Men’s ‘Rights’ Aren’t Right

Aside from the mental illness that many in media keep trumpeting, one of the other things that keeps coming up about Elliot Rodger (yep, another blog involving him, sorry) is the fact that he was quite misogynistic. Basically, he hated women, but mostly this hate seems to have come from the fact that they wouldn’t just approach him, be in awe of him, and then have sex with him, without him having to do any actual work. This is one of those things that has come to be the crazed wheelhouse of a group called MRAs, or Men’s Rights Activists (I’ll link to a Cracked article on the topic, because it’s more amusing than the vitriol I would spew). Essentially, they think that the more rights women get, the fewer men have; rights are essentially, to them, something only one gender at a time can have. This is, frankly, lunacy.

What is not lunacy, however, is the list of things that often, males (and in my case, male nerds) have been taught about life, especially the parts of life involving women. Being a nerd (or geek, I’ve never really been clear on the difference besides spelling), I like to see movies and shows where such characters are portrayed positively. I imagine most people are the same; cat-lover probably don’t want to see movies that show cat-lovers as crazed hoarders of felines, for example. I remember one of the earliest things I saw involving nerds was the movie Revenge of the Nerds. In it, at one o=point the chief nerd, Lewis, is in costume – oddly the same costume as the head jock, a costume that is full-body concealing. He meets up with the head jock’s girlfriend, who is, per stereotype, a beautiful woman, and going along with her assumption that Lewis is in fact her boyfriend, they end up having sex. Hang on, it gets worse. After this, or rather sometime during the sex, she discovers that she is having sex with Lewis rather than her boyfriend, but continues because he is so good – he notes afterwards that “All jocks think about is sports. All nerds think about is sex.” Not only does she not run screaming, but the two of them become an item. Yes, he basically rapes her into becoming his girlfriend. I didn’t get that when I first saw it, but I get it now, and it is really disturbing. This, and other good examples of how nerds have issues with both misogyny and entitlement, is in Arthur Chu’s recent article on The Daily Beast.

It makes me realize that I have certainly been guilty of this sort of thing in the past. I know in years past that I have complained to friends about how women ignore me, not entirely unlike Elliot Rodger. Obviously, I never went to the lengths he did, but looking back and seeing that is scary for me. I saw each of the relatively few times that I ever mustered up the nerve to ask a girl out and was then rejected as another data point telling me how I was doomed to celibacy. My one failed relationship took me years to get over – not because the woman involved was cruel, but because I was just too emotionally incapable to dealing with that kind of rejection, because the image of myself I had built in my head assumed that she would never reject me. Looking back now, the only time that I was actually rejected in a cruel way was when I started to ask a woman a question – not even a question involving asking her out – and she responded mid-question by telling me that she already had a boyfriend and had absolutely no interest in me. 

Nowadays, I think I’m doing much better in that regard; I managed to tell a woman I know here that I thought I might be interested in her, she said she wasn’t interested in me that way, and I accepted that and we are still good friends.  Some time after that, I took some time to think about a friendship I had with another woman, and (with the help of a friend) eventually admitted to her that I had feelings for her, to which she responded that she had similar feelings. That was Calla, and while we aren’t really sure where we fall on that continuum anymore – I’d like more than just friendship, but I don’t want to pressure her into anything that she would end up regretting – we can still talk about our feelings and our relationship like people who aren’t avoiding everything we feel. I doubt that I am in any way totally free of the toxic memes that seem to have been part of my growing up – I’m never quite sure if I am doing things differently around women than around men, and I think I feel a greater need to ‘protect’ women, even if they don’t need or want it – but I think Arthur Chu’s article, and probably many others, are worth a read just because it helps guys like me to examine exactly how things have gone for us in life and the assumptions we make because of that.

Also, and I really can’t say this enough, MRAs are deluded douchenozzles. Which, I think, is something that all right-thinking people can agree on.

 

 

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Fear

What is it about the idea of mental illness that makes so many people afraid of those who have a mental illness? I’ve never been quite sure. There are some cases where I can kind of understand it – a cannibalistic psychopath would scare the crap out of me, frankly. But I can’t recall ever being afraid of someone with mental illness just because of that. And right now, it seems like there are more than a few people who are scared of people like me just because of something I have no control over.

Elliot Rodger, the shooter from the recent killings in Isla Vista, California, was a violent, privileged misogynist, who seemed to hate basically everyone around him because they didn’t immediately give him everything he ever wanted. He also, apparently, had some kind of mental illness, though I haven’t seen anything saying exactly what it might be. And despite being a violent misogynist, it seems that a lot of people are focusing on the fact that he had a mental illness as a reason for why things went so wrong. At work on Tuesday, I heard a customer telling her friend that she wondered why, after ‘all these crazy people shootings’, that people with mental illnesses weren’t just locked up. Since I wanted to keep my job, I didn’t get to do what I really wanted to (which might have been proving her point, I grant), but instead had to smile and thank her for coming.

