I hate Kanye, He’s Awesome

I have to jump on this bandwagon because I’m hearing a lot of opinions in the mental health social media community (that’s a thing now. Dear Lord.) about Kanye’s recent interview with David Letterman. The interview is on Netflix.

They talked about a few things. Clothes, art, and Kanye’s “church”. I don’t–I won’t comment on whatever all that is about.

Whatever.

When they first get into the mental health stuff, Letterman attempts to sum up Kanye’s bipolar diagnosis in an “easy” and “simple” way. He states “the synapses get fatigued and say ‘we’re not carrying this message anymore'”. I won’t ding Letterman for this, nor Kanye for agreeing with it because neither of them have probably ever read a neurology or psychology textbook in their life. But to make it clear, synapses aren’t getting fatigued. If we could tell you what was happening in any mental health condition, they wouldn’t exist anymore.

Kanye gets to a point where he needs to get something off of his chest. He says there’s a moment he experienced in his treatment that needs to be changed and if any of you have read even just one of my many posts, you’ll know that I smiled largely as I guessed what that experience was.

He explains that in the moment of one of his episodes, he feels hyper paranoid about everything, that everyone is an actor, everything is a conspiracy. I’d say that’s pretty similar to what many of us feel. He says, “you feel everyone wants to kill you and they handcuff you and drug you and put you in the bed and they separate you from everyone you know. Something I’m so happy I experienced myself so I can start by changing that moment.”

He’s talking about forced/coercive treatment, but also about the general vibe when you’re hospitalized. The last time I was taken against my will, no family was allowed to visit me until I was transferred to a different hospital an hour away where no one could come visit me anyway. While in the crisis unit, I continuously called my mother asking what the hospital staff were telling her, because they wouldn’t be honest with me and I didn’t trust anyone. I couldn’t. People were possessed and impostors and unreal and I was one of the lucky ones who didn’t feel that also extended to their family.

Kanye very openly, and rightfully so, regards this as “cruel and primitive” and I agree to an extent. Is it smart to have all ten family members crammed in the hospital with you while you’re crippled by voices and dread? Probably not. But if, for whatever reason, you have just one person you can even remotely trust for two halves of a second, blocking that contact with the outside world only pushes you further in your head. As Kanye said: “This is like a sprained brain, like having a sprained ankle. And if someone has a sprained ankle, you’re not going to push on him more.”

Then, the big controversy comes: the meds.

I figured his opinion wouldn’t be very popular.

He said he has been medication free for eight months. Some of the crowd claps. I would have. Wouldn’t you clap for your friend or parent who was able to come off their blood pressure medication? Do they run the risk of raising it with bad eating habits and lack of exercise just as Kanye runs the risk of being carried away by mania while refusing to take care of his mental health in other ways? Can’t your friend’s blood pressure rise again for no clear reason, just as Kanye’s mania can come unprovoked? Doesn’t your friend run the risk of death just as Kanye theoretically would were he to dip into a serious low? If everyone in the world wants to compare mental health to physical health, then compare it that way too.

But, Kanye is very clear he’s not advocating for everyone to go off their meds. How have people missed this? I have the quote right here, verbatim: “When we clap at the idea of not being on medication–my form of mental health I think is like the luxury version of it. There’s people who can’t function without medication. So I’m not advocating–I’m telling you MY specific story.”

It’s the same thing I tell others. All. The. Time. Yes, I’ve gone off and on meds. Yes, there were times the meds were extremely necessary. And there were times they were a detriment. And for ME, my PERSONAL DECISION was that I have always felt better off medication than on. And I needed to choose: be compliant with meds 100% or leave them alone 100%. It was the on again off again that was torturous.

So even with Kanye stating specifically his personal experience, we think we have the right to tell him what’s better for his body, basically stigmatizing our own. I’ve never once told a mental health peer to go off their meds. But I’ve been told thousands of times by peers to go back on meds. That’s like a religious fanatic: don’t tell me about your atheist or Muslim or Jewish views, but let me tell you about the love of Jesus Christ and why you should accept him into your heart because that’s what’s best for you, that’s what will save your soul.

It’s hard to feel accepted with a mental health diagnosis. It’s even harder when your own people are against you.

Letterman then goes on to explain his own experience with medication and the advances in medication targeting specific areas of the brain (which is just misinformation) and says that medication is what helped him see clearer. Kanye, at some point, reflects that it’s great for him that he found a medication with the least amount of side effects that works for him. That’s the only way to respond. That’s the way I often respond.

My point? Why does Letterman get praise for pushing the efficacy of medication he has proven he doesn’t understand the chemistry of, and Kanye get flack for choosing to go through his mental health journey in a different way? Because medication works for you? Because it’s saved your life and you want to save him too? What if he doesn’t need saving?

This ties into so many topics. Coercion, publication bias, and this idea that we know what’s best, that we have the right to force help on someone.

This isn’t a man in a coma who would never want to sign a DNR. This is a man who is conscious, albeit not in your reality. And that makes you uncomfortable–maybe you’ve been there. Maybe you’ve seen how families can fall apart. Whatever it is. But the point is we must eradicate your discomfort by subduing his experience.

This is coming from someone who recognizes this need to help is innate and out of good intention.

This is also coming from someone who recognizes and has experienced the terror and pain that we go through. This is coming from someone who knows first hand that sitting in two week old dirty clothes, ratty hair, no food while listening and believing voices telling me I’m going to die soon, that I won’t be on this earth anymore, fucking sucks. This is coming from someone who absolutely appreciated the moment medication helped bring me from that. This is also coming from someone who recognizes medication isn’t always a life sentence.

