Discussion → It took me awhile to figure out what Millness meant

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    Gloria Garfunkel
    Aug 07, 07:37pm

    I don't like using M in place of mental. It implies shame and still being in the closet. It disturbs me.

    I kind of like Mark Vonnegut's upbeat title "Just Like Someone Without Mental Illness Only More So: A Memoir," only the mentally ill are both more and less so at different times and have experiences those without the illness cannot fathom. I have been a psychotherapist for thirty years, recently resigned and have my own issues. The complexity of mental illnesses and the interact of biology and environment are mind-boggling. Even the medications are a crap shoot. I have a lot to say and will try to use this brave new group by Ann as an inspiration for posting some stories. Thank you Ann for your courage and good humor.

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    Ann Bogle
    Aug 07, 08:20pm


    "Mental" is a label I use privately like "queer" but only on myself, and my mother is horrified by it. I ought to say persons diagnosed with mental illness. I think there is another designation "severe and persistent mental illness" applied by variously trained therapists to that population?

    [quoted from my msg. to Gloria:] "Sorry I had to isolate the -ese (language) used on the population, but I lived more than a decade regarded as lost to mental category and not a writer or even a woman, so it is important that I keep the harsh clinical (dry) (without narrative) angle applied to [all patients, including] displaced academics or artists living with the dxs. Minneapolis has a strong reputation in the arts and yet the clinical community, governed so much by chemical dependency treatment programs, is constricting, and I need to convey that. Writers are my focus in this group, but those who join need not be d'x'd. Mark Vonnegut on the radio in NYC woke me from a social coma. I love him!"

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    Ann Bogle
    Aug 07, 11:03pm

    Anxiety, PTSD, rx side-effects, shock are physical for me. Only me?

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    Gloria Garfunkel
    Aug 08, 12:06am

    Our brains are probably the most complex organs of our body, and control the whole body, so yes, mental trauma is also experienced as physical, not just "imagination" or "in the head." There is a distinction between neurological and psychiatric because until recently you couldn't see much wrong with mentally disordered brains. But psychiatric illness gets very complicated with maladaptive behavioral and interpersonal interactions due to the havoc it wreaks on emotions. But it's all in the brain, all of it, even the pain in your knee. And some people are more intolerant of the effects of medications/poisons and that's in the brain too.

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    Gloria Garfunkel
    Aug 08, 12:08am

    And I love you picture from the periodic table. Lithium, the treatment of choice for bipolar disorder, is an element. And element. If that's not biological, what is?

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    Ann Bogle
    Aug 08, 01:09am

    M ILLNESS is better than Millness. I borrowed M ILLNESS from your email. Milly Niss died of multiple health issues. She had been accepted to study mathematics at Princeton U after completing her B.A. at Columbia U in French and poetry. She had a breakdown that led to her diagnosis with bipolar, I think, and she found that she could no longer perform advanced mathematical reasoning and returned to poetry. She inquired at the Buffalo Poetics Listserv about commonalities and differences in poetry written by diagnosed v. not-diagnosed poets. It was met silently. Someone attacked her back-channel, and she forwarded that not-diagnosed poet's comments to the list. After she died of other health problems, someone asked, "Did she ever give up her idea that she had a mental illness?" That poet's comment reminded me that people tend to feel that either someone is not mentally ill, so misdiagnosed, where misdiagnosis would be perceived as an injustice, or that his or her ideas or art issue from faulty brain chemistry, thus classing the work in a lower hierarchy. A test of an artist's competence might be logical (normal, conventional) prose behaviors outside his or her abstractions in poetry.

    Suddenly, I am reminded of erasures in poetry, for example, Janet Holmes' THE MS OF MY KIN, a collection of her erasure poems based on the POEMS OF EMILY DICKINSON.

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    Ann Bogle
    Aug 08, 01:19am


    a. 1. (Anat.) Pertaining to, or situated near, central or deep parts; inner; - opposed to ectal.

    Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary, published 1913 by C. & G. Merriam Co.

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    Misti Rainwater-Lites
    Aug 08, 09:25am

    I've never received a consistent diagnosis. Major depression. Clinical depression. A psychiatrist in rural Texas (!) told me I am possibly bipolar. Hmmm. I have been off meds for a while now. I like Bat Shit Crazy. I think that would make for a kick ass group.

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    Lucinda Kempe
    Aug 09, 12:46am

    I got M Illness right off; familiar territory. My father was a paranoid schizophrenic. I have GAD (general anxiety disorder) and situational depression alleviated by writing, exercise, therapy, support groups and, best, gallows humor.

    I feel at home already.

    Thank you for the invitation, Ann.

    Haven't been around F much lately. Looking forward to reading stuff here.


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