I always love going to the ‘hip mentally ill media,’ i.e. The Mighty, OC87 Recovery Diaries, etc., and reading these stories from media people about their ‘recovery’ from some mental illness or another.
In the story, hyperlinked above, Liz Spikol retells how hard it was to lose her job writing for a magazine. Liz has pretty much worked continuously since graduation from college. She got fired from one job and spent two months in bed.
Two months. Who paid the bills?
Sometimes I wonder if I’m really not bipolar, depressed or have PTSD. Because of Liz and all the other brave recovered media people who write for these online publications. Story after story of disaster, trial and rebirth – after a while you can predict the story arc before it occurs.
By the way, another constant is that most of them are young and attractive and their target audience seems to be strictly under 40, if not 30. Being 54, you might consider me bitter – and I am. I think middle aged and elderly people with mental illness deserve to be heard as well. But I guess we make for lousy target demographics when you’re looking for clicks and online ads.
I have now found its true what I heard growing up – in America, you start disappearing when you hit 40 (even before that if you’re a woman). By 50 you’re invisible – to media, marketers, opinion leaders and your children perhaps. Remember this when wondering why so many older Americans voted for Trump. Being marginalized and ignored has a way of making one vindictive.
By the way, get off my lawn (throws empty scrip bottle of Lexapro at a whippersnapper).
Unlike Liz, I was fired from three media jobs and damn near fired from three other jobs. Somehow (perhaps the mania!), I managed to get back up and start job hunting again. In 39 years of work, I have been unemployed a total of six months.
I can’t be mentally ill. I never did a Brian Wilson act, never spent time in a mental institution and was never arrested by the police for acting out in public.
OK, I was almost shot by the police because of something said at work, but you can read that story elsewhere on the blog.
But, really, shouldn’t I have cycled through the entire ‘mentally ill experience’ to consider myself a bona fide, certified, stamped and sealed looney?
Of course (here comes the disclaimer), every person fighting mental illness is different. Every person has a different course of handling the illness, reacting to medications and ultimately, making a way in the world.
Except in the ‘hip mentally ill media.’
But here’s the thing – you rarely hear of the stories that don’t have a happy ending – because everyone ‘recovers’ or is in ‘recovery,’ right?
Well, you DO hear about some (not all) of the suicides. Most of the suicide stories are about celebrities or the kind of people who write for the ‘hip mentally ill media,’ their friends, or other connected people who chose that way out.
Those stories also follow a familiar story arc, but that subject is for another day.
What you don’t hear about are the people who are soldiering on, hanging by a hair. A lot of these people you will only find on Twitter or if you stumble across their blog. They’re lives are fairly miserable and they complain, but they still find a way to hold on for one more day.
This is not ‘recovery,’ this is real bravery.
Some have conditions that wax and wane – as I do – and you can suss out their moods by their style of writing or the periods where they don’t write at all – like me.
For so many people who will live and die with their mental illness there is no recovery – only life as they know it. By the time you’re my age, you have no conception of what ‘normal’ is in human behavior. It’s just your life as it has been, for many of us, since we were kids.
Here’s the punchline: recovery is a myth invented to sell stories. It makes for great Ted talks as well. Everyone wants a happy ending; everyone wants to see shining examples of triumph – even if the sample among the mentally ill population is statistically small.
To some, I might seem like I’m in ‘recovery.’ I managed to keep my job; my marriage (this time), my life (“it’s just a cell phone!”), and I’ve recently even been part of a stage show. Yea me!
That’s all nice, but it’s not ‘recovery?’ There is never recovery.
What you don’t see are the times when I’m staring at the wall at home not wanting to move. Holding my head in my hands at work trying to get my shit together. The PTSD paranoia I feel every day walking into work. The times I feel like I’d be better off dead. The shakes of anxiety attacks. The mood swings you’d have to experience to believe. And, finally, the thoughts and feelings I struggle to keep under wraps in public because I don’t want anyone to be afraid of me or shun me.
There are better times and worse times but even during the better times, the illness is always present in some form, inflicting varying degrees of mental torture.. Behind the forced smile, the polite ‘thank yous,’ and the acceptable work performance, lie a bundle of fears, compulsions, nightmares and voices that, dear reader, should put you on your hands and knees every night praying to whatever gods you worship that you never experience.
The only recovery that is true and complete is when you die.
Put that in your hip online magazine.