There Are No Excuses

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I keep hearing about the "nutcase" who shot Congresswoman Giffords (I've forgotten his name, and it deserves to be forgotten, so we'll leave it at that); I keep hearing every radio host, Progressive and Republican, hurtly names at each other such as "crack-pot," "nutcase," and even "psychopath," insulting the sanity of their opponent. Questioning the sanity of another person is an attack upon their character, offers an excuse for their behavior, and dismisses of the validity of their opinions, all in one. That needs to stop.

"Mental illness" is thrown into one great big bucket, a bucket that makes exactly as much sense as "Physical illness." By that logic, a broken leg is in the same exact category as terminal cancer, right? Someone born with a birth-defect is just as responsible for their disease as a person with diabetes due to poor diet and exercise; the victim of an industrial accident is just as much to blame for the cost of their treatment, their "burden on society," as a smoker with lung-cancer--is that the concensus? Most people would agree that, no, these different illnesses involve different levels of choice and responsibility, both in the progression of the disease and the likelihood of successful treatment. They involve different symptoms and levels of pain. However, the consensus seems to be that "Mental Illness" is one giant bucket, into which all sufferers of damaged brain-chemistry can be thrown. We are met with mistrust and dismissal from coworkers and employers, family members, even doctors, regardless of the type of disorder. It offers an undeserved slur to many, and an undeserved excuse for others.

The person with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder may well wash the skin off of their hands, but they will not pick up a gun and shoot a congresswoman, and 18 other people who just happen to be standing around. The person with Hoarder's Disease may bury themselves and their family in mountains of junk, but they won't start telling other people to ferociously go after their opponents without stopping, except to "reload." There are specific categories of mental illness that produce violent behavior, and specific personality types, such as the personality displayed by Rush Limbaugh, that lead to constant vitriol and black-and-white thinking.

So please, folks; stop throwing me into the same bucket. I've successfully held a job since I was 15 years old. I've raised a daughter, who by all outside accounts is a very sweet, smart, funny, healthy young woman. I've earned a Biology degree, taught school, and owned a home. I'm bipolar, and I've struggled horribly with the disease, but I am responsible for it--just as someone with childhood diabetes can choose to be responsible for it, and live a close approximation of a "normal life." I have, on my own, sought treatment, found medications that work, and taken them reliably. Even before I found the right doctors and treatments, I did not harm another person. One of the greatest regrets of my life is that I spanked my daughter--a total of 5 times, and I remember the number because that was 5 times too many. I pay for my doctor and prescriptions out of pocket. I am uninsured, and damned lucky that I can afford the doctors and prescriptions that keep me from living a life of agony. My life, my agony or the treatment thereof, my responsibility--not my excuse.

Stop giving people like that creep that shot Mrs. Giffords the excuse of being "mentally ill." He may need treatment, but I've heard no evidence that he was hearing voices or had complete delusions about the nature of reality. If he did, that is a specific mental illness, as much as varicela pneumonia is a specific physical illness; take him out of the bucket and give his diagnosis a name. Until he has that name, he has another diagnosis in my book: evil, cruel, irresponsible, infantile in his disregard for life or morals. (Let no one blame his parents, either; I was abused and neglected as a child, and again, I was not a child abuser as a parent, as most child-abuse victims are not, nor did I take up a gun or other weapon and go out to hurt someone.)

Stop using "crazy" and "sick" as synonyms for a person of low character. I fight constantly against the equating of mental illness with character weakness; in fact, my friends tell me that I have a heart of gold, that I'm smart and talented, or that I am strong--of course I could be boasting, but my point is valid regardless. Those who come out on top of any mental illness most likely do so because they have a strong character and drive to overcome. Rush Limbaugh is not crazy; he is not sick. He is cruel, insensitive to anyone's station in life but his own, self-centered and self-important. He has a character flaw; not a mental illness. I wish it were a mental illness--it could be treated, his vitriol stopped or at least confined to a hospital ward.

And please stop dismissing the opinions of others by calling them "nut-case," "crack-pot," or "psychopath," when in fact their opinions are just bull-headed bull-sh*t. We do not marginalize and diminish people for having a missing limb, a skin-cancer; please do not diminish and marginalize me because I inherited a family tendency toward Bipolar disorder. That's part of what started this mess in the first place--Reagan's dismissal of mental patients from the nation's health-care system. How many people would be active, contributing members of society if they had access to the medication that keeps them healthy and able to work? The marginalizing of the mentally ill with those words continues to damage us all.

