Mental Health Distortions

By Maven Cade Leary

Mental health disorders are nothing to take lightly. I’ve stood on the abyss, I have seen the edge, and while I am still on this side of that ravine, I understand how easily one can lose one’s grip and slip.

I’ve dated two borderline personality disorders, very passionate individuals with a very drastic split personality, one part seeking light, the other part intent on fully experiencing darkness. They say that some individuals afflicted with personality disorders, such as the “borderlines”, are contagious. They say that the demands placed on the individuals in the immediate circle of one driven by this two-faced demon can slowly begin to exhibit the same traits.

Well, maybe so. But it is also possible that some people seek these types of divergent deviants, that something deep inside says exactly the opposite of conventional wisdom, and insists that duality, that healthy opposites, is exactly the key to spiritual evolution in this mortal shell.

My father committed suicide, and did so in a moment of weakness of the body. Much like one of my role models, the great Dr. Hunter S. Thompson, the sad truth was that he was getting old, and he was too proud to wither away and die slowly in the hospital. Like the late Doctor, my father had confided in me many times that he would take his own life one day rather than have it taken from him.

“Free will?!?” he excitedly yelled one day during one of our habitual philosophical discussions. “But I didn’t choose to exist in the first place! How can I be said to have free will if my very basic act of existence was forced upon me? So I have the choice to keep fighting, keep struggling, or just let go and die. How is that freedom?”

My father’s existence was a very difficult one, physically, and emotionally. He eventually could take it no more. On our last phone conversation, he explained to me that he felt something was seriously wrong inside of him. Having spent many years of his life in hospitals for various reasons over the years, he had no intention of ending up in one at this point.

I guess I should have clued in. But you never do. When you’ve been hearing warning bells since you were ten years old, they eventually just start to fade away into the background, like the bell on that annoying bird-killing cat that somehow just seems to get away with it again and again.

One of the reasons I am a fan of Hunter S. Thompson is because I hear echoes of my father in his ways, in his capacity to blend with the rich and the poor, but never blend so well as to seem one of the squares, the normal ones.

This is probably one of the reasons I ended up quite unknowingly dating not one, but two actual borderlines. I just have a thing for adventure, for a forage into the shadows of Hades, followed by a hike up Mount Olympus to air out the stench of the previous night’s deeds.

So am I sick? Did some weird fate of nature give me such a genetic make-up as to make me a victim? Did nurture and repeated exposure to insanity bring out the dormant traits in my own biology?

Some days, I look around and everything is gloomy, and I ask myself, “this is really my life? Is this all there is to this world?” On those days, everything seems very far away. The needs and fears of humanity are small silhouettes off in the distance. The mundane, everyday grind of a menial existence seem like a chore I can bear no more.

Other days, even in a rainstorm, I see nothing but beauty and meaning, a torrent of purpose and love, of belonging and simple gratitude. Thankfully, I have more of these days than the previous type.

This duality is at the very basis of my being. Without the plunges, I would not understand the very real and very simple reality of Life, and that’s that what we have here is all that is. And without my sudden and unexpected peaks, I would not understand how simply amazing and wonderful this seemingly meaningless day to day grind actually is.

People like me, we’ve been classified as sick, as geniuses, as wise, and as sad. We’ve been sometimes accepted, and sometimes violently refuted. Sometimes, we’ve been locked up as paranoid freaks with a schizotypal personality disorder. We gamble every time we open our hearts and our minds for others to judge, and we can be fairly certain that people will understand only what they are able and willing to at any one moment. Neither our fans nor our critics can really understand us, because at the very basis of our beings is the need to pull in as many different directions as possible, to try them out, to see if this mask fits or not. Thus, many of what we manifest is not representative of our true self, but merely a reflection of something that caught our attention and seemed like an interesting trip at the time.

No, mental disorders are nothing to make light of. But it might be something to consider that perhaps they are not all that bad, that they are a symptom of a dull and meaningless social reality that lacks what some of us require to feel fulfilled.

Now, I can only speak for myself, but it seems to me that at the core of the issue is the menial expectations put upon each of us. How can one feel gratified in this world if the greatest challenge one faces is finding a job, getting laid, and finding a really good Thai restaurant? How can one feel like one belongs to something greater than oneself when all around social responsibilities are diminished to a minimum, when the very people meant to protect and rule over us are obviously corrupt, selfish slobs?

Where are the species wide objectives? Where are the dreams and hopes of the people to overcome their current limitations and attain new heights? How can a whole planet live without hope?

In a world where all around, myths and prophesies of doom, death, corruption and destruction are the norm, where anyone spewing positive nonsense is dismissed as a hopeless idealist, who is the sick one, he who can stand it no longer, who evades reality by constructing all kinds of visions of hope and communal purpose, and who ends up killing himself because the world around consistently refuses to be anything other than selfish and greedy? Or he who can just stand by and take it without being emotionally distraught?

Now, don’t get me wrong, I am not advocating suicide. If anything, the fact my heroes have all too often given up the good fight has reinforced my will to keep on keeping on even through the bullshit and the lies. When I am feeling down, when nothing I say or feel seems to matter, I remember that each and every one of them also came upon such moments many times, and that despite their feelings of powerlessness, they have made a difference, in my life, and in countless others.

And so I remind myself that some day, something I will do could add to the tallying, that it could make a difference in the lives of those I touch. And this, despite my loneliness, despite my feelings of doom, of isolation from a sick and mean humanity, is enough for me to stand strong when I feel weak, and do all I can when I feel strong.

This fine line, between the certainty of an impeding doom and the faith in our potential salvation, is exactly where I want to be. Stepping to either side of the line seems to me like intentionally blinding oneself to the facts at hand. We are currently acting like a bunch of worthless savages, but within us is the power, the love, wisdom, and innate kindness, to bring us out of this mess and into a golden age, not only for our species and our planet, but for all that we might one day achieve amongst the stars.