Scenting my mental illness

jujy54

queen of the universe
Basenotes Plus
Jun 8, 2008
Dear Laurin,

your words and story took my breath away, and I have a tear welling up. Bravissima. I have an adult child with schizoaffective disorder, with symptoms extending back to childhood, and have mused from time to time that there's no Make-A-Wish Foundation for mental illness. Sharing his illness has to be done with more care than with physical illness, alas. As he has grown, my son has become more forthcoming about his illness, as he does not wish to hide part of himself. There are days when he accepts it as part of his identity, and days where he wished he was "normal." He enjoys attending an organization in our area that is modeled after Fountain House in NYC, where persons with mental illness can go on a daily basis, participate in meaningful work, sit on the board of directors, and have fellowship. He says he is actually happier aroundothers with mental illness, perhaps because he doesn't have to "pass" or to translate.

From time to time I offer him fragrance. He likes the pick-me-up of 4711, and the calm of Donna Karan Essence Jasmine.

postscript_about "normal". My son met a girl, broke up, got back together, and broke up again, sadder but wiser. One day he asked me, "mom, why can't I stop thinking about her?" to which I whispered, "_______, I have to tell you something: you're normal!" And it is normal. He's a guy in his 20s, with all the recklessness, bumps, bruises, small victories, and aspirations that go with young manhood—his margin for error is smaller, and he is more vulnerable than average, that's all.

Thank you again for your generosity and eloquence. I wish you every good thing. Besos. XXXOOO
 

gandhajala

Well-known member
Sep 3, 2010
I certainly recognise human suffering, but I question whether 'illness' is an appropriate metaphor when it comes to the mind.

Aware that I'm possibly kicking a hornet's nest here, I'll just suggest that anyone interested in the topic might read Thomas Szasz's seminal work: "The Myth of Mental Illness. Foundations of a Theory of Personal Conduct" (1961). It's a powerful critique of psychiatry that is as relevant today as it was fifty years ago.
 

cytherian

Well-known member
Nov 24, 2013
^ The word "illness" has been long associated with a physical dysfunction (the inability to fight off an attack by a virus, bacteria, or biological imbalance). It's only in more recent times that it has been applied to the psychological.

My own personal and completely non-professional perspective is that it would probably be better to have a different word for it. I'm not sure what. "Neurosis" comes to mind. It's a neural issue, essentially. But clinically speaking, there are other connotations that might not be appropriate. Besides, there are 2 nuances to mental illness -- a) purely psychological, and b) physiological. With the purely psychological, there is no biological influence. It's basically a case of a person managing to create their own mental thought construct that happens to be detrimental to themselves (like a persistently negative view of the world). By physiological, there is an imbalance of sorts in the body that ends up affecting the level of hormones directly involved with mental function, like dopamine. For instance, a physical issue that triggers the psychological effect of depression.

So I understand the resistance to perceive mental issues as an "illness"... but until a more appropriate word is found, I think it's suitable as long as people are aware of what it truly means.
 

the_good_life

Basenotes Plus
Basenotes Plus
Jun 2, 2006
As always it is, to my mind, a matter of the attitude brought to the term, so it would be relevant to hear from the author rather than talking about her or her choice of terminology in the abstract. I would never refer to the depression I suffered from as an illness, it was a condition that resulted from my natural response to a mentally abusive environment (of a depressive and emotionally locked-down father) and I was able to grow out of by virtue of activating inner resources and accepting outward support. I find condition a more empowering term and illness to imply a passivity and helplessness that precidely defines the depressive self-perception and may reenforce it. On the other hand it's important to emphasize that there is no guilt or blame in depression and illness may signify that it's not something I can just turn off at will or snap out of.
When it comes to a severe psychosis and the like I would certainly speak of an illness. But again, the author should be given a voice here or we should just leave it at that.
 

purecaramel

Basenotes Plus
Basenotes Plus
Nov 9, 2013
Smell being our most affective sense what would make more sense than making them a conscious part of our feelscape! I hope meditation and mindfulness are helping you accept that mental illness is a part of you, but not you. It is hard to swim when you fear drowning, but at some point comes the realization in soul, heart and mind that you cannot sink, you cannot drown, because you are the lake.

This strikes a chord with me!
Thank-you the_good_life!

Jasmine Indoles, are what draw me back from the Disassociation and give me the nudge to alter the Meds.
 

cytherian

Well-known member
Nov 24, 2013
As always it is, to my mind, a matter of the attitude brought to the term, so it would be relevant to hear from the author rather than talking about her or her choice of terminology in the abstract. I would never refer to the depression I suffered from as an illness, it was a condition that resulted from my natural response to a mentally abusive environment (of a depressive and emotionally locked-down father) and I was able to grow out of by virtue of activating inner resources and accepting outward support. I find condition a more empowering term and illness to imply a passivity and helplessness that precidely defines the depressive self-perception and may reenforce it. On the other hand it's important to emphasize that there is no guilt or blame in depression and illness may signify that it's not something I can just turn off at will or snap out of.
When it comes to a severe psychosis and the like I would certainly speak of an illness. But again, the author should be given a voice here or we should just leave it at that.
I'd never thought of it before... but I think you're right. "Condition" is very apt.

Another thing I wanted to say is that I find the behavior of the pharmaceutical industry to be reprehensible. While they do fill a need and they will help people (I've known people who have benefited from taking anti-depressants), the whole attitude is "you have an illness, and we have a drug that will alleviate the symptoms." And that's it. They LOVE the fact that they have chronic patients taking their drugs, for the foreseeable future. No end in sight. As opposed to drugs being used as a stop-gap measure, while efforts would be taken to help empower the patient to find a way towards ending the affliction. And of course, the physicians and psychologists are complicit... so many don't see anything wrong with just accepting that a person is going to be chronically ill for the rest of their lives, rather than focusing on helping to break that cycle.
 

purecaramel

Basenotes Plus
Basenotes Plus
Nov 9, 2013
I, as a "conditioned" person would say that I view myself as such.
I am grateful for the Loxapine that brought me back from possible psychosis.
I continue to be grateful for the therapists, medications and research that is put froward by those interested in the subject of Mental Condition.
Now, if only they could slip a little Loxapine into the White House coffee every morning, huh?
 

Suspended

Well-known member
Jul 28, 2012
Wow, for some weird reason I missed this article when it was published.

What a wonderful piece. One of the best reads, ever, on Basenotes.

Thank you. x
 

Zephyr1973

Well-known member
Jan 10, 2015
As a licensed clinical psychotherapist I found this article highly refreshing and genius. My best friend suffers from Bipolar 1 and another good friend has Bipolar II. I think the difficulty many lay people have with the diagnosis of bipolar is that we don't do it (well, most of us) until the person is at least 17 years old. Why? Because even if they have been experiencing symptoms a good part of their life, we must be careful to account for hormone changes as well as personality development, as well as development of the frontal lobe (judgment center).

The brain is an AMAZING organ, yet we still treat our brains as though they are a foreign body - and we are frightened of what it can and cannot do. So many thoughts in my brain, but really, I am just excited that not only did Laurin publish this brave piece, but she won such a prestigious award! BRAVO!
 

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