Thursday, November 19, 2020

Normalizing Mental Illness

Mental illness is not an alternative lifestyle!

An article in the paper today - two actually - pushed me over the edge.  For some time now, it seems some folks - activists and whatnot, as well as the media - have been trying to sell us the idea that being mentally ill is a normal thing that should be embraced and accommodated by the rest of us. Sounds like a swell idea, but when I act weird, no one accommodates me - in fact, society pretty much beats me down, as it should.  So I don't act weird (most of the time) and play by the rules.  Funny how that works, eh?

Others, however, have a get-out-of-jail-free card (often quite literally) and can do whatever the hell they want to - and the rest of us have to deal with it, even if it means we are inconvenienced, assaulted, our property damaged or stolen, or even our very lives taken - by them claiming to be mentally ill.

We see this all the time with "homeless advocates" who argue we should accommodate the homeless, let them camp in the park in a tent, shit on the sidewalk, do drugs all day long, break into our cars and steal our stuff.  They can't help it - they're mentally ill!  And yes, being a drug "addict" is a form of mental illness.  So, some argue, not only should we tolerate this, but celebrate it.  After all, if Jesus came back today, he'd be a homeless bum!   Maybe not.

The trend continued with the so-called autistic rights movement.   Autistic people can be a real scream - quite literally.  If you have a severely autistic kid, my hat is off to you - it can be quite a challenge to raise such a child.  On the other hand, today we are calling everyone autistic or saying they have "Asperger's Syndrome" - whose symptoms are so vague that anyone can be diagnosed with it (and everyone today is diagnosing their friends and neighbors or even historical figures with it).  Poor Abraham Lincoln - first we call him gay, now Autistic.  Even the dead can't rest in peace.

Don't get me wrong, I am not beating up on the Autistic.  But a funny thing, though. The very first person diagnosed with this condition ("Case 1") is still alive today. Yup, this is a fairly recently discovered "illness" dating back only to the 1950's.   Before then, we just called such people mentally ill.  And maybe there is no cure for mental illness, but in terms of behavior, people were expected to toe a certain line.

Funny thing, too.  This "Case 1" Patient went on to live a normal life simply because his family treated him as a normal person.  No exceptions were made for him, no accommodations or excuses.  He went on to college and worked in a bank and got a driver's license and lives what is a pretty normal life - and shouldn't that be the goal for most of us - if not all?

Today?  Well, the kid who acts up in class isn't being bad, he's just expressing his alternative view of the world as part of the natural spectrum or "neurodiversity" of human mental condition.  If Johnny can't read, he is dyslexic, right?  There is always some excuse to be made.  We need to accommodate him, like the Autistic muppet who changes the rules of the game the kids are all playing - and everyone else has to accommodate her rather than vice-versa.   Sounds to me more like a spectrum of narcissism!

Do you have a problem with what I'm saying?  Well, too bad for you, because several readers have diagnosed me as having "Asperger's Syndrome" and you have to swallow your bile and deal with it. You see, I'm just handicapped, so I can say whatever I want to.  But you - a "normie" as the Trump supporters call them - can't say shit, because you're normal and thus are in no position to criticize.  How dare you even think of doing so!  Shame! Shame!

You see how this game is played.  Fun for me, must suck to be you.   All you need to is claim a mental disability and the world is your oyster.

Like this guy in Colorado who shot two people.  Someone was walking their dog who took a shit on the lawn.  The dog owner was bending over to pick up the poop, but apparently not fast enough for our hero, who unloaded the clip on his AR-15 (24 rounds in all) wounding the dog owner and killing the dog owner's girlfriend.   When asked about his behavior, the shooter's girlfriend said, "He's having some mental health issues" - so, hey, get out of jail free, right?

And thanks to the NRA, mentally ill people have access to high-power weaponry.  No, I'm not kidding about this - the NRA's position is that just because you are bat-shit crazy is no reason you shouldn't be allowed to own as many guns as you'd like.   You see where this is going, eh?

But what set me off this morning (my Asperger's again!) was an article on "Homeowner's Insurance for Hoarders" - which set forth how to get homeowner's insurance if you are a hoarder, including some tips on deceiving the insurance company (keep your hoarded broken lawn mowers in the back yard where the insurance adjuster won't see them!).  Nowhere in the article was it mentioned or even hinted that, hey, maybe being a hoarder is a shitty idea.

The article only hints at the idea that maybe hoarding is bad - but acts like it is some sort of condition, like diabetes, that one just catches. The article does point out - but not strongly enough - that your homeowner's policy isn't going to cover the damage to your house caused by hoarding - the water pouring in through the holes in your roof, or the fire damage from all the flammable materials you are keeping next to a space heater or the stove you are using as a heat source.  It made me sad, reading this article.

On the other hand, hoarders don't think of themselves as hoarders - so no hoarder reading that article would assume it was directed at them.  And that's the problem with mental illness - no one admits to it, unless they are trying to get some benefit from it.

