I may submit further articles to The Mighty if I find what I call ‘universal subjects’ on Borderline Personality Disorder that haven’t already been covered to death by other writers. The last submission of mine wasn’t exactly greeted with great enthusiasm. In addition, the editors hinted that the publication may open themselves up to unlimited submissions by everyone who feels like writing, or what I would call, the ‘New Huffington Post Model.’
In that case, a writer with a dedicated subject slot to submit pieces finds themselves competing with unlimited submissions. Not for me.
I’ve written before that The Mighty’s core
The modern marketable face of mental illness (from the Mood Disorder Association of Ontario)
audience on BPD and most other mental health issues is female, between 18-34. In reality, I don’t think this age group wants to hear the struggles of a 55-year-old guy, primarily because they want stories of solutions and hope, even when that might not be possible. Many people in this age range are just learning about their diagnosis and if the future is full of people like me struggling with it 30-40years into the future, that’s not a product they want to buy.
In addition, my aim was be one of ‘those guys’ who chooses to write about personal experiences with mental illness while being honest to a fault. Let me tell you, it’s not easy being one of ‘those guys:’ it’s a lonely experience. Maybe another generation of men will finally lose the inhibitions of keeping their struggles private but, for now, I’ve grown tired of doing a lot of work for little readership. Moving American society on mental illness, especially men, is like trying to turn the Queen Mary around in dry dock.
Because of my condition, I have found that the more I try to engage, especially in real life, the more problems I have maintaining even acquaintanceships. Yesterday I described myself to my psychologist as ‘battery acid with legs.’ Most people who know me in passing wouldn’t believe it at first – I’d tell them the longer you get to know me, the less you will like. At some point, I’ll say something thoughtless or do something inexplicable and you’ll wonder ‘where did that come from?’
Being mindful of such reactions does not mean one can stop them. This article from The Mighty by Rosie Bogumil is a good first person account of how being a good practitioner of Dialectical Behavioral Therapy is no guarantee that one can manage their emotional reactions.
This is not a life I would have wanted, nor, I think, would anyone else. It is the one I was dealt and rather than being the ‘Captain of my ship and master of my soul,’ I was carried away by the sea, flailing at the waves. Sometimes I think I’m a very bad person, sometimes I think I’m a good personal dealing with a bad condition, other times I have no idea who I really am. Anyone with BPD can relate.
Rosie, by the way, is doing just fine otherwise and has a bright future ahead of her provided that life on Earth as we know it will last another 40 years.
Similar to Bogumil, I look around at the wreckage and failures of my nearly completed life and believe I don’t deserve nice things, including recovery. Those of us with BPD will be paying for our real or imagined sins until the day we die. I’m not sure that anything I write about the mechanics behind the condition will add insight to what must seem incomprehensible to most people.
So to recap – I’m old, I’m male, I’m conventionally unattractive, and the less I interact with humans, the better things will be for everyone. No one outside of a small circle of online acquaintances will care enough to read about BPD anyway. My era, like my life, has passed me by and no attempts to try to find a connection between generations is going to work. There’s no ‘generation gap’ (the term people used when I was young) between 55 and 25 anymore. It’s more like a yawning chasm.
I would still like to write. I’m not sure I have anything interesting left to say.
I have been writing professionally and as a hobby for over 40 years. I have seen much copy go under the bridge and many words written and spoken that attempted to enlighten, entertain and inspire. We live now in an era where words mean little because the honesty of the language that underpinned them has been knocked aside. In our daily realm of politics, words are propaganda and nothing ennobles. For one to write an address as Kennedy or Lincoln would today, you would be immediately be suspected as a conman and the your language seen as ‘elitist.’
In publishing, words have been ghettoized into camps that span the range between the infantile (50 Shades) and the incomprehensible (Fire and Fury). Even major newspapers, The New York Times and The Washington Post included, are littered with spelling, punctuation and grammatical errors. Words are cheap and those who sell them are less craft makers than ‘sandwich artists,’ whatever that means, but the pay is commensurate.
There’s no need for future tyrants to burn books when people no longer wish to read. Listicles that can be digested in five minutes or less will suffice. Giant content farms churn out the rubbish online that most people digest as entertainment. James Patterson hasn’t actually written one of his own books in years. David Foster Wallace has been dead a decade.
We may not have reached the end of history as Francis Fukuyama wrote but we have reached the end of something. Perhaps, noting the coming age of AI and robotics, we have not reached the end of what was once called The Age of Men, but rather the end of human possibility. To put this in layman’s terms, it is the exact opposite of the future civilization Gene Roddenberry (minus his perversions) envisioned – instead of outward looking, insular; instead of broadening humankind’s possibilities, restricting them for mundane profit creation. No one is going to Mars; no one living, that is.
I suspect we will indeed welcome our robot overlords who, when they have quite rightly judged us irredeemable, take away our nuclear weapons, put us in a collective playpen and watch us drool over video games.
So what is left other than fulfilling Neil Postman’s prediction of ‘Entertaining Ourselves to Death?’
(Note: if Postman thought television was our generation’s soma, I wonder what he would have thought of the far more powerful Internet, which was taking over the duties of human anesthetist from TV when he died in 2003?)
I suspect it is the end of literacy, rationalism, and all forms of altruism that cannot be commodified. In short, not the ‘Age of Aquarius,’ but more like the Age of Mars.
I had once through of chronicling society’s downward trajectory but, after a while, it became too depressing, even for me. Very few people wish to give up the idea of human progress, the end of disease and world peace, even though the broad span of human history more correctly indicates war, pestilence and famine as our eventual lot (unless the robots prevent us).
I know, it’s easy for me to throw in the towel and point out that there was nothing that could be saved in the end anyway. But I really believe it and I think history will bear me out. Three words: President Donald Trump.
Can we throw a party while the world burns? I’m not sure. They celebrated Hitler’s last birthday in the bunker with cake and champagne so I guess anything is possible. To embrace the hermit life while finding one magnificent obsession to perform (perhaps golf?) while the sky grows orange may be the ticket to provisional sanity.
I would hate to bank on an early death (which should have happened already) and not found something to amuse myself with the ‘bonus years’ I had not expected, recalling Mickey Mantle’s famous line: “If I had known I was going to live this long, I’d have taken better care of myself!”
When I figure out what form that might take, I’m sure I’ll come back here and write about it. Perhaps the next chapter will be ‘A Borderline Takes up Golf:’ think of the comic possibilities.