The Personal is Political
Wednesday, August 29, 2007
This week, it just seemed like one of those weeks that, everywhere I turned, my issues were in my face.
It's not like I try to be impersonal at this blog. I've noticed, however, that my most recent blog entries have been pretty impersonal (credit this to the fact that I started that whole "Angst-Loss Challenge" thing last month . . . Wow! Was that just last month? -- I'm becoming Gonzo! . . . . and that whole angst-loss mission . . . .quest . . . thing . . . was, however unintentionally, pretty political overall, and rarely personal).
So, this post will be entirely personal.
The news and posts that set my issues clanging this week were about rape, and mental health/suicide. (Surely you must know that these aren't my only issues -- just the ones I'm currently ranting about.) Still, I figure I should just come clean about some of my personal biases and perspectives regarding these issues.
Yes, I was raped. Repeatedly. From the ages of 2 -5 and later, in my early teens. I aborted the fetus of my rapist into a toilet in middle school. It was terrifying for me at the time, and unexplained, and unacknowledged, and awful. Just like the rapes .
I was also diagnosed as "mentally ill" (age 37), institutionalized and medicated as such, and considered and planned suicide seriously enough that I was put into isolation and dis-allowed writing implements (one of the things that had kept me alive between age 13 - 37), cutlery, and q-tips (although how one is supposed to be able to commit suicide with a q-tip is still beyond me, even though I have googled it extensively).
Thankfully, my days of "clinical depression" are now behind me, and the thousands (literally) of hours and dollars that I spent on therapy helped me moved from "abject victim" to "thriving survivor" in terms of my sexual abuse.
Monday, I was reading various blog-entries about Owen Wilson's suicide attempt, and then, some posts about "gray rape". I felt mad. And sad. And bad. And then mad, and sad, again.
To give you insight into my emotional responses -- when I googled "Owen Wilson Suicide" the day the news broke, the top link read: "Owen Wilson's suicide bid" -- like he was "bidding" on his suicide? Like it's Ebay or some fucking shit?!?!
I'm the last person in the world to buy into the whole "every suicide is a tragedy!" thing. I have sat with friends who were dying (in enlightened Oregon) for whom assisted, intentional death was the greatest blessing in the world (prior to Oregon passing the Death with Dignity act, I had friends who were dealing with AIDS who passed by their own hand without public sanction, but shhhh, don't tell anyone -- that would be illegal and shit.)
However, I was shocked by some of the shock that I read in response to Wilson's attempt to depart.
Be warned that, given my biases, what follows are Portly Dyke interpretations of what I read in the MSM:
"But he's So Young! So Handsome! So Thin! So Rich! So Blond! So Famous! So Successful! So Cute! So Smart! So . . . . . so . . . . . . . so . . . . !"
So . . . . what?
So depressed? So desperate? So miserable? So hopeless?
I've been there. I was depressed, desperate, miserable, and hopeless, even when I was young, handsome/beautiful, thin, (never really rich or famous, although I was temporarily blond), and also while I was successful, and cute, and smart (which I think I still am).
I was one of those "super-copers", who hid my underlying depression very well -- even from myself, at times. I managed to dis-associate from my abuse history almost completely until my life fell apart at 37. In retrospect, this was a brilliant survival strategy -- it allowed me to complete college, get a job, and create a family in a fairly stable manner. I believe that my consciousness did what it was designed to do, very well -- it kept me together until I had the breathing space to disintegrate, and then re-integrate. The process wasn't "fun", but it was effective. /*pat, pat, pat*/ Good old brain.
So, now, when I read stuff about famous people like Owen who are obviously dealing with mental health issues (probably depression -- duh, ya think?), in a country where 10% of women and 4% of men take anti-depressants -- yet the CDC doesn't actually have a listing for the word "Depression" in its A-Z index of diseases -- I get a little . . . . . how do you say in zis cuntry? . . . . .PIZZED FUCKING OFF?!?!?! (Fire Ze Missiles!!)
Because if you google (without quotes) Owen Wilson Suicide right now, you get more than 7 Million hits, and if you add one word to this google search and make it Owen Wilson Suicide Depression, you get only 281,000.
This is what I was talking about in my last post -- about living in a culture that I believe is incredibly inauthentic. Fourteen to nineteen percent of our population can be under active treatment for depression (and who knows how many others are not being treated, or are self-medicating with booze and drugs?) -- but we don't want to talk about it.
I have some rather radical notions about mental health and depression, truth be told.
[Disclaimer: My opinions and ideas do not stem from laboratory research -- they are admittedly anecdotal and personal.]
I worked for more than ten years with low-income elderly and handicapped people (mostly mentally ill) as a social worker. Shortly after this time, I became a patient in the "mental health" system for about six years. One could say that I have a well-rounded (if that's the right word) view of the issue.