As I would imagine most readers here know (and, if you don’t, then this will be a shock, but come on, you’ve been missing the obvious), I have a mental illness. I’ve had major clinical depression for 14 years now. In that time, I have tried to commit suicide twice, but I have never tried to inflict any kind of criminal harm on anyone else. And, at 34 – 12 years older than Elliot Rodger – I have neither had a girlfriend nor had sex. I’m not a violent criminal, and I don’t hate women. In fact, despite my occasional claims of misanthropy, I don’t hate the majority of people. So, what about my having a mental illness is so scary to people like the customer on Tuesday?

Hell, after the time I have spent around other people with mental illnesses – people with anxiety disorder, depression, bipolar, schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder borderline personality disorder, psychosis, narcissistic personality disorder, Asperger’s, ADD, mood disorder, and even one with intermittent explosive disorder – the only one I was even a little worried to be around was the guy with intermittent explosive disorder, and that’s only because the staff at the acute care facility seemed to have a talent for setting him off. Well, I was also worried to be around my quintuple-felon roommate, but that was more because of the felonies than whatever his mental problems were. I’ve met some people with mental illnesses who really bugged me, but then I’ve also met plenty of people without mental illnesses who bug me.

So what is so scary about mental illness? Is it that there’s really nothing physical to see – that the illness is literally all in one’s head? Is it that it is something that can strike with little to no warning, and there are any number of treatments for these illnesses – but none of them are guaranteed to work? If it’s that, then all the people scared of mental illness should be terrified of cancer patients, as well.  I just don’t understand. What about my having a mental illness is worthy of making others scared of me just by virtue of my depression? Why aren’t we more scared of people who, I don’t know, are violent misogynists (as Laci Green explains so well)? What can I do to show people that my mental illness – indeed, most mental illnesses – aren’t things to be afraid of?

I am not a monster. I am just a man.

MHelp

Odd title, right? Well, I have a friend who is thinking about starting a website that is essentially a list of mental health facilities that she (and I, and some others we know) have been to, and comparing them; I mentioned that it was kind of like Yelp for mental health facilities, so I’ll stand by that title. I don’t think it’ll stick, and I’m sure she’ll come up with something more clever, but I thought I’d just get my writeups out of the way. I’ve been to three acute care facilities and one residential, between 2007 and now, and I’m going to rate them on a scale of 1-5.

Barnes Jewish (2 out of 5): This is the first acute care facility I was at, back in 2007. I don’t have a lot of clear memories about it, since not long after I was there I started getting ECT, but from what I remember, the staff, while not energetic or terribly interested, were at least nice and generally helpful. The facilities were kind of old, but kept up pretty well, and they had things to do for the patients – I remember there being a ping-pong table, and a decent-sized stack of books to read there; it was in that facility that I started reading a particular series. The patients, from what I remember, weren’t awfully friendly, but I also don’t remember being scared of them, so that’s a plus. Still, the general lack of informed care is really what drops this plus to a 2.

Mercy Hospital (3 out of 5): This is the second place I went, about 6 months or so after my stay at Barnes Jewish. I voluntarily admitted here, and I remember that it was a building separate from the main hospital. It was a relatively new facility, and while I remember it being kind of bare, I remember the staff were pretty friendly, and while I remember my roommate being a quiet guy, there were some other friendly patients there; I remember them asking me to look them up in World of Warcraft, but I don’t remember much more. I was getting ECT every day while I was there, so most of my memories are relatively fuzzy, but I do remember that it was a relatively decent place. Even though it was a good place, it didn’t really have any suggested help for aftercare, so it only gets a 3.

SSM DePaul Health Center (1 out of 5): This was the worst place I have personally been to; I was ‘voluntarily’ admitted there after my second suicide attempt. I remember it being very unpleasant; the staff were generally dismissive; they put me in a room with a 5-time felon; I was advised by a staff member that if one particular patient, a very large man with anger issues, asked for any of my food, I should just give it to them. The facility wasn’t very well-kept, and was fairly uncomfortable, and even the few activities they had to try to keep us busy – and by us, I mean basically a collection of all the mental disorders and illnesses you can think of, violent and not – were kind of half-assed. One time a social worker came in, and instead of actually talking to us about anything, she just turned on The Blind Side and then came back an hour later. I had to agree to more ECT to get out of there in less than a week, and the ECT was the only decently-run part that I remember. It was a miserable place, and I’m glad I could get out of there.

