’ve been abusive, but that’s another story. But certainly my parents provided for all my material needs, which is a privilege.
I watched the film a few weeks ago, and really enjoyed the diverse cast (I don’t know if cast is the right word for a documentary?). I thought Idell Wilson’s story was particularly powerful. I think most people would dismiss her as a monster, but you humanized all your subjects by just allowing them to tell their stories.
Thanks Bill. I’m actually beginning training next month as a Master Gardener. I told the program coordinator today that I want to promote gardening as a form of therapy, and she said that I will have opportunities to give presentations on that. So I’m excited about it. It’s funny that today there’s an article on MIA’s website about ecotherapy.
I totally agree about seeing “the world as having been trapped in an abuse-victim-enabling/denial dynamic”! It’s the story of our nation, isn’t it? And I feel the same about not wanting to be part of a system where it often feels like being the victim or victimizer is my only choice. I guess I made my choice, since my most important goal in life is not to contribute to suffering. People like us tend to get crushed, but like you said, maybe raising our voices can make a difference eventually.
Despite what you’ve experienced, it’s heartening to hear your hope and optimism.
I really appreciate your comments, and the support and encouragement you give to others on this site. I’d like to read more about your story, which I think you’ve posted somewhere on MIA before. I’ll find the link.
Haha. I had a sentence in the essay, in which I wrote that the psychiatrist obviously didn’t pay attention in English lit class. I took out the sentence as I thought it would be better to trust readers to make that connection. I guess I was right!
We are in scary times. The WNBA player, Elena Delle Donne, wrote a powerful essay in the Players’ Tribune recently, where she echoes the same idea:
“We can never fully understand what someone else is going through, or what they’ve been through — in the same way that no one else can ever fully understand what we’re going through, or what we’ve been through.
“There’s so much in the world that we don’t know.
“Which means the best that we can do is to listen to each other, and to learn from each other — with as much humility as possible.” ( https://www.theplayerstribune.com/en-us/articles/elena-delle-donne-wnba-season-lyme-disease )
And she says the reason why this is so hard for people these days is because it makes us uncomfortable. I think that’s right. It’s uncomfortable to admit we might be wrong about people, or that we are still ignorant about so many things. Because that means we have to try harder, when everything in modern society tells us that we should already have everything figured out and under control. So it’s easier for us to make a quick judgment and move on. Everybody who suffers from the consequences of our casual misjudgments is just roadkill.
Thanks for the kind and validating words, Alex. It’s a relief to know somebody else gets what I mean when I say I feel like Boo Radley, though I’m glad you no longer feel that way. I’m starting to feel hopeful that I can finally move on as well.
The one good thing about my hospital stays was meeting people I could finally relate to 🙂
I never thought about it that way, that psychiatry at its core is anti-human, but sounds right. I will check out James Hillman. Thank you!
Thanks for that link to Dr. Coleman’s article! I’m definitely still in the process of finding that fine balance between fighting stigma and advocating for our right to exist. I still have a lot more work to do in relearning how I think of mental illness and unlearning its language. I’ll check out Dr. Coleman’s YouTube channel as well.
As an avid gardener, I really liked your analogy to weeds. The parallels between big pharma and the agrochemical complex are striking. For example, read this history on the changing attitude towards clovers in lawns, and how we’ve been programmed by marketing to think about clovers as weeds, i.e. “bad plants”:
“Since the toxic formula killed the clover along with weeds, advertisers solved the problem by classifying clover as a weed rather than grass. This was achieved primarily through advertisements that told mothers that clover attracted bees that could sting children and fathers that clover lawns were unkempt. Suddenly, nobody wanted a neighbor to look over the fence and find the dreaded clover in your lawn, as TV ads portrayed. Due to the power of influential advertising, the benefits of clover were effectively forgotten within only a few years.” (The Sustainability Institute at Molloy College)
Thanks for the kind words, Jim. So much this.
