Reading is painting for the voice …noise for the eyes.
I read a lot. Social media, blogs, books, articles, journals, dictionaries, graffiti, toilet walls… probably TMI, but there you have it. I have read insatiably since I first discovered those letters, strung together, make words. Words makes sentences, and enough sentences make a story.
Stories that could take me away from small town, northern British Columbia and the dark of a long winter, to far away exotic places with sun, sea, palm trees, weird fruit, and the occasional murder or two. Really. My reading material was eclectic, wide in focus and broad in depth.
I read, “When Hell was in Session,” (Jeremiah Denton) when I was about 13, and it changed my perspective. I’d say, “changed my life,” but as a young adolescent, who knows what might have been? I just know that reading about those men in the prison camps of Vietnam formed a picture of courage, leadership, and sacrifice that has been a part of my values framework ever since.
We had no television (there wasn’t great reception anyway), and there were chores to do every morning while God was still snoozing, so evenings were taken up with homework, preparation for the next day, and family reading time (as little as possible of the former to maximise the latter). I have very fond memories of the whole family in various states of repose, books in hand. Our bodies were present but our minds and hearts were far, far away. Occasionally, one of us would laugh out loud (as when we all in various turns, read books by James Herriot), or someone would surreptitiously wipe away tears as we all did when taking turns reading, “Old Yeller.” National Geographic was devoured as soon as it arrived – some of us read the articles, others (i.e., my beloved Bothers) educated themselves through the photographs and captions. Our parents encouraged this behaviour by making the dinner table a forum for discussion, debate, and debriefing about what we were reading or learning at the moment. Some of those debates got pretty raucous. I loved it then, and I love now that it continues today when we get together as a family, and that we have all passed this love to our own children.
As with Mr. Denton’s biography, every once in awhile I have the privilege to read something that arrows deep into my soul. I know as I read it that it will stick with me; morph into an ideal, or a sorrow, or a value. Maybe even inform how I make future choices.
This morning, I read this…
We live in a culture where it can seem like everyone wants to be troubled. Nobody wants to be crazy. There’s something else, too. When you’re an addict who stopped, it’s something of a redemption tale. And everybody loves one of those. When you have a mental illness that will, if anything, get worse, people don’t really want to hear about that. No one wants to hear “I had a psychotic episode last week” when they ask, “How’s it going?” And they really don’t want to hear it again, when they run into you the following month and ask the same thing. The story arc of mental illness does not conform to the redemption tale. The anecdotes of mental illness, at worst, alarm people, and at best, make you a downer.
An excerpt from the article written by Rob Roberge and posted June 14, 2014.
As a society, a culture, a global village, we are not very good at not judging our fellow human beings. Particularly those individuals whom we believe, somewhere deep down, may be the authors of their own misfortune, or whom we believe should, “Snap out of it!” and get on with life …as if mental health disorders are on the menu of life choices and people with mental illness somehow chose badly. We lack compassion for those whose disorders or behaviours we don’t understand, or fear.
It’s definitely past time for humanity to educate themselves and get serious about recognising mental health disorders for what they are. Illnesses that no one chooses, and that require support, compassion, and empathy. Like, oh, say, Cancer? Or diabetes? Or Parkinsons? Or Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis? Or my personal fave, Multiple Sclerosis?
More about the stigma of mental illness here, here, and here. Think about following @NAMIMass (Twitter) as a way of educating yourself about the reality of mental illness and what you can do …wherever you are.
P.S. I will definitely be picking up Mr. Roberge’s books. If his books are written anything like this article, they’ll be satisfyingly worthwhile.