Menninger Clinic (5 out of 5): This was my only residential facility, so I may be biased, but this is my opinion. While Menninger is really expensive, every weekday had full days planned out, with multiple groups to attend and learn from, which I really enjoyed. The group setting – with no violent patients allowed – was a bit awkward at first, but it really helped to get across the point that I wasn’t alone in my illness. The staff was always helpful, and willing to listen if I had anything to talk about, and the social worker, psychiatrist, and psychologist I worked with were a very good team. While our activities were restricted, and we were only allowed out on supervised outings on weekends, I felt pretty comfortable there, and very safe. The food was great,if a little repetitive, and the availability of exercise equipment combined with the relatively healthy food choices helped me lose about 20 pounds while I was there. The treatment there, as well as the focus on help after I left – when I went into their aftercare program, it was a pretty seamless transition. The only problems I had there were a couple of patients who seemed to be a poor fit for the program, and who were very disruptive for my last 2 (out of 8) weeks there. But I made some great friends, and I’m still healthy and managing my depression over a year later, so I’d call that a win.

Dramedy

It’s hard watching a friend in pain. I know, because I’ve been doing it constantly for the last week or so. She’s having issues with someone she’s in a relationship with, and aside from listening, there isn’t anything I can do. I have to watch her as she gets anxious, nervous, angry, scared, depressed, because someone she cares about won’t talk to her, and won’t even tell her why. I understand that some pretty bad things were said – by her, from what she’s told me. But the silent treatment as punishment, with no idea when the end might be – that’s just torture. I’ve had that happen to me, and it is really difficult to deal with. So I can understand her pain, even though I know I am only getting one side of the story. The other side of it might be totally justified, but I don’t know it.

It doesn’t help that I am in the middle of my own personal troubles, either. I can’t even really say much about it here, because it might affect what I am trying to do in a negative way, but it’s rough on me, because I want so badly to be doing the opposite of what I am doing right now. There are several people whose opinions I trust on this, so I can only hope they are right, because otherwise I am going through this for nothing.

So, to take my mind off of these problems, in my downtime – which tends to be more towards the end of the night, at the moment – I am reading RPGs (right now, the Star Wars RPG made by FFG, the Cortex + Hacker’s Guide, and the Marvel Heroic Roleplaying Game), playing some games (Diablo 3 occasionally, and a couple games on Facebook), and looking for things to watch on Netflix. I just finished watching 2 Broke Girls, or at least the three seasons that are currently out, and it is hilarious; it’s a good way to raise my spirits.

So, my personal life is a bit odd right now, and I’m hoping that at least some of it will be resolved relatively soon, because I have enough going on in the rest of my life right now; I don’t need all this additional drama.

Miscellania

So lately I’ve had some odd things on my mind. And since this is my blog, I’m going to share them, whether you want me to or not. Sadly, they aren’t anything dirty, but they are almost totally unconnected.

One, I keep trying to find ways to exercise at work. For the most part, standing behind a cash register for 8 hours is boring. Really boring. No phone, no reading, no using the internet; the descriptions of the books in our database don’t tell us what they’re about, just page count, publisher, price, and availability. We can do Loss Prevention quizzes, but there are only 60 of them, we can do up to 20 a day, and after you’ve done them all, they repeat. So, exercising is a good way to pass some of the time. And, it’s exercise, so that’s good. It’s behind a cash register, though, so options are limited. But I’ve found some things that are relatively easy to do. First, incline pushups. Not as much gain as pushups on the floor, but it’s something. Our counters have two levels, so it gives a way to advance some, or to ease up on days when I feel sore. Second, doing a plank. Also on an incline, sadly, but the bosses frown on my lying on the floor, because I can’t see customers. Do that for a minute at a time, and it works out the ab muscles pretty effectively. Third, the vertical pull – stand close to the base of a wall, doorframe, or railing – I go with the latter – feet together, hands shoulder width apart, and while holding on, lean back, extending your arms, until your body is angled diagonally backwards. Then pull back in, and repeat. It works back and upper arms, and is a build-up to a pullup. Fourth, triangle pushups – still incline; but basically instead of putting your hands shoulder width apart, you put them close together until your thumbs and forefingers can form a triangle, then do pushups; it works different muscles, so gets a different burn. Finally, calf raises – just lift yourself up on your toes, slowly, as far as you can go, then go back down, and repeat. It’s not a great workout, but it does something, and it can help strengthen the back, which is invaluable for being a register jockey.

On to my next thoughts, which are on faith, and the slowly developing nature of mine. My reading of James Martin’s book (mentioned in a previous post, but for clarity, it is called The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything) has provoked a lot of thought. It’s not exactly an easy topic to get back into, after so long out in the cold. But the way he approaches it is relatively gentle and easygoing, which is helpful to me. One of the things I like about him is that even though he is a Catholic priest, he doesn’t push being a member of an established religion. I like that, because faith is a pretty personal thing for me, and organized religions seems to get in the way. Community is nice, and having people with similar beliefs around can be validating, but the bigger things get, the less personal they become – and then we end up with mega-churches, and theme parks that show dinosaurs living with Adam and Eve, and that just makes me want to beat my head against a wall, or other flat surface. I think that science is right, but I also think there is room for both science and religion; I don’t think scientists are trying to disprove God, I think they’re just trying to figure out how things work. I can respect that, because I do the same thing. I think that any God who is afraid of science – or who has deliberately planted evidence of things that might be false, just to test people who don’t believe some particular reading of the Bible – isn’t a God worth believing in. If we weren’t meant to look for answers, we wouldn’t have the ability to do so – we clearly do, so I think we were meant to look for ways to make the unknown into the known.

