2015 has been a grim year for the United States, with hundreds of gun violence incidents involving four or more victims, equating to more than one a day. This flood of horrors includes mass shootings (four or more victims, regardless of fatalities) and mass killings (four or more people shot and killed), and it accompanies the 1,100 and counting people shot by police in the US over the course of the year. Our collective crisis of violence is deeply disturbing, and so is the simplistic response: The instantaneous attribution of violence to mentally ill people, despite scientific evidence, and the pointed silence on mentally ill people shot by police.
For the mentally ill community, every single mass shooting results in a collective bracing against the tide of disablism that will result as the sane public insists that only crazies do this sort of thing, and that to stem the tide of gun violence, we need only make it impossible for mentally ill people to get guns. This rhetoric, complete with slurs, comes out of the mouths of presidential candidates. It crops up endlessly on social media. It appears in opinion editorials in major newspapers. It serves as a reminder that we are the dregs of society — that despite amply illustrating with statistics on mental illness and violence that we are not a threat, we will continue to be viewed as such.
In case you missed it, Project Semicolon posted a video by Wesley Chapman for World Mental Health Day, proposing an ‘end to mental illness’ by 2025. Complete with sappy music and a series of bucolic landscapes, the film is a strikingly disablist (notably, there are no captions or transcript) screed against the mentally ill community.
The faith-based Project Semicolon has exploded into the news of late thanks to its hallmark tattoo, but the distribution and support of this video illustrates a fundamental lack of understanding about mental illness, complete with eliminationist attitudes.
Note: The following graphic work was part of my Master’s thesis. Rather than letting it sit and collect dust–and, just as crucially, now that I have a bit of distance from it–I have decided to share it. It will run on DI in several parts; since the chapters are quite long, I’ll be dividing it up for maximum readability. Image descriptions can be found below the .jpgs; click the images for larger versions.
Six Things I’ve Learned From Dealing With Chronic Pain
As I have written about in many locations around the web (including this site), I have chronic pain and fatigue caused by a condition called fibromyalgia. I started experiencing symptoms at 20, was diagnosed at 21, and in the eight years since my diagnosis have learned some things that may or may not prove useful to both other people with chronic pain and/or health conditions, and “healthy” people as well. The following is less about what having this condition is like on a daily basis (please see my xoJane article linked above for more on those aspects), and more about (insert triumphant violin swells here) WHAT I’VE LEARNED from having a debilitating illness that I will have for the rest of my life:
Sometimes a “positive attitude” is not the best course–try to aim for a realistic attitude instead. I know that maintaining a “positive attitude” is all the rage these days, but for some people it is simply not a great choice. There is no faster way to make yourself feel bad about having “negative” thoughts/energy/whatever than to try to actively banish these thoughts by trying to “think positively” instead of, y’know, dealing with those negative feelings. Bad feelings are a part of life, and they need to be dealt with so you don’t end up making yourself feel worse by trying to wish them away. This is why I try to cultivate a realistic attitude–I have both good days and bad days when it comes to pain and fatigue, and I can acknowledge and work with that instead of stuffing any negative feelings down under the guise of being POSITIVE all of the time.
I am a multiply disabled gay dude with lefty-queer feminist politics living in San Francisco. Last year, I made the decision to put my health (my mental health in particular) first. That meant ending a long relationship that had come to an extremely unhealthy place. It was the hardest decision I had made thus far. Before I began my road to recovery, I embraced my single life with vigor: I partied, I was ecstatic, I was charismatic, I dated several people at one time, I didn’t hold my liquor, I was high as a kite, I had uneventful encounters with men, led men on, I smoked cigarettes like I was born with one in my hand–and I knew, fun as all of this was, that the gig wasn’t going to last much longer.
While I was highly aware of what I was doing during this period and have no regrets whatsoever, I wasn’t putting my health first. I needed to come to a stable place in my life after all the noise and drama of the previous four years since my diagnosis. In order to do so, I made the tough decision to pull out of the bar scene for a while. Being single and gay in the city dovetails with being in a bar or club. Fun as the scene is, my path to recovery butted heads with meeting potential paramours in loud, sweaty bars. I chose to be alone and invested time in friendships and my work. I was never a heavy drinker, but drinking and staying out until 2 AM was no longer an option for me. Doing so would not give me the steady sleep pattern that I now know I need in order to control my mental stability. But that was how I met men in order to go out with them–perhaps that is how many of us meet potential paramours. It isn’t an option for me anymore, however, and I am more than okay with that. Tempting as it can be, I am no longer up for a lost weekend. It was hard to pull back from all that fabulous wild abandon, but once I found my way to health, good things happened. I am now published, which is something I thought would not happen for a long time.