A left handed doodle © Pamela Spiro Wagner All rights reserved
- BioHands 1 ©Pamela Spiro Wagner All rights reserved
As I have been having a hard time dealing with things, I do art and do art and do art…It is as good a way to cope as any other I suppose. Anyhow, I hope to get back to writing here soon. In the meantime, I am investigating more about temporal lobe epilepsy and schizophrenia/bipolar illness. It seems to me very significant, and at the same time strange that so many people who bear the diagnosis of schizophrenia and/or bipolar are also supposedly burdened with yet another condition that is so tricky to pinpoint, so I may also be posting more about that in the future as well.
The more I read the less I am convinced that schizophrenia, as an entity, exists, one, and two, that if there is any such thing as “schizophrenia” no one has yet figured out what it is. Which is the same thing as saying it is an imaginary/artificial illness. Don’t get me wrong: I am not saying that mental suffering and psychosis do not exist, only that no one has proven, not to my satisfaction, that there is any such illness constellation that can go by the name of schizophrenia and be recognized as such by a preponderance of physicians world-wide… That offers a lot of leeway by the way. I don’t ask for a lab test or even a set of hard signs. Only a reasonable way for psychiatrists around the world to agree on symptoms that constitutes a recognizable disease that is the same thing no matter where you go, just as measles is measles and the flu is the flu…
But there won’t be any agreement, as we know. Because schizophrenia is a cultural construct. It is imaginary and largely meaningless. Except within the society that uses it as a concept in order to disapprove of and stigmatize certain ways of being, speaking or thinking. In that sense schizophrenia is more than just a construct or concept it is a social tool. It is a weapon used to keep people in line. In western society, if one doesn’t keep to the obligatory path, some semi-acceptable social role, the result is the withdrawal of social approvals and the substitution of punishment — think drugs, hospitals, seclusion, restraints — in their place. And yet, in other cultures, the very same “out of bounds” thinking or behavior, rather than being labelled schizophrenic or “crazy” is regarded as the mystic’s path and spiritual, highly regarded rather than anathematized.
This is nothing new. It has been observed before. So why do we keep going back to beating the same old same old drum: “We need better drugs to treat mental illness.” “We need better diagnostic methods to pinpoint mental illness. ” “We need better interventions to help the “mentally ill” who cannot or will not help themselves.”…YOWCH! Yada yada yada. Maybe we continue to bark up the same wrong, wrong, wrong tree. Maybe there is NO SUCH THING AS MENTAL ILLNESS, perhaps all along there has always only been physical illness. Perhaps much suffering, emotional and mental though it may be, is not illness, just part of the human condition, and while we want to ameliorate it, we call it illness at our peril.
More to come.
4 thoughts on “Doing Art to Save My Sanity”
By the way, I have recently, and temporarily (I think), made my blog private and available only to me. That’s because my writing on this topic feels too “raw” to me at this time….. but I’m working on it.
Dearest Pam, I love your art. I love your writing, too. You Totally Rock.
I’ve been on a Madness Marathon these past several weeks, reading a pile of books on the topic of madness, schizophrenia in particular, in an effort to gain some insight into the mental illnesses and abuse problems that runs through my family (and in my own personal history). The books I’m reading (including yours, Pam), are written from a wide variety of viewpoints.
I’m trying to figure out whether psychotic illnesses are in the genes, nature or nurture, biological, biochemical, caused by viruses, bacteria, illicit drug use, poor nutrition, caused by a spiritual problem, or maybe it comes from something we haven’t even considered?
Big Pharma has a huge financial incentive to endorse the belief that all “mental illnesses” are caused by an imbalance in one’s brain chemistry.
The conclusion I am coming to is this: Schizophrenia is probably many things, not just one thing, and it can also have many different causes. Here’s an analogy of what I mean: If you want to know what causes traffic accidents, a search on the topic will tell you that many things cause or contribute to traffic accidents, and sometimes multiple causative factors are involved in a single accident. Drunken driving, driver inattention, bad weather, poor visibility, driving while stupid, broken or uneven pavement, mechanical problems such as brake failure, engine failure, and so on, are high on the list of causative factore. If you investigate even further, by looking into what kind of injuries can you expect to find in a person who has been in an accident, and what is their prognosis, that answer is also highly variable. Some accident victims are killed instantly, while others, often in the same vehicle, may walk away without a scratch. Some accident victims are permanently disfigured or paralyzed, and some are brain damaged, ranging from mildly concussed, to profoundly cognitively impaired. Some people end up with a ruptured spleen, a punctured lung, and a few broken bones, but with proper care and time they can be expected to fully heal from their injuries.
I have two more questions: Is mental illness “all in the head?” My answer: What isn’t? Everything we see, hear, smell, taste, and feel is ultimately experienced inside our own brain.
My last question: Is it proper to consider that one’s mind is separate from one’s body? I don’t know about you, but I have yet to see a living body that does not have some kind of a living brain attached, and the same goes for the reverse: no where is there a living head that exists apart from its body. At least I hope not! So I’m inclined to believe that the body is physical and the brain is also physical, and they are attached to and part of each other. What happens in the brain affects the body, and what happens in the body affects the brain. Thus, “mental illness” is a physcial illness, no less than heart disease, diabetes, lung cancer, and the like, are physical illnesses…. or so it seems to my addled mind.
Interesting observation. This is why I want to taper off the Zyprexa entirely. I miss the wholeness that meds have taken away. I feel sterile, confused, unable to deal with daily life — and all that started not with “schizohprenia” but with taking psychotropic meds. I feel my brain, personality, and creativity are suffering. I want my old room back — the one with all the color and sensory input. Now, I feel like I’m in a sensory deprivation tank.
Yup, Pam, lots of early dementia praecox (schizophrenia) was encephalitis. Illnesses termed mental are those whose etiology is unknown, or that’s my theory anyway.
These paintings are fascinating.