Category Archives: healing

Naming Mental Illness: It’s A Mind Game.

My beautiful pictureIn the wake of multiple lives lost at the hands of another, lone gunman, we as a society pause yet again to face the truly disturbing: sick minds are a threat to us all.
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And, the bigger problem looms. Our care and oversight with regard to detecting, diagnosing and treating the mentally ill is, to this degree, still woefully incomplete.
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To begin with, I believe we use the term “mentally ill” far too loosely, and imprecisely; consequently, a “cry wolf” mentality seeps into the public consciousness. We misappropriate the term, applying it whenever we think we don’t particularly like or understand someone, and miss the truly deadly potential in those who really are unwell.
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Let’s take a step back, and lay out some facts.
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MentalHealth.gov, the official website on the topic, states:
  • One in five American adults experience a mental health issue;
  • One in 10 young people experience a period of major depression;
  • One in 25 Americans live with a serious mental illness, such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or major depression.
Yet,
“Half of all mental health disorders show first signs before a person turns 14 years old, and three quarters of mental health disorders begin before age 24.
Unfortunately, less than 20% of children and adolescents with diagnosable mental health problems receive the treatment they need.”
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Given the above indisputable data, over 80% of those who are really ill get no treatment in their earliest years, when containment and rehabilitation is possible.
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Meantime, we go about our days interacting with all manner of personalities. Somebody demonstrates a trait not common to our own notions of good protocol, rubbing us the wrong way. Perhaps louder, or more vociferously than we might, such an one misbehaves in public. One of us says to another: “She’s mental.”
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Let’s not mistake acute passion, expressed in the presence of others, for imbalance.
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Fact:
“The vast majority of people with mental health problems are no more likely to be violent than anyone else. Most people with mental illness are not violent and only 3%–5% of violent acts can be attributed to individuals living with a serious mental illness.”
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How many of these lone gunmen were ever described by anyone who knew them as out acting? Rather, categorically, up until the moment of their psychotic break, each behaved in a manner decidedly well beneath the radar of public condemnation.
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Even as we move forward to improve our detection and diagnosis of the mentally ill, let’s check our reactions toward each other at the door. Become more wary of the unusually silent, among our young and old; watch eye movement; document the absence of response, rather than each outburst otherwise easily recognized; and, communicate all observations to the appropriate resource as soon as they have been made.
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But, withhold public declaration. Defaming the innocent is almost as deadly to our collective relationship as is missing one capable of suddenly taking yet another life.
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© 6/7/19 Ruth Ann Scanzillo. Originally published at Medium.com
littlebarefeetblog.com

“Thank You, Very Much.”

She was shorter than I, with soiled, shoulder length salt and pepper hair and a walking tripod cane. I recognized this cane, as Dad would use one in his final years while living with me. Because her head was lowered slightly, I couldn’t determine the woman’s relative age; but able to, on account of my relative height, I reached above her to hold the door open to enable her to navigate into the lobby of the South Erie Postal Station.
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Silently, she preceded me.
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Taking those few steps required to reach the service window enclosure, again there was a door and again, as she reached forward, I took ahold and held it for her so she could get through with her cane.
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Again, she remained silent, not looking back in my direction.
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As we waited in line, she having stepped past both me and the others utilizing the materials island to prepare our packages for mailing, I silently observed her. Perhaps she was a “deaf mute”, the term my father had always used for one of his neighbors across from the barber shop on 5th. Or, maybe a first generation immigrant, preferring not to speak unless she could converse in her native tongue. These speculations, I decided, would explain her silence.
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Having completed the woman’s transaction, the postal worker wished her a good day. At that point the woman turned left, preparing to make her exit. In so doing, she spoke. Clearly, and distinctly, in perfect English:
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“Thank you, very much!”
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I watched her, moving slowly with her cane, to the door and out of the station. Checking an impulse to break from the line and follow her, I thought better of it, considering the number of tasks awaiting me at home.
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But, I wanted to follow her. I wanted to catch up, and speak to her. I wanted to ask her, to confront her. Why had she not thanked me, even once, for holding the door for her?
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What was it – my dark hair? my sunglasses? my yellow raincoat? The jeans. All my colors. My complexion? my bone structure? my ethnicity?
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Was it some vestige of either fear, or repugnance, she felt at the sight of me?
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Perhaps she’d preferred to make her own way through the doors, without any assistance at all. Was my gesture interpreted as condescending, or some unnecessary spotlight on her apparent infirmity?
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Some fleeting recollection of childhood spun across my subconscious. I was the only brown girl, in a legion of Anglo-Saxons. Always complimented for my “beautiful skin”, by our grandmother, for a moment I was that girl again, the one different from everybody else in the family. Then, fast forward, to Customs in the Toronto airport, 1984. My curly perm, and the cans in my carry on from the Scottish butcher shop; detained, interrogated and then, me, running with all my might to get to the gate before the plane closed its doors.
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I left the post office, walking through the doors of my own accord and out into the sun. I didn’t want to feel hatred, only wonder, and a little sadness.
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She was gone. Still, I heard my voice speak to the woman, declaring my self, my family history, reveling in the clarity of my perfect English. I, too, was a woman, my father’s daughter, and proud, thank you very much.
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5/31/19    Ruth Ann Scanzillo.     All rights those of the author, whose story it is, and whose real, Biblical, birth name appears above this line.
littlebarefeetblog.com