A cruel man like Rush Limbaugh is CRUEL, not sick. A killer such as the one who took after Ms. Giffords is a murderer, troubled though he may be, until a diagnosis is declared. I, when given the excuse of "mental illness" as an out for not working as hard as the next person, choose to work harder than they do so I can accomplish as much or more. And those who are truly disabled, physically or mentally, actually do deserve compassion, and should not be lost in the verbal shuffle. Given the current climate of slander and lies, let the words be as clear and accurate as possible. It's only fair to all of us in the "Mentally Ill" bucket, and also to the countless victims of people who are self-centered, heartless, arrogant, and just plain wrong. Call it as we see it, without euphemisim, and let there be no excuses.

K-Wolf-Madison
Joined:
Oct. 26, 2010 6:36 pm

Comments

Well said! And well done for you in getting yourself the help you needed.

downix's picture
downix
Joined:
Oct. 12, 2010 11:04 am
Quote K-Wolf-Madison:

I keep hearing about the "nutcase" who shot Congresswoman Giffords (I've forgotten his name, and it deserves to be forgotten, so we'll leave it at that); I keep hearing every radio host, Progressive and Republican, hurtly names at each other such as "crack-pot," "nutcase," and even "psychopath," insulting the sanity of their opponent. Questioning the sanity of another person is an attack upon their character, offers an excuse for their behavior, and dismisses of the validity of their opinions, all in one. That needs to stop.

"Mental illness" is thrown into one great big bucket, a bucket that makes exactly as much sense as "Physical illness." By that logic, a broken leg is in the same exact category as terminal cancer, right? Someone born with a birth-defect is just as responsible for their disease as a person with diabetes due to poor diet and exercise; the victim of an industrial accident is just as much to blame for the cost of their treatment, their "burden on society," as a smoker with lung-cancer--is that the concensus? Most people would agree that, no, these different illnesses involve different levels of choice and responsibility, both in the progression of the disease and the likelihood of successful treatment. They involve different symptoms and levels of pain. However, the consensus seems to be that "Mental Illness" is one giant bucket, into which all sufferers of damaged brain-chemistry can be thrown. We are met with mistrust and dismissal from coworkers and employers, family members, even doctors, regardless of the type of disorder. It offers an undeserved slur to many, and an undeserved excuse for others.

The person with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder may well wash the skin off of their hands, but they will not pick up a gun and shoot a congresswoman, and 18 other people who just happen to be standing around. The person with Hoarder's Disease may bury themselves and their family in mountains of junk, but they won't start telling other people to ferociously go after their opponents without stopping, except to "reload." There are specific categories of mental illness that produce violent behavior, and specific personality types, such as the personality displayed by Rush Limbaugh, that lead to constant vitriol and black-and-white thinking.

So please, folks; stop throwing me into the same bucket. I've successfully held a job since I was 15 years old. I've raised a daughter, who by all outside accounts is a very sweet, smart, funny, healthy young woman. I've earned a Biology degree, taught school, and owned a home. I'm bipolar, and I've struggled horribly with the disease, but I am responsible for it--just as someone with childhood diabetes can choose to be responsible for it, and live a close approximation of a "normal life." I have, on my own, sought treatment, found medications that work, and taken them reliably. Even before I found the right doctors and treatments, I did not harm another person. One of the greatest regrets of my life is that I spanked my daughter--a total of 5 times, and I remember the number because that was 5 times too many. I pay for my doctor and prescriptions out of pocket. I am uninsured, and damned lucky that I can afford the doctors and prescriptions that keep me from living a life of agony. My life, my agony or the treatment thereof, my responsibility--not my excuse.

Stop giving people like that creep that shot Mrs. Giffords the excuse of being "mentally ill." He may need treatment, but I've heard no evidence that he was hearing voices or had complete delusions about the nature of reality. If he did, that is a specific mental illness, as much as varicela pneumonia is a specific physical illness; take him out of the bucket and give his diagnosis a name. Until he has that name, he has another diagnosis in my book: evil, cruel, irresponsible, infantile in his disregard for life or morals. (Let no one blame his parents, either; I was abused and neglected as a child, and again, I was not a child abuser as a parent, as most child-abuse victims are not, nor did I take up a gun or other weapon and go out to hurt someone.)

Stop using "crazy" and "sick" as synonyms for a person of low character. I fight constantly against the equating of mental illness with character weakness; in fact, my friends tell me that I have a heart of gold, that I'm smart and talented, or that I am strong--of course I could be boasting, but my point is valid regardless. Those who come out on top of any mental illness most likely do so because they have a strong character and drive to overcome. Rush Limbaugh is not crazy; he is not sick. He is cruel, insensitive to anyone's station in life but his own, self-centered and self-important. He has a character flaw; not a mental illness. I wish it were a mental illness--it could be treated, his vitriol stopped or at least confined to a hospital ward.