I believe that it is possible that some people's brains just "work that way", and produce a butt-load of chemicals that give them a tendency toward depression.
However, it has been my experience that a far greater number of people that I know, who suffer from depression, do so in response to a specific event or ongoing situation -- like being a Vietnam vet who never got treated for PTSD, but was just expected to come home and act "normally" after witnessing atrocities, or being a retired elderly person who gave their heart, soul, and body to a corporation and got cheated out of their retirement fund, or being a dis-enfranchised person of color who lived in deep poverty from birth but managed to put themselves through college, yet couldn't get anyone to hire them for a "real" job because of the deep scars that daddy carved into their face in a fit of drunken rage when they were 9 years old, or being a woman who was divorced by a husband of 40 years, after raising his kids and ironing his shirts and kissing his ass, because he found a younger, more attractive woman, or . . . being a survivor of severe childhood physical and sexual abuse.
One of the descriptions that fit my depression perfectly is "Depression is just anger without enthusiasm." - Steven Wright.
I had a lot to be pissed about, and I had never really gotten pissed about it. When I was a child, and my abuse was happening, it wasn't safe, at a very physical and tangible level.
When I was just starting out in my life, and needed to "look good" and qualify for a job, it still wasn't safe, although now, the un-safety was more about a financial security and social acceptance.
While I was raising kids who depended on me, and needed my loving care and financial support, letting this rage out didn't seem safe or effective, in terms of my life plan at that time.
Finally, when I was no longer a "mom", and my lover began to act verbally and physically abusive towards me, it was safe for me to let that anger emerge. But some part of me seemed to know that the abuse that I was experiencing at the time (though bad enough) wasn't the thing that I was really, truly pissed about -- and so, not knowing who to be pissed at -- I turned that rage toward myself. Depression. Suicidal ideation. Anger (huge, and totally understandable, anger) -- turned inward.
My personal journey to understand, process, and direct that anger where it belonged took me the better part of a decade.
During that time, I took medications to "manage" my depression. I don't think that this was a mistake. I think it saved my life. The medications that I took allowed me to get adequate sleep, and eat normally (I had the sleepless, anorexic version during the time I was suicidal, rather than the sleepy, listless type I had experienced at other times in my life). However, those medications did not "cure" my depression. They only helped me to function well enough to move toward the root of my anger.
I don't hold with the prevailing thought that depression is just a brain-chemistry thing, and if you find the right magic combo of medications, it will disappear. I think depression is also an internalized anger-in-response-to-trauma thing -- and if 14% (conservatively) of our population is being treated with medication to handle internalized anger, what does that say about our nation, and why can't we fucking talk about it??? Just how pissed off are we?
One of the things that is pretty well documented is that women are twice as likely to experience major depression as men -- worldwide. (I am not discounting the ravages of depression on males here, just working up to a point.). There are a whole lot of studies that show a whole lot of variability on things such as race, education, and income, but statistics on depression among women vs. men are very, very consistent.
So, you just had to know that I was going to bring in the rape theme here, huh?
And I am going to.
I don't think it's a coincidence that the incidence of depression is so much greater in women than in men, while, in the last ten years, as the number of murders, robberies, and aggravated assaults have dropped by 15-22%, the number of rapes has dropped only by 2.4%. (And that, BTW, is not anecdotal -- it's from the FBI crime statistics spreadsheet.) Hmmmmm. Think there might be a connection?
It fucking pisses me off -- more than I can possibly express -- that I am still actually having, and witnessing, conversations where we argue whether it's OK to fuck someone who is passed out drunk -- that we are debating whether this is "really" rape or not.
The fact that we are still having that debate, to me, speaks volumes to the validity of the concept that we live in a rape culture.
Speaking up and out about it is part of my therapy -- part of the way I keep myself out of depression.
Here's my hypothesis: The more you are being screwed (and I don't mean that in an enjoyable, consensual way), and the more you feel/think that you have no power to stop being screwed, and no way to speak up and out toward the person screwing you, the more likely you are to be depressed.
That was my experience.
Which is why, I think, we have so many women, and so many vets coming home from Iraq, and so many Native Americans, and so many people in poverty, and so many elderly people -- who exhibit depression -- because these people are getting screwed -- and considering that a majority of the nation wants the war over and the president and vice-president impeached, and that elected officials are doing precisely squat about that . . . . . it's no surprise to me that antidepressants are the most prescribed drugs in the US.
I'm not even going to go INTO the whole anti-depressants as a cash-cow for pharmaceutical companies thing at this point. I would probably implode.
Hokay. Just checking in with myself to see if I've ranted enough. Yes, I believe that I have.
Oh. And I hope Owen figures out what's pissing him off.
Portly Dyke's Prescription for Ongoing Mental Health: Speak your mind.
Posted byPortlyDyke at 4:30 PM