I think one of the saddest revelations from this experience was realizing, as you said, that universities are not so much places for people to learn to become critical thinkers anymore, but rather to groom students into becoming compliant. I’m not claiming that public safety officers were discriminating in a deliberate, concerted way, just that their biases were acting towards a common outcome (to make certain people feel excluded). Of course, private universities have a right to determine who belongs in their communities. I just wish that this mission statement was more transparent. Could save people like me from a lot of distress.
Thanks, Bill. I’ll have to look up The Snake Pit. I’ve seen (and read) Mockingbird as well as Cuckoo’s Nest. I will check out “The Social Thermodynamics of Ilya Prigogine” as well. Thanks for the recommendations!
I like your metaphorically rich writing, and can relate to your lifelong quest for knowledge, although I feel like I’m always beginning. I’m now at CUNY, and I’m designing my program of study around scientism, which is about exploring the boundaries of expert knowledge. It’s very relevant to critical psych, as psychiatry in practice often makes knowledge claims that aren’t supported by actual science.
Ha! I wish I had your pluckiness and sense of mischief. Thanks for the good laugh 🙂
Hi Sam. Yes, exactly, what do we really mean when we say people are sane and well-adjusted? That they can live by the unwritten rules, and ignore the hypocrisy, corruption, and cruelty around us? I find society’s “normal” to be very oppressive.
After I got out of the hospital, I visited two monasteries in New York state and stayed with them a few days. But I don’t think retreating from the world is the answer either. Figuring it out is what life’s journey is about.
My three cats, all siblings born to a feral cat in our backyard, had very different personalities. Klimky was super intelligent, curious, and had the most beautiful voice, but most of the time she was only mildly affectionate. We were very bonded though.
I think my parents definitely could have been more supportive, especially during the time I was grieving, but as an adult I can’t fault them for not being able to provide that. Post-hospitalization, I need to work on building a support system that doesn’t involve them as much. I actually don’t know my father’s general views on psychiatry. I think my parents are often as inscrutable to me as I must seem to them.
I completely agree that discriminatory practices, and abuse in general, can occur whenever there is an imbalance of power, regardless of which roles are occupied by people of different racial identities. I think most people involved in social justice are aware of this dynamic. But surprisingly, when I tried to file a complaint with a disability rights advocate last year regarding the profiling on campus, she actually said that she found it hard to believe my story since most of the public safety officers at Columbia are minorities.
I don’t claim that my story is representative of anyone else’s experiences. But people often look for patterns to help process information, and if our stories don’t fit the known patterns, people find them improbable and hard to believe. That, on top of the fact that people often don’t believe victims to begin with, because doing so would mean that they have to acknowledge some inconvenient truths about the world. So I appreciate you making that point.
I’m really sorry for the awful abuse you suffered under the mental healthcare system. I can’t express adequately how grateful I am to have found the community at Mad In America and given the opportunity to finally be heard. Maybe I can start to move on now and heal.
I can relate to your relationship with your parents. My parents can analyze and fix almost any situation, but when it comes to feelings, they get lost. I used to be socially stunted as a child, though therapy helped a lot. I credit my Army experience in particular for pushing me out of my box. I’m a lot better at socializing today, but many would still consider me a quiet person.
Yes, I think if early on the Ombudsperson had just been level with me or if public safety had explained to me why they thought I was suspicious, I might not have developed the paranoia. I’ve thought about this a lot. However, I think intimidation is very much their intention.
Thanks so much for the kind words, Caroline. Yes, exactly, I think part of what made my experiences so hard to process initially is that they required me to reexamine my long-held notion of the university as a place of tolerance and inclusivity.
Thanks Rachel. I’ve always felt closer to animals. I’ve never had many friends, but it never bothered me until recently, as I’m an introvert and I mostly preferred to be alone (with my cats). These days, as a result of my experiences, I feel it’s almost necessary to cultivate relationships, if only as a matter of self-preservation. So that’s something I definitely struggle with. If you’ve ever seen the movie, The Lobster, you’ll know what I’m talking about 🙂