Saturday, June 28, 2014

"not mentally ill, just different"

"a panel of psychiatrists determined she was not mentally ill, just different from other people...."
––from the NYT obituary of Janet Frame, a New Zealand author who had been diagnosed, wrongly, with schizophrenia

After my mother took her own life, people always assumed she was mentally ill, and it was weirdly sort of comforting to me to think so too, because it offered a simple answer, and one that seemed to exonerate me and her and everyone else.
That's a misunderstanding of mental illness anyway, but, in fact, I never was convinced she actually was mentally ill, exactly...
When I read this line about Frame the other day, I thought, yeah, that's it---my mother too was that much less comforting thing: different. 

* Frame found the diagnosis of mental illness weirdly comforting too. The NYT obit goes on to say, after it was found she did not have schizophrenia:
In the sort of bitterly perceptive, highly personalized twist that infuses much of her writing, that news did not please her.
''Oh why had they robbed me of my schizophrenia, which had been the answer to all my misgivings about myself?'' she wrote in ... her autobiography, which was dramatized in Jane Campion's 1990 film An Angel at My Table.


Zhoen said...

Eccentric, brilliant, grieving, traumatized... and may have had a single psychotic break?

Too many times, mental illness isn't treated, it's punished, and the person along with it. We are still so primitive in our understanding of our own brains.

Fresca said...

"Brain, brain! What is brain!?!?"
--famous line from the worst (?) Star Trek episode, "Spock's Brain"

Zhoen said...


-Any zombie movie.

(Except 'I Walked With A Zombie.')