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Sunday, April 15, 2007

Afraid to Tell



The most disturbing movie that I watched as a kid was "in the Snake Pit". To this day I still shudder when I remember the various scenes that occur in the insane asylum (mental hellhole). I am not sure if I could ever view the DVD or read the novel by Mary Jane Ward.

The plot line involving someone waking up in an insane asylum and not remembering how she/he got there, as in the novel and 1946 movie adaptation, has been used in television and other media. Each time I view one of these films or TV shows, I cringe and sometimes walk away. I haven't understood exactly why I've had this reaction until today.

It was that classic movie and perhaps my own repressed fears that I would be put away in a hospital somewhere that provoke a deep anxiety.

In recent years I distinctly remember this plot line used in both Smallville and Star Trek: The Next Generation. And, each time, I watched the original airing of the show but, could not watch the re-run. I never could tell anyone how I felt about the use of this story line.

I have had family members in previous generations spend a week or two in what was the local hospital's "3 East" Ward. It seemed, like most everything else in this small town, that we all understood the meaning of "3 East". Most folks also knew what it meant when we heard that someone was "sent to Lapeer" -- the region's mental hospital/asylum had once been located in Lapeer, Michigan.

In my early years, I did not have an understanding of insanity and mental illness. That movie was enough to skew whatever I did learn or know. I certainly did not want any first hand knowledge.

Looking back, I did "live with" Bipolar Depression Type II from as early as I can remember. I remember one time, after being cruelly teased about my enuresis, that I went to my room and while crying pledged to myself that, if it continued, I would kill myself. Could I ever tell any one about how I felt? Unfortunately, no. Did the fear of being "committed" begin then? I don't know.

I do know that when I was in middle school I came home from school one day and asked Mom if I could read her copy of the book "Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex (but Were Afraid to Ask). She said "Yes." I guess the book was informative but I only remember things from the chapter about homosexuality.

It was a disease.

It was a mental illness.

We now know that various medical societies have, since the late Seventies, stated that homosexuality is not a disease/mental illness. (When the knuckle draggers finally accept "science", the world will be a better place to live.)

I knew before and after reading the book that I was a homo/fag/queer. My hypomanic imagination pictured me being "sent to Lapeer", at best, or being "thrown out of the house", at worst. I remember the day in middle school when a kid I knew came to school with wildly colored hair. I never saw him in school after that day. Would that have happened to me? I'll never know.

Reading that damn book planted more seeds of shame, helplessness, and despair. Hell, no wonder the attempts, by that Christianist witch of a teacher, to get me fired sent me into deep "Snake Pit" depressions. The ultimate stressor -- the "mind killer" -- is a threat to my livelihood, my integrity, and reputation. If ever I were to feel malice -- Diane would be my target.

Fortunately, all I feel for her is pity. Somewhere, somehow, her life must have been tragically bruised and she could not or chose not to love her neighbor as herself. Could it be that she does not love herself? Did Something Happen To Her When She Was Young? How could the love of Jesus be in the heart of anyone that seeks to destroy the life of another?

Once again, I know I need to pray for her and for myself. I have yet to forgive her. And, that is not what I've been taught to do....... (Saint Jude, Pray for Diane and me.....)

So far, it seems that I have escaped being placed in a hospital mental ward. My Bipolar Type I webring friends know all about that experience. Fortunately, I have never had a severe manic or depressive episode sending me to the hospital (knock on wood). I pray that I will never be in any sort of a "Snake Pit".

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