Saturday, April 5, 2014

Mentally Ill People Are Not Crazy- The Stigma Continues

Recently I was contacted by an NYU journalism student to be in a documentary about debunking mental illness stigma. She found my piece on Fighting Against the Stigma of Mental Illness on The Huffington Post . I was thrilled that she found me, and told her I would be honored to be a part of this piece.

Living with panic disorder, I've encountered a lot of misunderstanding from the general public. It's hard enough to explain to friends and family what it means to have an anxiety attack let alone people who don't know you from a hole in the wall.

Case in point, I was consulting with an attorney the other day and I had to address my mental health history.
"I don't know what kind of mental health problems you actually have." The attorney said quite seriously looking me dead in the eye.
"I'm a neurotic Jew from New York." I responded confidently. "They're not serious. I manage depression and anxiety. I'm in therapy and I take antidepressants. I work as a substitute teacher and professional writer. I'm functioning just fine."

As soon a person hears that you have mental health issues, they automatically assume that those issues are serious. It doesn't matter if you're in appropriate treatment. The stigma surrounding mental illness is so pervasive that the public continues to generalize and characterize those of us managing these issues well as "crazy."

I have a problem with the word "crazy." It's a derogatory word. Crazy is defined as "mentally deranged." That sounds pejorative to me. Yet this word is used flippantly in the society to describe behavior that is undesirable. For example, if I'm having a disagreement with a friend and she disagrees with my point of view, a common colloquialism would be for her to say "you're crazy!"

Let's deconstruct what she's saying here:
"You're mentally deranged."

By all intents and purpose, if I disagree with my friend, I'm "mentally deranged, especially as manifested in a wild or aggressive way." I stole that from the dictionary. But you get the point. Next time you have an argument with your friend, how about saying "I disagree with you," instead of referring to an individual as mentally deranged.

Stigma surrounding mentally ill individuals is still out there, and we need to fight it with all our might.
I'm excited to participate in this documentary so that I can share my story and spread the word that mentally ill persons are not crazy, we're just people like everyone else.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Dear Stranger On the Train Who Disciplined My Child

Dear Stranger On the Train Who Disciplined My Child,

Hi! We've never met before. I was on the 4 train on the way home from Manhattan with my two kids and their best friend. My kids and their friend Jonathan were fighting over the window seat. They all wanted to look out the window into the darkness. I know, it's funny right? Why would you want to look out a dark window? But, you know, kids. They fight over things we don't understand sometimes.

Anyhow, you took the time out of your train ride to say:
"Ari should give his sister a turn. Not Jonathan."
And you didn't say it once. You kept saying it over and over again while shaking your head.

I'm not sure why you're telling me this. I'm not entirely sure why you feel it's your responsibility or business to tell me this. I'm also (frankly) not entirely sure of your intention. I could speculate some potential things you may have been thinking:

  • You honestly thought you were helping me with parenting
  • You thought you knew better than I did 
  • You wanted to seem like an authoritative figure to your friend who was with you and to the entire train car
  • You were annoyed that my kids were being loud and wanted to comment on it
The truth is I have no idea why you were doing it, but I can tell you how it made me feel:

When you repeatedly told me that my kids should take turns and refused to stop, I felt frustrated. You see, I was already have a difficult time managing this problematic behavior. I was repeatedly telling my kids and their friend to take turns, and they were being resistant.

I felt like what I was doing wasn't working. I felt badly about myself as a parent. I questioned my parenting skills, and your shouting at me made me feel worse. 

Unsolicited advice is tricky. Sometimes, we don't know what to do as parents. There are times when I welcome feedback from other people who have done this before and might know better than I do. However, your manner of communicating the "advice" made me feel demeaned and incompetent, even though I'm not.

I said:
"Thank you for your advice, but these are my kids." And with that, I wanted you to stop talking to me. 

It is my hope that if you choose to bestow your "words of wisdom" on another unsuspecting soul on the 4 train, that you will think about the way you're communicating before you open your mouth. Think about the fact that the mother you're criticizing is overwhelmed and probably feeling like somewhat of a failure. So your criticism (although maybe meant to be helpful) is coming across as judgmental.

I hope you get to your destination safely and don't loose your Metrocard while judging someone.


Thursday, April 3, 2014

Changes - I May Have to Say Goodbye to Online

My life is in the process of a major change right now. The frustrating thing is, I can't talk about why. I'm an open and honest person; honest to a fault. Sometimes I'll actually hold my tongue and not say anything to a person because I know if I say what I'm thinking it will be overly honest and probably alarm them.

