13 April 2006

Only when and if the time comes

Twenty years, minimum. That's how much time must pass before people are able to write about the often concealed traumas of their pasts. At least that's true of my reading of late.

Bipolar disorder, suicide attempts, abusive parents, mental illness, addiction: the predominance of tales written about these experiences are finished with a final gloss of "I'm fine now though."

Is it because the writers weren't capable of sharing those stories until they were in some way 'better'? Some would say it's a matter of gaining experience and perspective, the wisdom to explain the tale. That's probably part of it, but mostly I think it's difficult to admit you've been broken when you still are.

If not that, then unresolved struggles are just less marketable. Without the triumphant outcome, how many people would want to buy a book and risk relating to someone flawed, ill, or hurt?

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  1. I'm not sure that you are on the right track there.
    For me it was more that I was so busy trying to compensate for being 'broken' that I didn't have any energy to explain or describe my situation to people who had no knowledge of it.

    People who don't have any issue like manic depression have a hard time understanding the effect it has on your ability to accomplish the most basic things.

    So you have to figure out ways to get stuff done, things that other people take for granted.

    It's like life is a race, and everybody starts out even, except if you are mentally ill. Then it's as if you start out up to your waist in mud.

    Meds take away the mud, to some extent, and therapy shows you haow to run on solid ground.

    After which, you are ready to write your best seller.

  2. It makes you wonder why they wanted to make the film United 93 (that's the title, isn't it?) already. Erh, it couldn't possibly have anything to do with box office?

  3. Tracy Lynn: Good point. I did cast a pretty wide net.

    Scholiast: Yeah. I saw the trailer in the theater a couple weeks ago, and it was so hard to watch. At the time, I couldn't think of who'd go to see it, and I also felt like I finally understood why people got upset over movies about Vietnam when I was young.

  4. I'll admit without hesitation: I'm broken. Like many members of my family, I've suffered from severe depression, and I still haven't any meds for it. (Other than St. John's Wort, that is. Life without health insurance is crap.) The reason I don't speak much of it is because 'depression is in.' Every time I've mentioned depression in public, I get constant refrains of 'Oh, sure, I'm depressed, too. I hate my job, and I've been cranky lately.'

    I don't think people understand that a neuro-chemical depression is slightly different than having a bad week. (And I strongly reiterate Tracy's statement, "People who don't have any issue like manic depression have a hard time understanding the effect it has on your ability to accomplish the most basic things.")

    And then there's this feeling of whiiiiiiiiining when I mention it, which is again afflicting me right now. ;)

  5. the Retropolitan: you said "neuro-chemical depression is slightly different than having a bad week."

    I would go further and say it's very different.

    As for no health insurance, it does suck, but sometimes that can work in your favor. You're in NYC, right? Chances are good you can get treatment for low/no-pay through services offered through the city. SF has a program like that.

  6. You're onto something here. I think its got to do with the fact that you can't be rational when talking aout a situation you're still in. You need to have some "emotional distance" in order to be able to be able to be objective. It helps make the pain of talking about it more bearable too.
    Thats my humble point of view.


  7. Oops, no anon! That was me!

  8. that's some heavy reading you are partaking in lately. ;)

    i think you may be onto something. plus, if a person is so IN it, it may or may not come out making any sense to anyone, even themselves.

    though, come to think of it, it might be a welcomed read to someone who is struggling to see themselves in those pages...

  9. Fitena: "emotional distance" is a good way of putting it. I wasn't sure I was getting my point across.

    Sizz: seriosly, right? I'm sure it says more about me than I was intending, but you get the idea. Hindsight is 20/20 as they say, but it has a way of making struggles seem simpler than they must have been. Condensed to the highlights, a person's progress, revelations, or growth starts to seem regular and inevitable when it may have taken them years and many false starts to get where they are now.

  10. "Emotional distance" is a cliche that is thrown around too much. However, distance, emotional or otherwise, does add perspective, and allows you to examine your own role in the problem.

    For me, it took over 25 years to admit that I played a role in my own disasters.

  11. I'm not sure I agree with your proposition as a whole (although I'm very leery of this Flight 93 movie).

    It seems to me that most lives are works in progress, and if we had to wait until we were "healed" we may never write anything (not to mention that for some, the writing is cathartic).

    What I don't like is writing about pain when the whole goal is to promote that point of view. Elizabeth Wurtzel is a good example of this. You read Prozac Nation and (to many) it feels so real, so profound. Then her "next" book comes out, you're like, "Wait a minute! Why didn't you mention this stuff the first time? You were yanking my chain!"

    In some situations, maybe they should wait until a semblance of sanity has taken hold before telling us what it all means.

  12. Hyperion: I don't mean to say that people don't write while they're in the situation/experience/whatever. My comment was just an observation about when writers I'd read chose to share those experiences with the world- usually at a point where they'd (mostly) reconciled old issues or had found (some) stability after serious mental illness.