Archive | health RSS feed for this section

Crazy Queers

20 Sep

According to the Bisexuality Report, bisexuals have poorer mental health than both hetero and gay/lesbian populations: “Of all the common sexual identity groups, bisexual people most frequently have mental health problems, including depression, anxiety, self harm and suicidality. This has been found both internationally and in the UK specifically, and has been linked to experiences of biphobia and bisexual invisibility.” When I think of the bis I know, this doesn’t come as much of a surprise. It looks like we’ve all been through some sort of therapy, or are currently undertaking treatment, or are badly in need of help (this is especially true for people who come to the group for the first time). I don’t think we’re queer because we’re crazy, nor that we’re crazy because we’re queer. I believe that we are queer AND crazy. It is true that when you sense that you do not belong, you are more likely to suffer, and we are often made to feel like outsiders, not only in society at large but also within the LBTIQ “community”. What is important though is that this creates opportunities for healing. I have already observed that process at the bi group, and in fact have been through it myself. Craziness and queerness may often go together, but they can also be disentangled together, and queerness can, in my view, ensure that healing – by which I do not imply getting rid of craziness, but learning to integrate it  more skillfuly – does not occur at the cost of individuality. Too often, therapy leads us towards conformity and forgetfullness. I became depressed as a teenager because there was too much pressure for me to conform to gender roles, religious prescriptions, and adults’ expectations… It is not therapy so much as queerness that eventually saved me from that, by allowing me to accept myself as I am so that I could just be.


14 Sep

I have already mentioned chronic disease and would like to say a few words about mental illness. I have recently discovered the Icarus Project, which is a brilliant website for those who aren’t afraid of “navigating the space between brilliance and madness”. They have many inspirational booklets available for download, including a guide on how to become med-free if you so wish. I really appreciate this couterpoint to medical culture, which invariably pathologizes mental illnesses and attempts to suppress them, often with minimal success and major side effects. Even psychotherapy, which is sometimes available without the support of drugs, tends to normalize the patient by first determining how and why they fail to fit in their environment and then encouraging them to adapt to social life in order to be integrated. In my experience, depression has been a painful but powerful sweeping force pushing me towards deep change. It takes time to become functional again, and even happy, but once you do you see things more clearly. And even when in the throes of panic attacks, paranoid spells, sleepless nights, or depressed states, there is something to the shift in perception, the blurred vision, which I find valuable. Should it be deemed “wrong” and dismissed, or carefully investigated, like some weird but compelling, uncharted territory? Human experience is something to be lived, not suppressed. I don’t want to become a well-adapted robot, I want to take my feelings, emotions, sensations and perceptions seriously, even when they appear scary. Isn’t there more to life than being a socially adequate person? Integrity comes at the cost of taming one’s shadows as well as one’s brilliance.

Chronic disease

24 Aug

I would like to give a new meaning to chronic disease. The usual one is, roughly, an illness that cannot be treated and does not go away. But I would like to redefine it as a chronic unease, a refusal or incapacity to remain impermeable to reality. Today I listened to a radio interview with Susan Rosenthal who does not believe in mental illness. She says that the mind cannot be sick, but rather, social relationships are sick. The effect of a sick society on an individual is mental suffering, not mental illness. The fact that health problems are strongly related to oppression and social unequalities has been known for over a century and basically ignored. Systems of domination create anger and intense suffering, which cannot be treated at the level of the individual.

In Pedagogy of the Oppressed, Paulo Freire says that “When their efforts to act responsibly are frustrated, when they find themselves unable to use their faculties, people suffer”. How often do I find my efforts to think for myself and act according to my convictions censured? I will soon write about some of these situations and why I react so strongly to them, but the fact is that I see a desperate need for social change, for social justice, for equality, not only on a global scale but in the all-pervasive structures of dominance which institutionalize violence and oppression, thus preventing us from truly connecting with one another, from expressing our creativity and our humanity, and from having a real effect on the world we share.

And it makes me sick. I am physically sick and it’s not because I cannot deal with stress, it’s not because I haven’t meditated today, it’s not because I need therapy,  it’s not because I should pull myself together, it’s not because I’m bourgeois and lazy. It’s because the world is sick, because I confront that fact every day and am asked to stay calm and let things follow their course while I wait for them to change in small increments, over time, in ways that will appease public opinion without challenging the status quo until, one day soon, we can all be happy in a wonderful world. I cannot believe in this mythology. In a situation like this, believe me, it’s only healthy to be sick.