mental illness 1 adaptation 0..

I like John Nash, I really do. I like all brilliant people. They offer something. But his address at the APA’s 2007 conference [] pisses me off. Adaptive? Mental Illness like schizophrenia is adaptive? You have got to be fucking kidding me. First, my lifespan (bipolar + ADD) is ten, TEN years shorter than someone without it. I am more likely, BY FAR, to commit suicide than, not only people without a mental illness; but also, people who have other mental illnesses (i.e. not bipolar). I can’t work effectively (and neither could Nash). I am crazy talented, but I cannot keep focused long enough to actually turn a profit consistently. The last I checked adaptive behaviors INCREASED an individuals chance of survival, not the other way around. Please, God someone tell me that this article is quoting him wrongly.

It’s not that this disease is all bad, just mostly. I am grateful for it. I have learned so much, felt so much as a result of dealing with this. But not as a result of it. Crap, I just changed my opinion on something. Fuck me. I get it. The goodness, the creativity, the things I like about this disease; they are bi-products of me dealing with the disease, not of the disease itself. I have had to structure my life in a manner that reduces triggers, opens up channels of creativity, allows me to vary my endeavors. My lifestyle changes have helped to make me more attuned to my feelings, artistic abilities and intellect. This disease has not. This disease will most likely kill me. I am just trying to make my life as good as I can until that moment.

I love this moment, when something changes. New perspective is gained. I need to post something somewhere. And then sleep.


We may affirm absolutely that nothing great in the world has been accomplished without passion
– Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel


~ by aikaterine on July 9, 2007.

11 Responses to “mental illness 1 adaptation 0..”

  1. I find it’s like an evolution… first you’re confused because you have no name to give the reasons why you’re different than everyone else. At the second stage you’re given the name, but not the understanding. Someone who knows about these things tells you you’re manic depressive, then the third step is you grow into the generic role of a manic depressive, you eat the stereotype and Become A Manic Depressive. Then comes some understanding, maybe you read “An Unquiet Mind” or attend a seminar and believe that being ‘A Manic Depressive’ has some benefit if you just accept who you are and what it is… I think, eventually — if we live long enough — we come to understand that the disease isn’t us, and we are not the disease. It does nothing for us except destroy and take away. The highs, which are fleeting, are worthless… like an meth-high in a two-year old. And the depressions…

    In my opinion everything you’ve done, creatively, while dealing with the disease, all of that talent and skill, was in you with or without the disease. Your art would be different right now if you had been born without the disease, but that doesn’t mean lessor than…

    And, please, keep in mind that the vast majority of manic depressives do not commit suicide. Also, treating manic depression is a little like stopping smoking, your body does heal and those years you would have lost otherwise do come back.

  2. Hi there, and thanks for your kind words.

    I get what you mean about restructuring your life. I’m still in the middle of doing that but it is helping.

    Keep posting.


  3. “And, please, keep in mind that the vast majority of manic depressives do not commit suicide”

    I do, I was referring to the suicide rate of bipolar vs. non-bipolar. “In the Epidemiologic Catchment Area survey (2), the lifetime rate of suicide attempts in persons with bipolar disorder was 29.2%, compared with 15.9% in persons with unipolar depression and 4.2% in those with other major psychiatric disorders (excluding personality disorders).”

    29.2% is still unacceptably high, but not the majority. The link between bipolar disorder and suicide is fascinating on an academic level. There is not a lot of research on the “why” of it. But I wonder.

  4. “I get what you mean about restructuring your life”

    I believe, to the very core of my being, that health is dependent on structuring your environment in a manner that makes the most of your strengths while downplaying your weaknesses. And your strengths are intimately tied to your desires. I live an aesthetic ethic, and it works for me.

    I know restructuring is hard, but keep up with it. And feel free to ask me anything. It is something I have helped many people do well.

  5. Here’s how I would look at it:

    1. Nash is ‘suggesting’, not stating. He himself terms his inference as ‘questionable’.
    2. You are applying the focus on ‘adaptation’ to current life. He is applying it to aeons ago, to human evolution, and talks about adaptation in the context of the survival of the family or tribe, and not of an individual.
    3. His focus is thus, not on adaptation, but on diversity as a ‘necessary component’ of human evolution.
    4. As a celebrity making a public speech, I would assume that he does need to say something positive and encouraging about mental illness.