Back to my life. My life is in flux. It's possible that I won't be able to continue blogging. This makes me incredibly sad. I don't want this to be the end of my life on the Internet. I enjoy sharing my stories. Believe me when I say it's not up to me. I don't want to stop sharing my stories with you. But I've been told by mysterious outside forces (that I can't get into right now) that it may be the best idea to stop sharing my stories online.

Writing is my form of therapy. I go to real therapy too, once a week, but this place…this is my place. I don't want to give it up. I know the couches, the crevices, the dark rooms and the light ones. I know this place because it is my home. I've lived here since 2009. When I moved in it had no furniture, but I built it all. I gathered the wood and I made benches and a bed to sleep in. I painted the walls and put pictures on them. Slowly but surely this blog began to feel like me. It began to be my real home on online.

I love it here. Sometimes, I laugh a lot here. Those are fun days in the house. And sometimes I cry and let it all out. Other times I scream into a pillow to express frustration, and then there are days that I don't know what to say so I write posts like these.

This is a different kind of post. An outside force is attempting to silence my voice. And I don't know if i have the capability to stop that voice. I don't know if I have the armor to put on and fight it. I'm a fighter for sure. I've fought against many unjust causes in my 34 years on this earth. But, I don't know how to take this one on.

I'm not being dramatic here. I'm not writing this so you can tell me how wonderful I am. I am writing this because I honestly feel like my life online might be coming to a close and I'm saddened about it.
Maybe it won't. Maybe I'll figure out a way around this. 

So if I abruptly disappear from the Internet, I love you guys. I'll keep writing always, it'll just be privately. I hope none of this happens. 

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Dear Person I Offended

Dear Person I Offended,

You will probably never read this letter, because we are no longer connected through the world of social media. I'm going to say these things anyway because I feel them. I wrote about my past. My past is something that haunts me. I feel things deeply. I use this space to express them. Sometimes they're not pretty things. They are my reality. I told a story: that story involved you. I'm sorry if the way that I told the story offended you.

I am hurt by the way that you treated me in the past. I tried to tell you many times, but you ignored my attempts to express my feelings. I honor your feelings. I am willing to hear them, however, you do not feel the same about mine.

You called me offensive.
You said that I was nasty towards you.
I'm sorry you feel that way.
I feel badly that my truth and my words impacted you like that.
It was not my intention to hurt you.
It was my intention to tell my side of a story.

I am open to hearing your side.

But when you reached out to me to tell me how you felt, I was scared. I freaked out. I told you I couldn't talk about it. There are extremely scary things that I'm dealing with in my life at the moment. There are harsh life challenges that require my 100 percent focus. My family needs me more than anything.

You say you were upset by my words, and your response was to call me names.

I want to make something clear to you, I did not call you names in what I wrote. I expressed genuine emotions. You may disagree or feel that I'm telling the story wrong, and you are entitled to you opinion, but please allow me to have mine.

Again, I apologize for any anger, pain, hurt and other emotions that I may have ignited in you. But I do not apologize for telling my story.

I wish you all the best.

My Little Pony at Build-A-Bear Workshop

Sometimes fun things happen when I check my email. Here's an example: I got a message the other day from Amy at Build-A-Bear asking if the kids and I would like to come on down to the local store and meet My Little Pony Rarity and the Cutie Mark Crusaders, Build-A-Bear style.* I immediately said yes, and asked if the kids could bring their best buddy Jonathan with. Amy graciously said of course and off we went to the workshop!

We knew that we were there to meet the Cutie Mark Crusaders, but as soon as entered the store, Ari ran straight for his trusty friend Rainbow Dash:

Samara, naturally went for Pinkie Pie:

Part of the process of Build-A-Bear is that you get to watch your toy get filled up with stuffing. It's extremely exciting!

After the ponies were filled up, they looked like this:

Samara and Pinkie Pie and are tired :)

Here's the obligatory group shot:

My best buddy Jen and I and the kids and…there's my mom! Hi Mom!

Oh! And I almost forgot guys! Here's a Scootaloo!

Damn we had fun! So if you're pony fan, head on down to Build-A-Bear and check out the Cutie Mark Crusaders!

*Sometimes companies and email and ask me to do wonderful things that I'm grateful for. All opinions expressed are my own. Also I like you.