The shooting yesterday at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School that left 17 people dead reminded us that once more we must publicly grieve the loss of innocent lives due to unnecessary gun violence.
In addressing the nation this morning, you know who put much of the blame on the shooter’s mental illness. He did not mention that the shooter was able to legally purchase a weapon is meant to be used on the battlefield and not in every day civilian life.
I have two problems with this statement:
- Millions of people around the world (myself included) suffer from mental illness. Only a tiny fraction of us spiral down into murdering innocents, but the news reports would make it seem like mental illness is the only reason for the shooting. Unlike other medical conditions, mental illness carries a stigma. Using mental illness as a framing device for any mass shooting, regardless of the state of mind of the shooter is counterproductive in erasing the stigma and helping those who are suffering.
- I know it’s been said every which way for a generation, but we need reasonable gun laws now. We needed them yesterday and the day before, but some of those in power are continuing to turn a deaf ear to the cries of the survivors and the loved ones of the victims. But while they are turning a deaf ear to the voting and grieving public, they seem to have no problem accepting money from the NRA.
My heart breaks for the survivors and the victim’s families. There are no words we can use to bring back their loved ones and dry their tears. But there are laws that can be put on the books and enforced to prevent another mass shooting and we can stop using mental illness as a crutch for mass shootings.
The question is, are we willing to do so or will we continue to see lives lost for no reason?
Compared to other forms of medical treatment, psychoanalysis is a relatively modern form of treatment.
The 2011 film, A Dangerous Method, is the story of how psychoanalysis was born. Sabina Spielrein (Keira Knightley) is suffering from hysteria and under the care of Dr. Carl Jung (Michael Fassbender). Dr. Jung is following in the footsteps of Sigmund Freud (Viggo Mortensen), who pioneered the methodology of talk therapy to deal with mental illness and anxiety. Sabina aspires to sit on the other side of the couch and becomes a psychiatrist. Then things get interesting when the personal and professional relationships between the characters begin to shift and crack.
What I like about this movie is that it not only humanizes the very large figures of Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung, but it also introduces the audience to Sabina Spielrein, who, for the most part, has been forgotten, despite her contributions to the fields of psychoanalysis and psychiatry.
Do I recommend it? Yes.
Depression knows nothing of boundaries. It doesn’t matter where you grew up, where your family is from, who you go home to every night, etc. Not even fame and success in Hollywood can ward off the demons of depression.
Rick Springfield is one of the millions around the world who suffer from depression. The musician and actor recently opened about his own bouts with depression and his attempts to take his own life.
I found his story not only to be meaningful, but also relevant. One of the things I have learned about depression is that those of us who suffer from the disease tell the same story. We may use different phrasing and talk about our battles with depression from our own individual perspectives, but the stories are the same.
I find that very comforting because we need to talk openly about depression and other mental illnesses. Talking open and honestly opens doors, helps to diminish the stigma, brings comfort to those suffering and will hopefully prevent the loss of life due to suicide.
It can be said that one cannot understand another until they walk a mile in another’s shoes.
Especially when it comes to depression.
I could describe how it feels to live with depression, but I think the video below basically says it all.
It’s a cold, lonely feeling that never ceases to go away, akin to sitting in a empty bathtub, shivering cold with no clothes on, without light or heat.
It is the saddest, scariest feeling anyone can experience. Millions of us suffer from it and too many die from it. I think the most important thing to remember is that we are not alone. If we remember that, then we can somehow find a way not just to live, but to thrive.
“Do. Or do not. There is no try.”-Yoda, The Empire Strikes Back
One of the more common signs of depression is how easy it is to stay home and do nothing.
The weather in New York City for the past few days has been frigid. Walking outside is akin to walking into an icebox. No amount of layers can protect against the freezing temperature.
I could have stayed in today after completing some minor errands. It would have been easy to say that the weather makes for an excuse for staying in.
But I knew I couldn’t stay home. I couldn’t let the depression win. Not today at least.
It took a lot for me to get out after completing my errands. More than I expected. But I did it. I know that my depression will never go away. But if I have the courage and strength to fight against it, then maybe one day, it will not have the stranglehold it does on my life.
A year ago today, Carrie Fisher passed away.
Writer, actress, mental health activist, mother, daughter, sister, feminist, Fisher was an icon to many for many reasons. Playing Leia Organa in the Star Wars film franchise, Fisher helped to change the way women are portrayed in film, especially in science fiction and fantasy films. Leia was not just the heart and the brains of the rebellion, she was whip smart and in charge.
Leia grabbing the blaster from Luke’s hands and shooting at the storm troopers was a small moment in A New Hope, but a big moment in the history of women on-screen.