This is coming from someone who understands that you can’t talk to your high blood pressure, but you can talk to your voices. I’d say that’s a pretty big wedge in the whole “mental health should be treated like physical health” argument.

But talking–that’s rarely encouraged in traditional psychiatry. A shame. A lot can come from it.

My point? Don’t stigmatize each other. Don’t act like we as a species have all the answers in the world. Don’t act like anyone really understands the mechanisms of any medication. And don’t thwart someone’s individuality because it clashes with your beliefs.

To Friend, Or Not To Friend, That Is The Question

Friends. Friends, friends, friends, friends. It’s always been a touchy subject for me.

In junior high I had one friend who made friends with an older group and so I integrated myself into their group.

Well, it was much less of an integration and more like a . . . hmm. More like this:

I didn’t talk much to them, they didn’t talk much to me, but I followed them around because the idea of standing against the wall alone felt too vulnerable. Eventually I met a group of people I jived with and who didn’t bring tasers to school and we were all socially awkward together. Some of those friendships have stood the test of time, and one in particular has got me thinking about the nature of said relationships.

I have been friends with this person for many years (12?) and while I endured college and psychosis, she bumped coke and crashed cars. Granted, I was the one who introduced marijuana to her in high school, but I had enough sense to know when enough was enough. She obviously didn’t.

Psychosis and anxiety played a part, I guess. Hard to enjoy marijuana when every hit increases the two things you’re trying to escape.

She’s not quite an addict. The coke stopped when she had her kid. Now that her and her “baby daddy” (dear Christ I hate using that phrase) have split, and he takes the kid some weekends, she’s back to hanging with losers. For a while I struggled too, dipping back into Marijuana even though it caused me to end up in the E.R and the psych hospital, and back into heavy drinking even though I’d wake up crying, depressed, ready to end my life. Now that I’m more settled in my decision to stay off medication, now that I’ve got more of a healthy routine down, now that I’ve recovered from my abrupt break-up, I’m ready to move on with life. And for some reason I felt myself being called back to my old friendship.

So I’ve been hanging out with her for a few months, and it’s been fun, we have a lot of memories together and our personalities are similar. But I’m multiple people: I’m a peer worker by day (and overnight sometimes), I go to trainings and enjoy doing wholesome things with my friends/coworkers who happen to be twice my age (I’m 23). I enjoy being able to have an intelligent conversation and still find humor in so many things. And by night I’d run around the streets with her, driving places, drinking, smoking, “enjoying my twenties”.

I’m over it. That got so old so fucking quick ya’ll. Am I an old person in a young person’s body or something?

What really broke the camels back, or whatever the idiom is, punched the camel, killed the camel, whatever– wow, all three of those are horrible. What’s really made this decision for me (that’s better) was last weekend. As we wandered downtown, some people were catcalling, and while I tend to have a disgusted attitude about this, she feeds into it. The attention she receives from men–she needs it to survive. I believe it’s an insecurity thing, but having a deep conversation with her is literally impossible.

So, she went back to the group and got one dudes number. We ended up passing them one last time, where she decided to sit on the sidewalk and make a scene, smoke some weed on the street corner. Of course the group migrates over to us and while one loser is trying to hit on me, the other loser doesn’t need to do much to get her attention. They decide they want to eat at a restaurant with us, and while I’m not opposed to “making friends”, I am opposed to being surrounded by fucking morons.

Both are in their thirties and have children, young children. Why didn’t I leave? I’m not the type of person to leave a “friend” with two older men we know nothing about. Especially since she was still reeling from the molly and rave of the night before. She didn’t have a car, and I didn’t trust either of them to get her home safely. And so I stayed. I endured. I threw a lot of shade her direction masked by humor, which got a few laughs at the table. Fine. I can be an entertainer.

At the end of the night (2:50am) they took off, after one of them smacking her ass, and I took her home. Although this encounter is relatively mild (besides the constant being hit on) the reason it struck a nerve with me is because this has happened once before with her and me. In fact, my dumb 16 or 17 year old high self got in the car with two older guys (maybe early twenties? or younger. Adults.) that she said were going to take us for a ride. She lied to me. Her plan was to lose her virginity to one of them because she “couldn’t graduate high school without having lost her virginity”, because that’s something colleges and jobs care about, whether you fucked some loser or not.

Put that on your fucking resume. Literally. Your fucking resume.

They took us somewhere I didn’t recognize, and that’s when I got angry. No one would tell me where we were. I got out the car when we stopped and was pissed. She got busy with the dude in the car. The other guy, his friend, tried getting me to kiss him, to touch him, e.t.c, and I had to elbow him in the chest to the ground to get him off me. I was very athletic, strong, and wasn’t in the mood for his fucking shit. He stopped after that. We waited. They took us back to the mall. I called my mom asking her to pick us up, and called my friend a whore. We didn’t talk for a while.

I realize I’ve held onto this friendship because I’m scared of being thrown to the sharks, of having to make new friends. I’ve never been good at it. Ever. But by being around the group I have been lately, I realize what true compassion and kindness and friendship is. I never experienced it before, really. I now realize we’re at different points in our lives. We’ve both had setbacks, and we both are struggling to get on our feet. The difference is I would like to balance and she prefers the wobble.

I hope it doesn’t take her son being taken away from her for her to get the fucking picture. Because I’m done. And I’m probably the only friend she had who would actually stick their neck out for her.

Not quite sure how to start this conversation with her.