And please stop dismissing the opinions of others by calling them "nut-case," "crack-pot," or "psychopath," when in fact their opinions are just bull-headed bull-sh*t. We do not marginalize and diminish people for having a missing limb, a skin-cancer; please do not diminish and marginalize me because I inherited a family tendency toward Bipolar disorder. That's part of what started this mess in the first place--Reagan's dismissal of mental patients from the nation's health-care system. How many people would be active, contributing members of society if they had access to the medication that keeps them healthy and able to work? The marginalizing of the mentally ill with those words continues to damage us all.

A cruel man like Rush Limbaugh is CRUEL, not sick. A killer such as the one who took after Ms. Giffords is a murderer, troubled though he may be, until a diagnosis is declared. I, when given the excuse of "mental illness" as an out for not working as hard as the next person, choose to work harder than they do so I can accomplish as much or more. And those who are truly disabled, physically or mentally, actually do deserve compassion, and should not be lost in the verbal shuffle. Given the current climate of slander and lies, let the words be as clear and accurate as possible. It's only fair to all of us in the "Mentally Ill" bucket, and also to the countless victims of people who are self-centered, heartless, arrogant, and just plain wrong. Call it as we see it, without euphemisim, and let there be no excuses.

I agree with the sentiments of your well stated post, but not every detail. People should agree or disagree with each other based on the merits of their arguments. They should not hurl epithets.

You might (I hope) appreciate this from Dr. Thomas Szasz, the author of "The Myth of Mental Illnes":

"Myth of mental illness." Mental illness is a metaphor (metaphorical disease). The word "disease" denotes a demonstrable biological process that affects the bodies of living organisms (plants, animals, and humans). The term "mental illness" refers to the undesirable thoughts, feelings, and behaviors of persons. Classifying thoughts, feelings, and behaviors as diseases is a logical and semantic error, like classifying the whale as a fish. As the whale is not a fish, mental illness is not a disease. Individuals with brain diseases (bad brains) or kidney diseases (bad kidneys) are literally sick. Individuals with mental diseases (bad behaviors), like societies with economic diseases (bad fiscal policies), are metaphorically sick. The classification of (mis)behavior as illness provides an ideological justification for state-sponsored social control as medical treatment."

or this from Sheldon Richman:

"This is something I came up with some time ago to summarize a good deal of what Thomas Szasz, a great libertarian and hero of mine, has been saying for half a century.

If neuroscientists discovered that mass murderers and people who claim to be Jesus had different brain chemistries from other people, most everyone would accept this as evidence that they suffered from a mental illness/brain disorder (MI/BD) and that this disorder caused their behavior.

If neuroscientists discovered that homosexuals had different brain chemistries from heterosexuals, far fewer people would accept this as evidence that they suffered from a MI/BD and that this disorder caused their behavior.

If neuroscientists discovered that nuns had different brain chemistries from everyone else, very few people would accept this as evidence that they suffered from a MI/BD and that this disorder caused their behavior.

If neuroscientists discovered that married men had different brain chemistries from bachelors, no one would accept this as evidence that they suffered from a MI/BD and that this disorder caused their behavior.

Clearly, a difference in brain chemistry per se is not enough to make people believe that someone has a MI/BD. It takes more. Why, then, would a difference in one case be taken as evidence of MI/BD, while a difference in another case would not be? The obvious answer is that people, including psychiatrists, are willing to attribute behavior to mental illness/brain disorder to the extent that they disapprove of that behavior, and are unwilling to do so to the extent they approve of, or at least are willing to tolerate, that behavior. (Psychiatry once held that homosexuality was a mental illness. That position was changed, but not on the basis of scientific findings. Science had nothing to do with the initial position either.)

In other words, the psychiatric worldview rests, not on science or medicine, as its practitioners would have us believe, but on ethics, politics, and religion. That would be objectionable only intellectually if that were as far as it went. Unfortunately, it goes further, since the practitioners and the legal system they helped shape are empowered:

• First, to involuntarily “hospitalize” and drug people “diagnosed” as mentally ill and thought possibly to be dangerous to themselves or others, and

• Second, to excuse certain people of responsibility for their actions (for example, via the insanity defense).

Postscript: I'm often asked which one of Thomas Szasz's two dozen books I'd recommend to someone unfamiliar with his work. I suggest Insanity: The Idea and Its Consequences. This highly readable book covers most of his views on psychiatry, mental illness, and the Therapeutic State, with responses to his critics along the way. Of course, after that, you'll want to read the rest. "

FrankChodorov's picture
FrankChodorov
Joined:
Dec. 23, 2010 7:00 am

On the other hand, it may be argued that Thomas Szasz has done as much harm to the lives of the mentally ill as the pharmacological companies have done....and is best avoided.