After Star Wars and in between her other roles, Fisher became one hell of a writer, publishing her own work in addition to gaining the envious title of one of the most in demand script doctors in Hollywood. She was not afraid to speak openly about her addiction and mental illness issues when others were still in the closet about their addiction and mental illness issues.
The thing that will always stand out for me, is that she was herself, warts and all. Unapologetic, unafraid and upfront. We should all be so brave to be ourselves and not give a sh*t what someone else thinks of us.
For that, she will always be my hero.
RIP Carrie. A year still seems like yesterday.
A good sequel, when properly written, is always a thrill. It’s a thing of curiosity, to see where the character’s lives have gone and will go since we last saw them. The late Carrie Fisher knew a lot about sequels, she played Leia Organa in the Star Wars movie franchise.
She was also one hec of a writer.
The Best Awful, Fisher’s sequel to her best-selling novel, Postcards From The Edge, takes place a few years after the events in Postcards From The Edge. Her fictional alter-ego, Suzanne Vale, is now the mother of a young daughter, Honey. Honey’s father has just left Suzanne for a man. Wanting and needing a replacement for her ex, Suzanne decides it’s a good time to stop taking her medication. The results and the adventure she goes while off her medication is well, an adventure to say the least.
When Suzanne finally hits rock bottom, her ex, her movie star mother and her friends decide that the best thing for Suzanne is to be put in a mental hospital. Going into the hospital maybe the very thing Suzanne needs to move on with her life.
Fisher’s bouts with mental illness are part and parcel of her persona. What I loved about this book is that not only is it funny, but it speaks to the truth of what it is to bipolar and live with the ups and downs that being bipolar brings.
I absolutely recommend it.
When Linkin Park front man Chester Bennington took his life a few months ago, the loss was palpable. One of the unfortunate by products of his loss is that he has become one of the faces of mental illness.
His widow, Talinda Bennington, recently shared photos of her husband that were taken just days before he left this world. Without knowing anything about him, one might guess that based on the pictures, Chester was a man who was content, even happy with his lot. He had a successful marriage, happy children and a music career that many can only dream of.
But pictures and smiles can be deceiving. Living with depression and mental illness does not mean that someone is spending their day lying around, mindlessly watching television or staring at the wall. For some, living with mental illness and depression means finding whatever it is within ourselves to get up and do what needs to be done while fighting the urge to say f*ck it and lay in bed all day.
Underneath the smile is an ocean of dark emotions with dangerous creatures whose sharp teeth threaten to pull us down to the murky depths at any moment. Somehow, we want to find a way to swim to shore, but the ocean and her inhabitants keep us in the water.
I wish I could swim free, but it seems like the more I swim, the more I tread water and the farther away the shore feels.
Today we remember the late, great Robin Williams who took his own life three years ago. He is sorely missed for his humor, his heart and his own unique brand of comedy that can never be duplicated.
When I think of Robin Williams, I think of one of my favorite childhood movies, Hook. There was no other actor who could have portrayed that character of the adult Peter Pan so perfectly.
His death also reminds me of how mental illness and depression specifically are not one size fits all diseases. For some people depression means staying home all day, mindlessly watching television and afraid to step out the door. For others, it means scheduling every moment of their day so they don’t have to face what is brewing inside them. For another group, it means putting on the mask and doing what has to be done, even though all they want to do is lay on the couch and watch television.
If I take away anything from his death (in addition to recent and heartbreaking loss of Chester Bennington), is that we need a new approach to treating mental illness. We also need to remove the stigma of mental health to allow those suffering to receive treatment openly and honestly.
Z”l Robin Williams. You are truly missed and loved.
Depression, like any illness, knows no bounds. Whatever labels we or others use to distinguish ourselves are meaningless in the face of mental illness.
The suicide of Linkin Park front man Chester Bennington last week hit many people hard. Linkin Park’s music is powerful, raw and real. It was not just the loss of one the great rock singers of this era, but of a man who lost the battle to the demons in his head.
One of the podcasts that I sometimes listen to is WNYC’s “Here’s The Thing”, hosted by Alec Baldwin. His guest on the most recent episode was actor/singer/Broadway superstar Audra McDonald. One of the things that she spoke of was her suicide attempt during her college years and how surviving it helped to create the person she is today.
The old saying “you can never understand a person until you walk in their shoes” is an especially potent statement when it comes to mental illness. Unless someone knows what it is like to live with mental illness, as well-meaning as they are, they cannot the difficulty of living with mental illness.
I will leave you with the video above. We have lost one too many to mental illness. How many more will we lose before we do something about it?