(as appears on Medium.com – https://medium.com/@penneywrites/open-response-to-kayne-wests-tweets-on-mental-illness-a92c883d46dd)
Please show me the beauty.
I need to see this beauty. Or to at least believe this beauty you speak of exists.
I suffer from Generalised Panic Disorder, Panic Attack Disorder, Social Anxiety Disorder, Major Depressive Disorder and Agoraphobia. It’s been forty years. I was five the first time I remember having a panic attack. I was at school.
Have you ever watched a child have a panic attack?
My parents saw it daily and didn’t know what to do.
It was never beautiful.
Have you ever watched a mother lie on her bed, everyday, weeping, all the while softly saying, ‘I wish I were dead’in front of her children?
It wasn’t beautiful.
I’ve watched a child with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) touch the wall, while simultaneously saying the Lord’s Prayer, aiming for a certain number so no one she knew would die that night.
And it was not beautiful. It was heartbreaking.
I’ve watched my husband taken away from the doctor’s clinic in an ambulance with an armed cop. My daughter and I separated from him at the ER and ‘handled’under police guard while he was tricked into taking a pill. He believed that he would be free to go home if he just took the medicine.
They placed him in a psychiatric ward, and you are so right that no one would choose to go there. His shoes held on with cable ties instead of laces, his jeans held up with more cable ties – they took his belt. More drugs that he still doesn’t know the name of two years later.
It was not beautiful.
And there is still a stigma.
One cop kept telling me how far we’d come in ending stigma, but my own blood worked in the ER and would not stand up for us. Would not stand up for my husband to see his only family available. Would not stand up for him to have informed consent or have me take that role. Would not stand up for two of her own blood while we were treated like common criminals under police guard because the stigma is part of the culture for many in the front line, the ER, the police, the paramedics.
God did not choose me, my genetics did. This mental illness runs through the maternal genes in me. It goes back many generations, to great aunties who hid in their bedrooms only coming out to cook meals, to grandmothers who had their trembling legs sat on by a doctor during a house call, clapping his hands like thunder ‘Stop that. Enough. Stop it right now!’ If only we could stop it just like that. Through to mothers on Serapax and mother’s little helper, Valium.
To my childhood.
Where generations of mental illness collide. Where I miss almost as much school as I attend. Lucky I’ve always been in love with learning. An independent learner is what my reports often read.
Age sixteen, sweet sixteen, and the Valium and the tricyclic anti-depressants start. The point at which a doctor and my parents unwittingly signed me up for a lifetime of benzos and pills the FDA wouldn’t approve, but here in Australia they only take you off them after you have a heart attack.
And here I am aged 45 and my career has never started.
Before the medication I was a highly creative person. I’ve always written, I liked to act, to perform. Now my senses are dulled.
Don’t feel as strongly as I remember.
I was always torn between law and writing – I qualified for both.
But the government considered me disabled 28 years ago, collecting disability and stories. I’m crazy, I’m washed up before I’ve even started.
I have nothing to offer society – that’s how it sounds to me.
I’ve never held a full time job for more than three months. But I’ve raised a daughter who has, married a man who has, and I have a master’s degree, but no one wants me to write for them, not when I’m agoraphobic, have social anxiety disorder and live on the other side of this screen. Who wants a freelancer that doesn’t attend the office? Who isn’t a team player? Someone who’s a little bit different even if they’re not crazy, not washed up?
Yet the tales I could tell. The stigma I could break.
I’ll never be off those drugs.
I guess I’ll never work.
I never chose this, and it isn’t beautiful.
But I will NOT be written off.
My husband will NOT be written off.
My maternal genes over which I have no control through the generations will NOT be written off.
I’m glad we had the chance to have this discussion. If we, the not so crazy ones, can generate more discussion then we have done society an honourable and much needed service.