K-Wolf.... as inspiring and laudable as your life has been you seem to fall into the same trap as those you criticize, making blanket statements to cover all situations.

Mental illness....take schizophrenia, is merely a garbage can term which covers an eclectic set of behaviors which can have several or many different etiologies or combinations thereof....which manifests itself differently in every person so affected. One person suffering from what could be considered "severe" schizophrenia can go through law school and become a world recognized law professor at UCLA (True story) while another may suffer a "mild" form of the disease and end up on skid row or throwing themselves off of a bridge. The former is not necessarily a stronger or better person than the latter.....just different reactions to different stimuli of the "same" disease.

norske's picture
norske
Joined:
Jul. 31, 2007 4:01 pm

Norske, you are quite correct in saying that different effects are seen in different situations; as with abnormal DNA expression that results in cancer, background conditions have much to do with the end result. There have been some interesting studies done with mice which were "nurtured" versus "neglected," by their mothers, showing that the nurtured mice were less likely to express a gene specifically geared to cause disease. Two children with exactly the same broad diagnosis of scizophrenia are very likely to have different levels of symptomology and control of those symptoms based on such factors as family and societal support, access to quality medical care, and many other unknown factors in and out of the brain.

That is certainly the case with me--most of the people who have lived through the abuse that I have lived through, with the brain-chemistry I have to deal with, are dead. Those who are not dead are usually in prison, on drugs, or on the streets. (I say that based on statistics I've read about bipolar, abuse, and the combination of the two.) I am the anomaly, very much the lucky one. Through no virtue of my own, I seem to be strong in the face of this, and I have been lucky to find good friends. I would not hold my good fortune as an expectation that anyone else in my circumstances would be able to make out as well--and likewise some more-favorably situated people have done better.

FrankChodorov, I'm not sure where you took your studies on brain chemistry and structure, but your comments lead me to believe that, if you did in fact study this beyond a few hours of reading Internet articles by like-minded people, you have at least come to any knowledge you have on the subject with a pre-judgment against psychiatry. Has your mood never been altered by an external chemical effect, such as alcohol, caffeine, or a narcotic pain-killer? Caffeine withdrawal causes a bad mood because the brain has produced an excess of atropine-receptors to interact with the caffeine; the absence of caffeine, the empty receptors on the brain-cells alters the mood for the negative. It's an example most people can relate to of how mood can be chemically influenced, though it doesn't begin to describe the full experience of even one form of mental illness.

Bipolar has not caused me to display societally-unacceptable behavior. (If I disagree with someone in a debate such as this one, and become excessively adamant, that is indeed a personality trait, not an illness!) Bipolar has caused me to be in constant pain for much of my life; the fact that you can't see the source of the pain is as much reason for dismissing it as the fact that you can't see the source of a migraine headache*, or for that matter, a plain old muscle ache--the difference is that you don't have a common point of reference. You may think you understand when I talk about bipolar depression--that I'm just talking about being "sad." I'm not, but without altering your brain chemistry to simulate my own, you aren't capable of truly understanding the difference. (*In actual fact, we can now image what causes the pain in migraines--with time many more mechanisms that are currently invisible to us are likely to become visible as chemical-electrical interactions, every bit as physical as a broken leg.)

In the old days, epileptics were considered to be possessed by the devil. Bipolar brains go through the same activity as epileptic brains--and the treatments are often similar. The turning point for me was being prescribed a medication that was first developed for use with epilepsy. The pharmeceutical industry can be accused of many things, but my friend who has epilepsy, and who is on the same medication I am, no longer has seizures. And I, on that same medication, no longer spend every day of my life in pain every waking moment.

People like me are what makes it difficult for people like Giffords' assailant to get away with the insanity defense. If it were as conjured-up as you say, FrankChodorov, they would be able to claim that they didn't understand what they were doing, had bad childhoods, don't remember what they did. But any competent prosecuting attorney can find thousands--millions--of examples of people like me, who live with "mental illness" responsibly and don't use it as an excuse to commit crimes. A person has to be VERY far gone to get away with an insanity defense, and even then, the usual procedure is to work with someone until they are competent to stand trial, and THEN take them to trial and hopefully convict them. Witness that piece of human excrement who abducted Elizabeth Smart and sang religious songs through his entire trial--he fooled no one, and was sent to prison without one iota of sympathy.

K-Wolf-Madison
Joined:
Oct. 26, 2010 6:36 pm

"Through no virtue of my own,..."

I disagree and believe that you have much to be proud of....my point was simply that even under the exact same circumstances....people with the same conditions will act differently, and that those who are unable to handle it as well as others should not be looked down upon.

norske's picture
norske
Joined:
Jul. 31, 2007 4:01 pm

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