“This is the way we fall. First we lose our balance, teetering precariously on the edge of uncertainty, until, mercilessly, gravity takes over. You can’t outshine gravity.”
~Cassia Leo, The Way We Fall
As I wended my way through the treacherous cyberscape of Facebook today, I stumbled upon one of the many intellectual and visual oases that dot this sometimes hopeless wasteland. A courageous soul with Bipolar Disorder had written an interesting and pretty convincing assertion that unless you have Bipolar Disorder, you can never understand it.
Which led me to wonder, based on our social dynamics, if you don’t have a serious mental illness (or aren’t related to someone who does), can you feel compassion for them?
My last scribbling was a jeremiad on the ills of a dog-eat-dog society that crushes many of us with a severe mental illness like disposable grist in the mill.
Since many of us are abandoned to fend for ourselves on the streets, like feral animals, or perhaps worse, cast into “penal institutions,” where we go untreated and are left to suffer “weeping and gnashing of teeth,” it would seem capitalism contradicts itself by failing to even help us become useful “grist for the mill.”
It was telling that despite all the rhetoric about the intersectionality of oppression, neither my little rant nor the statistics that I presented showing the hundreds of thousands of homeless and incarcerated people with severe mental illness (who are hopelessly pinned to the ground under the boot of end stage capitalism stomped on their throats), very few readers seemed concerned or interested.
Which is typical for my tribe. We have been left on the bottom rung of the social ladder since hunter-gatherers settled down to cultivate the land.
Perhaps I “doth protest too much,” simply because these are my people. I have Bipolar Disorder and dual Addictions. And since 1993, I have skirted back and forth between the untreated and recovery communities -almost exclusively recovery since 2010.
My grandfather was committed to a state mental institution and died there. Some of my friends and sponsees have died because of these illnesses. In the course of helping the indigent and homeless, I have witnessed much suffering. My story is published in several places online where anyone can read of my own trials and tribulations.
I suppose I find it more troubling that many people blessed with relative brain and emotional health are apathetic about our plight than I do that those of us with a severe mental illness are left to scrap and claw to stay functional, and if we “fail,” are tossed aside like stinking fish wrap.
“Normal folk” calmly and casually float safely to Earth, secure in the knowledge that their parachutes will bring them gently back to solid ground. Meanwhile, the “crazies” whiz by flailing and screaming in an unchecked, terrifying free fall. Those of us fortunate enough (and who fought hard enough) to grab a chute desperately, and sometimes helplessly, grasp at the limbs and clothing of our plummeting brethren -hoping by some miracle we can pluck them out of the air, hold them tight, and save them from the horrors of a high speed collision with the ground.
All of us with an SMI (severe mental illness) are working without a net (or parachute, to stay metaphorically consist). If we lose our balance and slip into uncertainty, if we slip and fall, the merciless gravity of our unchecked illness coupled with a Socially Darwinistic socioeconomic system can put us down for good.
There are parachutes we as a society could provide and deploy to end the free fall for hundreds of thousands of dying, suffering people with an SMI…
…..and most certainly the wealthiest nation on Earth could find the money and means.
The question is, to those blessed with brain health, does the willingness exist?
Or does the collective conscience make an exception for the suffering and death of people with an SMI because we are “scary” or “weird”? Or because it’s our fault when we “can’t make it?”
Or do we just not matter to enough people?