Whoa Mama

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Brave beyond words

I have been reflecting an awful lot about mental illnesses after the NPR piece last week. Thinking about the stigma, the unspeakable challenges, the silent struggle that so many people face every day with mental illnesses.

Mental illness does come in so very many forms. It seems that most of what people generally know of mental illness is from films and some books. There are the dramatized, "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" types, the stereotypical and grossly misrepresented, ridiculous horror movie types. But those just make good entertainment and don't represent the vast majority of people with any form of mental illness.

Bipolar disorder has as the name implies, two sides: the manic and the depressive. Depression is also in my opinion wildly misinterpreted with a romantic notion of tortured souls and artistic temperaments. The biography of poet Ann Sexton "Searching for Mercy Street" is a raw account of bipolar disorder from the eyes of her daughter. Her descriptions of the highs and lows are remarkable and heart wrenching. Nonetheless, the common perception is that depression is just pretty sad. Anyone with any experience with it will assure you that it is far from glamorous. So when it was released that Catherine Zeta-Jones was being treated for bipolar disorder, it was obvious that hers was the manic kind, not the easily spin-able, alluring (by Hollywood standards) depressive kind.

My first thought was simply awe. This stunning, successful woman with the world before her has just announced to the world that she has a mental illness! She has built a career, managed an extraordinarily public life, including very open struggles and had a family while also managing what has very likely been a life long demon. I am so impressed and cannot applaud loud enough for her brave decision to come forward with her very personal illness. I hope that her public position and this beginning of informed dialogue brings about better understanding and acceptance. I also wish that by acknowledging her diagnosis helps others seek treatment.

OK - cute stories to resume....


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