Excellent New Blog About Art, Medical Education, Mental Illness, And Life

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9 Responses

  1. Walter says:

    [...] we are taught falsely that people with mental illness can't or won't achieve such things.

    I think the exact opposite is much closer to the truth, and I wish I'd known it sooner. I grew up without the internet, and it was mostly through reading biographies and watching documentaries that I slowly caught on that I wasn't alone, and that my mental issues don't necessarily condemn me to a live of failure and loneliness.

    These day it's much easier to find out the truth. To Ken and others, thank you for doing what you do.

  2. ChrisTS says:

    I often wonder what I might have accomplished if I had had the meds I now take when I was young. Because, I spent so much energy trying to deal with depression and anxiety, I really think I only used about half my intellectual powers on anything else.

  3. I just went over to Sam Scharff's site, read his latest post and added the following comment. Thanks for the link.
    "I come to you from Popehat, where I am a regular reader. I am neither a doctor nor an artist… but like you I am a 'people'. It sounds to me like you will make a wonderful doctor, with that ineffable contact with your patients that is sometimes called 'bedside manner' but is vastly more central and important than it sounds. My own father was a family doctor, practising on a single street corner in a major city for over 50 years until he retired just last year. Medicine was his vocation, his avocation and his life – so much so that he is struggling now to figure out the shape of his own person in the absence of his career. I want to tell you that all warnings aside, medical practice is at least for some a warm, welcoming and rewarding career – I know because I had the privilege of watching one from up close for my whole life."

  4. grouch says:

    I thank, and praise, people who are willing to discuss mental illness openly. This is especially true when those people have achieved impressive things, because we are taught falsely that people with mental illness can't or won't achieve such things.
    – Ken White

    The first person I thought of when reading the above was Dr. Temple Grandin:


    Dr. Grandin didn't talk until she was three and a half years old, communicating her frustration instead by screaming, peeping, and humming. In 1950, she was diagnosed with autism and her parents were told she should be institutionalized. She tells her story of "groping her way from the far side of darkness" in her book Emergence: Labeled Autistic, a book which stunned the world because, until its publication, most professionals and parents assumed that an autism diagnosis was virtually a death sentence to achievement or productivity in life.

    According to NIMH:

    Children with ASD [Autism Spectrum Disorder] can also develop mental disorders such as anxiety disorders, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), or depression. Research shows that people with ASD are at higher risk for some mental disorders than people without ASD.

    Perhaps some of that higher risk is due to social factors which could be mitigated by more open discussion?

  5. Patrick says:

    Thank you so much for sharing this link, Ken. As a fellow professional student (law, rather than medicine) who is bipolar, it is comforting to know that there are others like me. Sam's courage in coming out as bipolar is admirable – the vast majority of people simply do not understand what bipolar disorder even is – their experience being limited to stories about people like Adam Lanza, or the portrayal of 'stereotypical' bipolarity in popular media.

    To live in constant struggle with my own mind is exhausting, it is frustrating, and it is even terrifying from time to time. It is also the source of my greatest inspirations, my drive to succeed in the face of adversity, and my capacity to approach complex ideas from multiple viewpoints. I wouldn't wan to live without it – it is a fundamental part of who I am and how I see the world. I just wish that I could talk about it openly without being instantly judged, labeled, and told that there is something wrong with me.

  6. En Passant says:

    Ken wrote:

    I thank, and praise, people who are willing to discuss mental illness openly. This is especially true when those people have achieved impressive things, because we are taught falsely that people with mental illness can't or won't achieve such things. It helps people in need feel human.

    That truth also becomes tragically stark when great achievers succumb to mental illness due to insufficient medical and social means to address it. That deficit is due in no small part to the paucity of public awareness of its actual nature and its insidious power. The tragedies of Kurt Gödel and David Foster Wallace come readily to mind.

    False beliefs about mental illness cause at least two different types of tragedy: discouragement of achievement due to false beliefs about sufferers' capacity to achieve; and self-harm by achievers due to false beliefs that achievement magically negates the suffering.

    Open and frank discussion is the sine qua non to prevent both types.

  7. AlphaCentauri says:

    Thanks for that link. I think he'll be a great doctor, because he can articulate the things people with mental illness feel but can't find words to describe. They'll feel like he opened a cage to let them, out after years of wondering what was wrong with themselves.

  8. kmc says:

    We need more open discussion of the truth about mental illness, not just in the media, but in our more personal lives and in our smaller social circles–in other words, in our real communities. That's where it makes such a difference. I know there isn't going to be anyone here who disagrees with me, but there's such a sense still that, even in social groups where mental illness is not seen as a direct personal failing or curse or something, it's still something that you hide and overcome if you're a good enough person/professional/religious practitioner/&c.

    Here follows an anecdote, so feel free to skip the rest, but here it goes. I was really taken with Allie's "fish" analogy from the Hyperbole And A Half post mentioned earlier. It came up when a friend and I were sitting around at work, chatting, and my friend, who has also dealt with depression and anxiety, was also taken with it. Coincidentally, a week later, he met a preteen girl who is struggling terribly with these things, exacerbated by tragic home conditions. As they talked, he said, "I heard a thing from a friend recently…" and repeated the analogy. The young girl broke into tears and said that was the first time she had ever felt like anyone understood what she was going through. It's not a story of major import, but the fact that a kid of her age was able to find the comfort that I couldn't even imagine when I was at the same age has a lot of meaning for me, and I think it's likely that, as she continues to deal with these things, she just may feel like she can turn to my friend for support. She may actually have a person she can trust, and there is really no way to know how much that simple act may do to change the course of her life. And that is why we need to be open about mental illness, even more on a local scale than a national one.