Tiny Coconut

I have things.

Monday, July 11, 2005

The Underbelly Defense

Jane writes bullshitlessly (no, it's not a real word, but you understood what I meant, right?) about how funny she feels about the praise she gets when she talks through her struggles with depression online. She wonders what exactly it is she's doing that others see as so brave; except, of course, she says it way better:
Am I really that honest? Or more to the point, why is everyone else so afraid to speak the truth? What, I ask you, is the potential consequence of this shocking action? That someone might be put off or not like you? Gads. The HORROR. Someone might not like you? How would you live?

I've got news for you people. Someone already doesn't like you, even if you're the nicest person in the world. Give it up.
I nod my head as I read Jane, when I'm not wiping tears of laughter from my eyes. But the truth is, while I agree with her wholeheartedly, my 'openness' about my own issues is less about being unafraid of what others think about me than it is a defense *against* negativity.

Here's how I figure it. If I put it all out there, write about my struggles with depression and anxiety and obsession and panic and maybe-hypomania online, anyone who comes after me is going to look like an intolerant and insensitive boob. I mean, really. What kind of coward attacks a creature lying there with its soft, pink underbelly fully exposed, staring trustingly into his or her eyes? There's no fun in going on the offensive against someone who's refusing to respond defensively. Even more to the point, there's no fun in trying to stigmatize someone who's already called herself every name in the book. If I repeatedly refer to myself as crazy, that's one less potentially hurtful barb you can sling my way. By being disarmingly honest, I do precisely that--I disarm you, or anyone else who might be capable of hurting me with judgement and derision.

There's still plenty of stigma attached to mental illness. It's one of those few remaining areas into which political correctness has not yet made its final inroads. Words like 'retard' have rightfully lost their cachet, yet it's still more-than-common to be called crazy or nuts or insane. But those words really only sting if they're used on someone who doesn't see herself as crazy or nuts or insane. And so I throw those words out there, invite you to use them, and smile all the while, to show you just how much they don't hurt. I know who and what I am. I'm OK with me. I'm crazy about crazy. I'm intimate with insanity. I'm knowingly nuts. If you're going to hurt me, you'll have to find some other way. Because when it comes to my mental lack-of-health, there's nothing you can say to me that I haven't already said to myself.

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