    If I were to believe and extend what he’s theorizing, I would imagine the ‘diversity’ trait of mental illness evolving as follows:
    1. Imagine while the other male cavemen went hunting and women were getting bored, one cave ‘man’ started entertaining them by drawing pictures on the wall. He may have had the very initial non-conformist genetic mutations of a schizophrenic, but served a useful function, and hence the mutation survived.
    2. Imagine another mutation staring blankly at the night sky and describing pictures and objects in the stars (constellations) when the rest of the cavemen were otherwise busy and focused on the ground. This led to others starting to study the heavens, forming primitive concepts of God, and the creative mentally ill caveman became a hero. (He himself may not have been mentally ill, but had the initial mutation and his decendants developed the full-fledged mental illness centuries later.)

    I know my examples are flawed, but what I’m trying to do is elucidate what Nash is suggesting as a possibility. It doesn’t actually relate much to our lives in this day, but is an academic opinion on the role of mental illness when we look at human history in terms of centuries or millenia. And I’m not believing in it either, but trying to help by trying to clarify Nash’s opinion.

  6. Mahendra –

    I never thought of it from that perspective. You have a very good and valid point. I still dislike the idea of anyone glorifying the disease in the current day. But I was a little shortsighted in my response.

    I am so glad that you commented.

  7. I must share Primate Diaries’ analysis of how schizophrenia came into being alongside human evolution:

  8. What I might state will seem maybe off the page to you but here it is: Consciousness has already decided how things will be, so relax; There is suffering which I understand, it is observed everyday in the body and the mind; but it is not observed as me. Disease, not a disease all has to do with this ridiculus way things are; but they are this way and must be accepted to be at peace.We do not suffer because of some so called disease or illness; we suffer because we believe that we are those illness’s. We are not!

    If it can be truly accepted and understood that we are infinite and that birth and death are just a body-mind thing, it will not magically make things such as pain disapear but it will let us truly enjoy our time hear. Death will not matter because we will see death is a part of this cycle. Who cares what they call it? I wasted too many of my years hear trying to figure out a way to get better and “show them.” I understand now that there is no “getting better” there is only freedom. Trying to “make sense of it all” and “get better” is the cause of bondage and will not lead to freedom. Do you think that those so called enlightened ones were basing there freedom or liberation on a body-mind thing? No – they were basing it on giving up on the body-mind; alot of the sages had all forms of illness and disease; but it did not matter; because their freedom broke through all layers of suffering. I would say if you want to not care what is called what and who is “right” and who is “wrong…” begin to study books by such names as Nisargadatta Maharaj; and you will see this in more.


  9. Something I learned early on is this: my mental illness is controlled by medication. As long as I take the meds, I am normal; i.e. this disorder does not careen around in my mind like Mighty Mouse trying to get out of a balloon. What I am now has nothing to do with mental illness, because the illness is under control. Maybe becauase my mother was an RN I believe that meds can and do alleviate and even stop pain. Whatever I am comes from the original me; it is beyond illness. It is the health I was born and developed from. I refuse to be the amputee who never looks up from his missing foot and wears hiking shorts to his friend’s wedding so everyone will know Who He Is – The Amputee! I have no more and no fewer obstacles to overcome than anyone else on this earth. I overcome them, like everyrone else does, with enlightenment, love, and forgiveness. Mental illness can never be a savior. My illness is not me. I get up every morning, take my meds, and get on with life. Listening to medical spokespeople whose chief concern is their own aggrandizement feeds the therapy of fear.

    Nice blog, best wishes, all you need is already in you. Gerard (above)is telling the truth.

  10. Gerard –
    I understand what you are saying. Thank you for posting.

    Mrs. Chippy –
    I agree with you on the meds issue. They have done a lot to help me in the last few years. I particularly appreciate the phrase “therapy of fear”. Thank you as well.

  11. I just identified your website on Ask Jeeves, a definitely excellent understand.

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