The Kiss.

 

I swooned with everyone else.

Not only was he tall, strong, and handsome, Cuomo was fresh, well rested, adroit, and the picture of health. A shrewd contrast to Maddow’s incisive, rapid fire analysis, this broadcasting commentator offered a more streamlined, to the point style which appealed not exclusively to heterosexual females but to everyone on the go seeking a solid, bottom line summary of the day’s political events. The package was just the icing on the beefcake.

Frankly, tuning in was already old to me; I’d been a daily news viewer for years. Perhaps growing up in a fundamentalist sect affected my latent thirst for up to the minute real time check ins on world realities. Who knew? For the past decade following the ticker had become my thing, and what better way to finish off the day than with a face which harkened to my own beloved? It’s true; both Cuomo and my significant other are genetically similar, bearing the wide, toothy grin and broadly open eyes of either Calabria or Campania, though mine a decade or so ahead in age and, okay, we Dagos like to keep it in the family. Besides, being on call in a hospital keeps my own absent on most evenings. But, you aren’t convinced.

So, it was time. Time for the latest heartthrob of the astute and vigilant to visit Colbert Nation.

He wouldn’t have been the first. AC had already been, as had his own late night comrade, D Lemon. But, he would be a first, and inimitably so. Chris Cuomo would bring his winsome charm all the way to the mats.

They’d made it nearly to the end of predicted reparte, “getting after it” for a solid twelve. Can we even remember how it came next? No. We can’t. But, we won’t forget it, either.

Somebody challenged somebody to the floor. Who could do 100 push ups?

The ties came off. The cuffs came up.

It was brain to brawn, lean to clean, waddaya mean. Counting aloud, the audience held their collective breath.

Then, just past 40-something, the inexplicable happened. The five second delay kicked in, and the frame froze. No amount of rewind could retrieve it; the outcome was lost. Cable rarely gave out, not nearly as often as dish, but it would be the next day, on the Tube, that we’d see why.

The host had been the first to give, well, because he was the host. Collapsing to the floor, Colbert curled almost fetal, closed his eyes, and smiled like a baby in a bassinet.

Then, Mario’s youngest did what all good Italian boys do. He laughed, crawled over on top of Colbert like a puppy in a litter, hugged him, and kissed him on his face.

Did the tape stop, on purpose? Was there a mad dash to edit?

Now, it might only be the Italian Americans who will have understood. We claim no corner on the market of affection, but we do hold this court. And, I’m betting that even the most stoic Swede in Minnesota felt it, right where open meets honest and fake is the joke, right?

That’s right. It’s all there, in the heart of everyone with a will and a brother.

Swoon on.

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© 5/29/19   Ruth Ann Scanzillo.   Thanks for the read, and the respect. Be well.

littlebarefeetblog.com