Like clockwork today, every person accused of a crime argues mental illness as the cause.  The head of United Way, when confronted with his use of charity money for limos and hookers, claimed "brain shrinkage" was to blame.  We are all weak, right?   The mass-murderer or rapist claims to be mentally ill and not responsible for his actions.  Yet the law is quite clear on this - if you know right from wrong at the time you committed the crime, no matter what your compulsion, you are guilty of that crime.

The problem with this trend, as I see it, is that not only are we excusing aberrant behavior but we are embracing it.  Societal norms are being tossed in the wastebasket and replaced by a new set of norms, or lack thereof.   "Doing your own thing" today means being allowed to scream at the top of your lungs in the subway or maybe pushing someone in front of the subway train (it's a thing, google it).

It is funny, but until the early 1970's, homosexuality was considered a mental illness.  That all changed and today, fear of homosexuality is now considered an aberration.  In those early days, all most gays wanted was (as I have noted before) the right to be left the hell alone.   But today, it seems everyone wants to be "in your face" about every damn thing, and if you don't like it, you're the problem, because expressing even mild discomfort is considered a crime.

I have no truck with someone's mental illness - it is the public behavior that becomes an issue, particularly when that behavior is violent and endangers others.

Our societal norms have changed, and the "science" of mental illness is still in its infancy.  It wasn't long ago that Dr. Freud considered dreams an insight into the soul, instead of just random electrical storms in your brain.  Most of what he "discovered" is now considered to be hooey.  I wonder how much of what we "know" today will be considered hooey just a few decades from now.

Myself, I think mental hygiene is like personal hygiene - you have to work at it.  You have to make some concerted effort not to fall down the rabbit hole of Qanon or other crazy online shit.  And yes, you do have a choice in this matter, to some extent.  No, the severely Autistic might not have a choice, and the severely mentally ill might not have a choice.  Such folks may need medication, supervision, and even institutionalization (which is not a dirty word).  When someone is dangerous to themselves or others, we need to take care of them, and not just let them run wild and claim it is an alternative lifestyle.

A friend of mine, who is something of a Southern wit, once remarked that this "Bear" movement among some gays (embracing being overweight) was "just another excuse for giving up!"  It was a funny comment, but on point.  In the same way, I think we are merely giving up when we start to embrace mental illness as a "variation" of the human condition.   I am not saying that mental illness can be easily cured - indeed, it is perhaps harder to cure than cancer.   But at least we should strive for some level of normal behavior.  There has to be some sort of incentive to succeed, and some sort of disincentive for wallowing.

This is not to say we should shame the mentally ill.  Well, maybe a little bit.  There has to be some disincentive to being crazy, other than craziness itself.  We need to make it clear that acting weird or violent isn't "normal" or part of a "spectrum" of the human condition.

Some are saying that perhaps the cause for Autism may soon be discovered and quantified.  Suppose a "cure" was discovered?  Would people be willing to take it, or would this be against the idea that Autism is part of the "spectrum" of the human mental condition?

Sounds like an odd argument, but one that is going on right not in the "hearing-impaired" (deaf) world. Some deafness advocates argue that being deaf is not a "handicap" but just an alternative way of living. And indeed, there is a deaf culture, centered around the use of sign language and whatnot.  However, recently, there have been medical advances to "cure" deafness in some people through the use of cochlear implants. Some in the deaf "community" argue that such medical interventions are unnecessary and in fact, abhorrent.  They argue that parents who have such surgery on their children are denying the child the "choice" of whether to live the deaf lifestyle later on in life.

Will such a thing occur in the future if a "cure" for Autism or other mental illnesses is found?  Again, it seems like an odd question, but it is a relevant one.  If a "cure" means conforming to a certain societal norm, than perhaps such "cures" would turn us all into zombies - and perhaps deny society of variation and creativity and insight.  After all, some of the brightest people in the world, who have solved mathematical puzzles or composed great symphonies, may have been Autistic.

As we discovered recently, a certain chemical, which given to people, causes them to gamble recklessly.  Suppose a similar chemical was found to make people despise gambling?  Casinos and racetracks would be put out of business - and perhaps we all would become very risk-averse.  Risky behavior is bad, to some extent, but then again, necessary for survival of a society as a whole.

Or suppose a chemical was found to "cure" homosexuality?  It is possible - would that be desirable or not?   Tricky questions - sticky questions.  I have no easy answers.

On the other hand, behavior that endangers the rest of us, or even merely inconveniences the rest of us, should be discouraged.   Yes, there should be a "spectrum" of behavior that is not only tolerated, but celebrated.  But there are limits to this - which is why we have laws, to encourage people to behave within certain societal norms.

I don't see this article about "homeowner's insurance for hoarders" being helpful.  What's next? A "how-to-hoard" book?  A discussion group for hoarders?   We need to shout down some ideas as being too far out of the norm!