Friday, May 01, 2009

Southern Man

It's "wrong" to be depressed. One friend chortled when I said I was in my spring depressive episode. It means that I daydream about death, wake thinking of it, want nothing more than it, and read jealously of people who have had the temerity to quit this landscape, temerity I lack. Seasonal affective disorder occurs in winter when days are shorter, but bipolar depression occurs in spring when birds are nesting and favorite flowers peek through the soil.

Avery, I'll call her, chortled, but I still don't know how to interpret her laugh. Avery is also the brand name of office labels, something I feel I function as in the work world. She'd been diagnosed recently with "borderline personality disorder," diagnosis she pursued. What you hear about "borderline" is that it's worse than mood disorders, because it cannot be treated successfully with medication, but Avery is glad for that because medications have side-effects and are wrong and dangerous and so is Big Pharma -- to a drug-free so(c)(br)iety. Avery no more believes that she has or is "borderline" than she believes her hair is purple, but it gives her a luxuriant feeling to be pampered in a borderline therapy group. She can't afford much salon work these days, so she's taken to this group.

She said, by way of critiquing my poems, that they are -- I am -- not "glad to be female" because I live mostly outside her logic of lingerie. I felt transgendered by her remark. I got mad at her -- she goes secretly to a therapy group for "borderline" as for years she has attended AA w/o being an alcoholic -- without realizing that she volunteers to be a nut. She thinks it's one more thing -- like cocaine, like shoplifting -- she can get away with as an adult -- to sneak around seeking "treatment" without being listed or dismissed as a mental case. Many women admire young Audrey Hepburn, place posters of her near their coatracks or inside their closet door, but Avery is more like Holly Golightly than any of them: What if she is not mentally ill? What if she is a creative intellectual?

Avery's issues related to law-breaking relate to being Catholic. Catholics didn't write the laws: why obey all of them? I used to believe that the law had gotten certain things wrong -- such as the (re)criminalization of marijuana -- but I realized (a little late) that the law still applies. Mental illness and lawbreaking are intermittently connected, but diabetes and allergies and obesity may also lead to selfish preoccupations, even to taking what doesn't belong to one. There is something not right that Avery desires to have an(other's) illness -- has even said she desires to be in a mental institution -- and chortles when her friend says she is depressed. There is much to interpret in it.

A violent boyfriend before he became violent had diagnosed me with "borderline" myself. I had not entered the mental illness labyrinth, had not been put there yet by "concerned persons" -- one of them a man who didn't believe I had any business writing even a short essay about "my" theology -- among his reasons the day he dragged me in to see the authorities at a psychiatric hospital in Houston in December of 1991 where violent men were held and where I was to be locked, not because I was violent, but because my violent boyfriend, whom the other man (Sonia's boyfriend) had promoted at work after my boyfriend had been violent -- after he had threatened to kill me -- reasoned that he would threaten to kill someone, too, who (later) wrote a short essay about theology. It silenced me. It was like an introduction to murder, though I'm still alive and take medications for it.

I read poems at websites during NaPoMo and admired the spontaneous talents of the poets without wanting to join in myself. I don't know if it is that I am a "case" that I like the unfinished work of talented writers -- or something else. I don't know if in the whole analysis mental cases are allowed to have an aesthetics or if their aesthetics are simply worth less: a loan as compared to savings -- and it comes back to that day when the Southern Man decided -- for the rest of my story -- that I'd had no authorization to write creatively, thus shaming his superiors who had originally approved of it. There is no diagnosis for abstract expressionist painting or "rock band," but there is one for writing.

... I was not a lapdog, something the Southern Man, Sonia's boyfriend, was. I figured I was too tall to fit comfortably in a lap. The Southern Man was tall and big and got in laps wherever he went. His bearded face nodded "yes" to everything. It didn't matter what another person was saying to him, he vigorously nodded and nodded "yes" to it. I wouldn't have dreamt that a mental institution would be interested in that tic of his, but he dreamt that a mental institution would be interested in me.

To diagnose "bipolar" is in some ways like no-fault insurance or divorce. The medical establishment cares less about the details of what happened and more about the results. Later it was uncovered that I have a psychiatrist uncle with the genes for it.

I should have realized what kind of "player" environment poetry was in that place. It manifested as an affirmative action beauty pageant, and many of the men ended up feeling passed over by it, not chosen, as they would have been chosen had affirmative action not gone into motion when it did. Punishing white women for it was a remedy, and no one would halt them.

If it's sadly true that I "think in essay," then this is my month for offering daily rough drafts: MeHeWriMo (Mental Health Writing Month).

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