Finally, shame. I’ve had shame on my mind at odd and erratic intervals, and I realize that I have a lot of shame about things. I am ashamed of the way I look, because I don’t have the willpower to keep up a regular exercise routine or to avoid some of the foods that are probably really bad for me. It doesn’t help that I lack a thyroid, and so my metabolism is generally so slow it’s at a crawl, making weight loss even tougher than normal. And it’s shame because I don’t think it’s something bad I did, but that I am less of a person because of it. I am ashamed that I am so passive in relationships that I have a difficult time making decisions or asking people to do things, and so then we just kind of sit in an awkward area because I don’t know how to proceed. And I feel shame when I can’t help my friends, even when I know, rationally, that there are things – many things – I can’t help with, and things that, while I could help with, are better for them to do on their own. I don’t know why I feel so bad because of it, but I do. So I’m going back over the materials I have read on shame resilience to see what I can do to work on these things, because shame is really unpleasant to deal with. Thankfully, I’ve got people to help, and things that I can do to work on it, but it’s not an easy or fun process, because it can involve confronting some parts of myself that I am not too fond of.

Yeah, my brain can be more full of crazy than a bag full of cats. But that’s life as a guy with a mental illness, even when it is managed. Stay tuned for more hilarity!

Sign Blindness

Wow, six days since my last entry. That’s quite a while for my blog. It wasn’t intentional, but it’s been a busy week. After getting through the tornado/severe thunderstorm warning in Omaha on Sunday, and then getting back to Houston on Monday, I worked on Tuesday, and then again on Thursday. Something popped in my knee Thursday night, and then work on Friday, and then today, was very unpleasant. But I did get a chance to see Calla after work today, so that helped – literally, my knee actually felt better after spending time with her. Weird, right? And no, she didn’t even touch my knee, so get your minds out of the gutter.

But anyway, onto the title, signs. Specifically, the reading of them in relationships – and in this case, I mean a romantic, or potentially romantic, relationship between two parties (or more, I suppose, I don’t judge, it just sounds confusing). I’ve never really been in a relationship, at least officially; my one date with Calla is the closest I’ve been. And I have absolutely no idea how to read the signs women give, which makes knowing anything about moving forward in a relationship tricky. How do you know if there is chemistry? What if you feel it, but you have no idea if the other person does?

You would think this would be easier, considering that half, or more, of my closest friends are women, but nope, I am still completely in the dark. Hell, I don’t even know what relationship chemistry is. It probably doesn’t help that I have a relatively serious mental illness, even if it is managed, and that many of my friends are as well – as well as the person I am most interested in. So even the rules for ‘normal’ relationships probably don’t apply here. It’s all very confusing. Though at least I can take solace in the fact that I am by no means the only person who has problems reading signs. I’ve heard from at least one female friend that women have as much problem reading the signs with men as men do with women – and despite that probably not being true, I think I am going to believe it for now.

Future Tripping

Future tripping is one of the things that they warn us about in therapy – obsessing about the future, of what could be, when the future will get here and when will it be, is unhealthy. It can keep us from focusing on the present, of becoming so enamored of what is in the future that we completely lose track of what is happening around us. No matter how much you resist what is happening now, you can’t avoid it, and trying to will just make the present – and the future – miserable.

But right now, I am looking at the future, and trying to figure out what to do with mine. There’s always the possibility of going back to school for a PhD in English – I have much of the work done, after all. But as much as I like the material, and learning new things about it, the idea of going through all the stressing out over exams again, as well as worrying about what I would have to publish and how often to keep a job I may or may not even get just doesn’t really appeal to me.

I’m actually really thinking about social work. My sister just got her MSW, and while she is more interested in helping children, I (predictably) have a great degree of interest in the mental health field. Having seen what several psychiatric hospital are like, and having gone through a lot of mental health care, I think that I would like to help others who are having problems like mine, and try to see if there isn’t more that can be done for the state of mental illness care. I don’t have any experience in the field as an employee, but I have seen quite a lot from the other side of the table, as it were, and I think that a view like mine could be useful. 

Now, I am just starting to do research into schooling for social work, so I have no idea if this is feasible. But it is the path that is currently of the most interest to me, and I hope that something good will come of it.