Rescued Post: Empathy please
I try not to double post, but I have the time today and I have things on my mind. Below is a collection of things I have written about illness and mental illness since Robin Williams lost his battle with mental illness.
These items appeared on either my facebook page or as comments to posts my friends had made:
So I am going to ask the question– why is it we celebrate the fight of those battling cancer when they finally lay down their arms and go gently or not so gently into the dark? Why can we not see the battle with mental illness in the same way? Can you imagine struggling with a mental illness for years, decades, your entire life. How hard that must be…
I am 100% behind better mental health care. Mental Heath Care in this country, like much of our health care system is FOR SHIT. And fucking expensive.
I am also 100% supportive of our right to say enough. Enough cancer treatment. Enough dialysis. Enough torment. I support everyone’s right to die on their terms and by their own hand if that is what they want.
We can’t know what is in their hearts and minds. We have no right to expect them to keep fighting. We can want them to– because we are selfish and want to continue to bask in their love and radiance. We have NO RIGHT to expect it.
What we can do is love and honor their right to live and die on their own terms. It is their life– not ours.
When I first saw the shocking news:
As we mourn the passing of Robin Williams– it is important that we remember many creative and super talented people battle deep dark demons. The very energy that allows them to become other people and feel deeply and then share that with all of us can be heady and hard to handle. Don’t judge. Be sad for his family but know– you just don’t know.
And in response to friends posts:
For me it is the lack of empathy that is triggery. The idea that mental illness is so different from other illnesses. The abject lack of compassion in so much of the commentary and comments. Being left behind sucks. Being in the grip of uncontrollable darkness and or mania must suck too… this is why sometimes those who are mentally ill seek a very final solution. They just can’t battle or contain that inner darkness any longer. Cancer eats the body, mental illness eats the brain and soul. It frankly isn’t about us– it does not mean they do not love us. It does and it will hurt in some way forever… that is the nature of loss. We grieve, we hope, we grieve and we live on… the loss may or may not reduce in size or emotional weight, but it lives in us, forever. Cancer kills and mental illness does too… each loss is jarring and tragic and it hurts. We know we are alive– because we feel.
I maintain that all creative people– artists, writers, comedians, singer/songwriters– they go somewhere inside that most of the population doesn’t or can’t go and then they let us all share it– how vulnerable that makes them… they show us the darkness, the life, the good, the bad and the ugly. Artists like Robin Williams– become someone else– the funny man, the serious actor… it has a HUGE cost… The line between creative genius and madness is so very fine… so, so, so very fine.
I urge all of you to start looking at mental illness in the same way you do any other illness. The brain is an organ, just like the heart. It can get diseased. It is so very complex. Emotions and chemicals and experiences all swirling around. The Puritans have left us with a wicked, dare I say evil legacy in this country. It is a cancer in our society and we must begin to treat it, before it consumes all of us.
Mental illness isn’t a weakness of moral character any more than heart disease is. Being mental ill does not mean you are a bad person or weak or whatever other bullshit people like to say. We see a cardiologist for heart problems and oncologists for cancer and mental health professionals for mental illness.
All of that said. Our mileage will vary. Some of us are here for a long time and others a much shorter time. It isn’t the quantity of time that I think counts. It is the quality.
I am going to quote Augustus from A Fault in Our Stars:
“… I just held her hand and tried to imagine the world without us and for about one second I was a good enough person to hope she died so she would never know that I was going, too. But then I wanted more time so we could fall in love. I got me wish, I suppose. I left my scar.”
Quoting again– same passage further down:
“I love her. I am so lucky to love her, Van Houten. You don’t get to choose if you get hurt in this world, old man, but you do have a say in who hurts you. I like my choices. I hope she likes hers.”
We all have a choice. We can choose hate and intolerance or we can choose compassion, love, and kindness.
It is really that simple.