Friday, October 06, 2006

What makes madness? (gratuitous postcard included)

Anybody who has read more than three of my posts on this blog knows, I'm a bit of a nut. Actually, more like an entire pecan grove. I've lived most of my adult life fighting bipolar disorder, and always coming out more bruised than my opponent.

A few of my good friends are in the same straits as am I -- but they are at least fortunate enough to be able to take medications for the problem (in theory it helps. Mostly, I guess, it takes the edge of the noise in the head). I don't get to do that.

So, anyway, I was discussing madness in general with one of my co-conspirators, and she had complained that her general practitioner seemed to think that she wasn't really ill (you know the type -- the "get over yourself" sort). He offered to refer her to a shrink, but he made it fairly clear she didn't need one, that if she just got out and stopped dwelling on herself, there would be no problem. He acted as though mental illness were not so much an actual illness as a general weakness, along the lines of somebody who eats too many McDonald's double cheeseburgers -- a moral failing, rather than a chemical imbalance in the brain.

I hadn't realized Tom Cruise was practicing medicine in IL.

But this got my tongue running, again (quel surprise!), and I told her I'd rather considered mental illness to be original sin.

I reckon that, if, indeed, we are to say that Adam & Eve ate the fruit of knowledge of good and evil, then they let loose the very thing which keeps us irrational and self-damaging. And, dammit, I resent the irregular sleep patterns they left for me.

Nevertheless, if we accept that original sin exists in this fashion, we have the right to seek help in overcoming out tendency toward it. Some are blessed with a smaller portion of it, and some are unable ever to rise out of its mire. The rest of us must slog through it, day after day, in the hopes that some day we will find release and self-forgiveness. Prayer, exertion (chop wood, carry water), meditation, medication -- whatever delivers us from evil should be respected and made available to those of us who would use it.

Sanctity and sanity are not things whose absence we can ignore or accept. It isn't as though those without them are, say, incapable of growing eyebrows or have oddly-shaped birthmarks we eventually can get used to. Those who are without a trace of one, the other, or both, can suffer greatly, and often cause others around them to suffer equally or moreso. But sanity and sanctity aren't necessarily about God or gods or angels and demons or whatever, either. They're about humanity, piecemeal and together, rising above the defects which were within us from the start. The goal is not to settle for second-best. The goal is to make ourselves again in God's image.

Postcard: Texan @ Gates of Heaven

Through any honest means available.

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