So, I stumbled across this list on Tumblr a couple of weeks ago, and it’s still kind of on my mind. It consists of reasons why someone would be admitted to an insane asylum – in the late 1800’s.
First, insane asylums are creepy as all heck to me. Especially old school ones, but really, no matter what name you give them, they are filled with unpredictability. And that is one thing that bothers me most. I mean, a lot of things get under my skin, but that is a huge one. I still occasionally check under my bed to ensure the psycho killer isn’t waiting for me to feel safe enough to sleep before he stabs me, or whatever. It’s the feeling that everything is fine until it isn’t – the sense that anything could happen at any time and for NO DISCERNABLE REASON. Like, the sane (or sane-ish) can’t predict what the insane will do at any given moment, because even they don’t know until they do it.
Also, asylums are scary and full of ghosts, especially after they’ve been abandonned. Not to mention all the tools. What the hell are doctors and scientists thinking sometimes?
I think part of it is also – like, I’m pretty sure even a sane person, under similar circumstances, would begin to exhibit insane-like behaviour after awhile. In many cases, even now, prison would be better. It’s called an asylum, but it’s not really to keep the sick safe from society. It’s to protect society from the sick. For so many, there’s no coming back from that. And I feel like even for the “sane-est” person alive, trying to prove you’re NOT insane would be like trying to prove you’re not drunk. Evidence can be found to prove the case against you quite easily once someone is looking for it, and from that point on, the frustration at not being able to prove your truth to the world – that you are sane and/or sober – that alone would begin to make matters much, much worse.
Now, I of course know that things are very different now than they were in the 1800’s. We have made incredible advances in the mental health field along with everything else. Looking at this list is almost laughable, really. Like, WTF does “time of life” even mean? It’s your time to be a lunatic? Fell from horse in war is a reason for admission? What if you fell from a horse at home, and not anywhere near the war?
I’m not even going to get into the sexist, ignorant reasons, because as you can see, they make up the majority of the list. I wonder how many of these were acted upon by a person checking themselves in, versus being checked in against their will. I wonder how many were women or gay or not-white.
Novel reading?! Seriously?!
Funny how priorities change. Back then they seem to have been obsessed with masturbation, the expression of any emotion (grief is on there), and anything possibly related to a fever and/or the imagination.
To my eyes, all of those reasons seem insane in and of themselves.
Possibly because I would have been locked up for several of them, myself.
Sometimes I actually have to wonder how far we’ve really come. Attitudes and stigma surrounding mental health are still – I mean, I feel like they’ve been getting a bit better in recent years, but I almost feel like it’s going too far in the other direction. We’ve gone from having no real understanding of most mental health issues and not really talking about it in any kind of meaningful discourse, to still having no real understanding, yet talking about it all the time. Just on the surface, though. Everyone jumps on the #BellLetsTalk bandwagon one day a year, which is great, but it doesn’t seem like very many people actually talk. We’re all very good at nodding in sympathy and telling people to just talk about whattever’s bothering them, that we’re here to listen.
I just don’t think many of us know how to really talk about it. Because none of us really understand any of it.
On a logic level, we can grasp that being sad and being depressed are not the same thing. But sometimes it looks the same. And sometimes it looks completely different. Sometimes it doesn’t look a thing like what we think depression should look like, and so we might not even notice.
Even when it’s happening to you.
That sense of not being able to understand your own self, of not knowing why you do some of the things you do – it can feel very disconnecting. And so we bury it, because we don’t want anyone else to see us becoming more disconnected and risk having them think we’re a freak.
Because once someone has that thought about you, it’s very difficult – if not impossible – to get them to see you any other way.
We all want to be normal, yet unique and special. And the definition of normal has never been anything but a slippery slope. Whoever invented the concept of normal should be put in an asylum, were they still alive, because that concept is completely crazy. We want to stand out as individuals, but for good things. Inspiring or heroic things. Not for telling squirrels to be careful when they cross the street when you’re on your way to work in the morning.
Hypothetically speaking, of course.
So as much as we all want to talk about our thoughts and feelings, and let our freak flags fly, we’re also terrified that it’ll reveal too much, and that there will be no coming back from that. Once we are too real, and too exposed, we’re doomed. It feels like it could actually drive people further away, especially since we have no idea why we think and feel some of the things we think and feel. We can’t explain it because we don’t understand it ourselves. Human beings have a need to dissect and understand everything – we’ve been testing theories and hypotheses since we crawled out of the primordial ooze. But I think mental health is perhaps the one true bane of our existence, because it’s not something that can be quantified or studied with any degree of accuracy. It not only changes from person to person, but also within the same person, from moment to moment and day to day. It’s unpredictable, and that’s what makes it scary.
Like, maybe we have a great life – not just appear to have – actually have everything that should make us happy. A spouse, children, pets, job satisfaction, comfortable salary, a boatload of friends, an in-home theatre, a cottage in Greece, sunshine, rainbows and a unicorn. From the outside, we have everything. From our own perspective, we want for nothing. Yet for no discernable reason, we feel unhappy. How can one who has so much to make them feel complete still have a sense of disconnect and actually suffer from depression? How do you fight something when you have no idea what it is, why it is, or what might actually help make it go away? How do you live with it? And how on earth would you ever, ever tell anyone about it? What would they think? How would they react? Is it worth the risk of potentially making it even more difficult to get through the day, if the conversation goes south?
Often times, no, it is not.
And so we remain silent, for better or for worse, and wait for the next storm to pass.