Further thoughts on madness

I’m not schizophrenic, but I know a lot of people who are, and a lot of others who are what society would deem “seriously mentally ill”. Maybe I know a statistically high number of people who are deemed seriously mentally ill. I tend to end up hanging with them because I don’t have a problem with people who are “a little different” (or a lot different) as long as they aren’t doing things to hurt others and as long as their self-destructive behaviors are largely containable. 

(In other words, I am the person people call when they need to talk or hang out or hold someone’s hand because “the train is coming through their head again” or they feel as though they are about to jump out a window — but at the point where I am hauling somebody back off a precipice every single day, I understand and have to find a way to communicate that they need more help than I can possibly offer.)

In my experience with people who have what is considered serious mental illness, I’ve come to suspect that many serious mental illnesses have a social origin. Many of the schizophrenics I’ve known have experienced some sort of horrible trauma (often instances of repeat trauma, such as growing up in extremely abusive homes) that caused them to fracture reality and divert some of their trauma fallout into alternate realities, auditory and visual hallucinations, and ‘voices in their heads.’ Many of the autists and extreme introverts have likewise experienced something (usually traumatic childhoods) that caused them to retreat into their own heads and set up permanent residence there. Many people who suffer from OCD have begun to do so in order to deal with fallout from trauma, and so on. And the effects of rape trauma alone are worthy of a completely separate blog post.

There may be inherited, neurological components that decide whether a trauma survivor will develop schizophrenia, OCD, extreme introversion, bipolar, or “just plain PTSD” — and other components that predispose people to experience physical side effects, like Crohn’s disease, other abdominal pains, headaches, chronic fatigure, etc.  … but that doesn’t necessarily mean that everyone with these symptoms was simply born fucked up, end of story. 

A lot of kids on Tumblr seem to take refuge in the “born this way” fantasy, whereas “mad pride” for actual “mad” people often takes the opposite form: these behaviors were often brought on by something, so we can probably learn to understand and mitigate them before they completely ruin our lives. And even if they are purely organic for some people, they still aren’t a life sentence.

Many mad people don’t want to spend our lives in basements doing nothing — which is why we seek each other out and try to learn better, healthier coping mechanisms.

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