Friday, March 10, 2017

Why Retarded People Are Great and Crazy People Are Not.

Everyone loves retarded people.    Few people love crazy, though.
The movies make Autism out to be cute, but it ain't like "Rain Man" in real life!

I had a friend who worked with the mentally disabled, and they ran a sort of adult day-care and job training program up near Carrier circle, back when I worked in the laboratories there.   I used to go visit him because it was nice to chat with him and also because they ran a restaurant staffed by the retarded people, and you could get lunch for less than three bucks, which at the time was a pretty good deal.

The retarded patients (or clients) were a lot of fun.  They always seemed to be so optimistic and happy, and just happy to be there.  They wanted to work and contribute to society, and it seemed their greatest pleasure in life was being useful and wanted and getting that paycheck in return.  The same was true for the Downs syndrome patients.

It does, in a way, remind me of an earlier point in my life, when I had a decent job, a small apartment, a paid-for car, and a paycheck large enough to pay the rent with a little left over for beer and pot. I was pretty happy then, but of course, had to go screw it up by going out and buying a car and borrowing money, until I started to dread work and felt trapped in life - like so many people in the world.

Part of the adult day-care center was for the autistic patients.  And that was a totally different story. Some of them were severely autistic and were not capable of working, and in fact could be difficult to deal with.  One lady he introduced me to, was wearing the same style of clothes she fixated on, in 1968.  Her parents had to have them hand-made by a local seamstress, once they were no longer carried in the Sears catalog.  And the new clothes had to be placed in her dresser for a month to acquire her scent, or she would reject them in a screaming fit.  And apparently, they can throw quite a screaming fit.

It struck me that folks with autistic children must be real saints, to have to deal with that sort of thing.

Of course, it is odd that we lump all these people together in the same heading of "mentally disabled" when in fact their disabilities are completely different, caused by different things, and in some regards, are not disabilities at all, just differences.

Mental retardation can be caused by lack of oxygen during birth, which causes brain damage.  Downs syndrome is caused by an excess chromosome.   Autism is caused by.... well, we know it ain't vaccines, at least.   It is a puzzling ailment, as people with it can be very smart in one focused area of their lives, but unable to function in others.  But there they were, different groups of people, all with different mental conditions, all with different needs, all lumped together in the same facility.

And I wondered what the retarded clients thought about the autistic ones, and vice-versa, if they even gave it much thought.  Is there a social hierarchy involved?   Just curious.

But even worse than this lumping together of people with various mental disabilities is the practice - at least in the past - of lumping mentally ill people in with the retarded and autistic.

Mental illnesses, such as schizophrenia, depression, manic-depressive syndrome, obsessive-compulsive disorder, hoarding, post-traumatic stress syndrome, alcoholism and drug abuse, sociopaths and psychopaths, anxiety disorders, eating disorders, and so forth - are often lumped in the same category as mental disabilities, when none of these folks really have a lot in common.  The mentally ill are nothing like the retarded, and neither of those groups are anything like the autistic - although it is trendy today to self-diagnose mild autism, Asperger's syndrome, or "Autism Spectral Disorders" in yourself, family, friends, celebrities, and even historical figures.  The poor dead are not even left to rest in peace.

And this is somewhat scary.  As you may recall, the shooter in Newton, Connecticut was diagnosed by his Mother as having Asperger's syndrome, and thought the "cure" would be to buy him a high-powered assault rifle and take him to the firing range for some shooting therapy (the American Sniper fellow had the same idea about a depressed friend, with similar results).  Guns and mental illness - that's a lethal combination.

The reality is and was, of course, that the kid had mental illness, not mental disability.  And sadly, it doesn't seem like he got the treatment he needed for that.   And perhaps living with his Mom was part of the problem.   In the old days, he would be institutionalized.  Today, we say that is "cruel" and instead live with mentally ill people on the streets, or in jails.   Just a thought, but maybe the mental institution needs to make a comeback.

But getting back to crazy, one distinction between the mentally handicapped and the mentally ill seems to be that the latter can seem to be or actually be quite, quite annoying and selfish, as I noted before.  We all love retarded "Benny" who works down at the diner and seems so happy every day and has a nice word for all the customers.   No one likes scary manic-depressive Sarah who cuts herself and mutters passive-aggressive comments under her breath and steals shit from you.  She's also on drugs.

Similarly, even those with great compassion don't enjoy having some insane homeless bum scream at them as they walk down the street.  Or a psychotic serial killer who leaves messages and body parts scattered around the city for the Police to find. There seems to be a distinction here - mentally handicapped are charming, mentally ill are annoying.

So what's the point in all of this?   I don't know.  Something I just thought about.   I think, though, that as a general rule, it is a good idea to distance yourself from people with even mild emotional problems.   They are not going to be the sunshine in your life, but instead latch onto you and be needy and drag you down, if in fact they don't assault you or steal your crap.

Maybe growing up with this nonsense put it all in focus for me - my Mother and friend's brother who spend more time feeling sorry for themselves and thinking the world was set against them, rather than trying to improve their own lot in life or just be happy and content with what was, in fact, an excellent life by world standards.

At the time, my Mother had a girlfriend of sorts, and when in one of her fugue states would start calling her, pestering her and sobbing on the phone with one of her made-up crises. It was a way of controlling other people - to make others feel sorry for you and to put the focus on herself.   And in a way, that is how the mentally ill see life - as a merry-go-round with themselves in the center and everyone else just wallpaper to them.

Mom's girlfriend eventually got tired of the phone calls as well as the late-night visits.  Oh yes, if she tried to hang up the phone, Mom would get in the car, late at night, and drive over there in a drunken rage, pounding on the door and demanding to be let in, so she could sob and feel sorry for herself and drone on and on about how unfair life was, etc. etc. etc.

Well, eventually the girlfriend had enough.  Everyone has their limits, I guess.  And maybe that was the point of it all - Mother chasing away friends and family to "test" them for loyalty or something weird.  Or maybe low-self-esteem causing them to believe they didn't deserve friendship and thus driving friends away.  I really don't know, or for that fact, care.

What I do know is that Mother, like most mentally ill people, made herself toxic to others.   And people eventually distanced themselves from her, out of self-preservation.   But this occurred only after months or even years of abuse - unnecessary abuse at that.

As I noted in an earlier posting, mental illness is a form of selfishness.  The sufferers from various forms of mental illness don't seem to have much empathy for others, and view other people only in terms of how they can be used in their various games.   For the mildly mentally ill - depressed people and whatnot - it is merely the overly-intensive focus on their own woes and perceived ills, which they will bore others to death about for hours on end.   At the other end of the spectrum are the Sociopaths and Psychopaths, who view other people literally as objects to be used for whatever purpose suits them.   The common denominator is a self-centered personality.

So maybe there is a point to this.   And the point is this:  Don't sacrifice your own well-being trying to save other people.   It is instinctive in decent human beings to want to be helpful and courteous to others.  A friend in need is a friend indeed, as they say.  We all need a shoulder to cry on, on occasion.   But when this becomes a constant thing, and a one-way street, well, it is time to move on, particularly if the friend is one of those friends with a perpetual problem that is easily solvable, but they refuse to solve, as they like having the problem as it gets them attention.

It's OK to be kind to yourself, and to say "no" to someone, even a family member, who either wants to cling to you or to abuse you - drowning you either way.   It is OK to move on in life and live your own life to the fullest, rather than to be a prop in someone else's one-man one-act play.

You'd be surprised how many people fail to see this.