Here Is Your Open Thread

Friends talk about cancer and other physical maladies more easily than about psychological afflictions. Breasts might draw blushes, but brains are unmentionable. These questions are rarely heard: “How’s your depression these days?” “What improvements do you notice now that you have treatment for your ADD?” “Do you find your manic episodes are less intense now that you are on medication?” “What does depression feel like?” “Is the counseling helpful?” A much smaller circle of friends than those who’d fed us during cancer now asked guarded questions. No one ever showed up at our door with a meal.

Larry Lake’s essay for Slate about his daughter’s mental illness and drug addiction is beautiful.

Photo: spazzgirl555


21 Comments / Post A Comment

WayDownSouth (#3,431)

It was a well-written story and I enjoyed reading it. That said, junkies and alcoholics don’t get the same sympathy from the general public as cancer sufferers and car crash victims. Surely the writer couldn’t have been surprised by this.

sh (#5,016)

@WayDownSouth But there’s also huge stigmas associated with mental illness and addiction in a way that, cancer doesn’t have — including, say, someone who has smoked all their life and gets lung cancer. I think the point isn’t that it’s surprising but that it’s an unhealthy dichotomy, especially when people who are dealing with addiction/mental illness could really use the kind of support that cancer patients have during recovery or low periods.

Mostly I was thinking that often the reason people don’t offer help when there’s a crisis surrounding mental illness and addiction is because the people at the center of that crisis often go to great lengths to hide it. Even if you are “out” as a someone with mental illness or addiction it’s often something that you try to downplay or hide the effects of. (While I have certain issues with some of the ideas in this book I think that “Covering: The Hidden Assult On Our Civil Rights” presents a model that is very familiar to people with mental illness, physical disabilities, and addictions.)

So, basically, I don’t think he’s surprised. I think he’s sad and upset and understandably so. Sometimes compassion is thin at the very moments it is needed most.

WayDownSouth (#3,431)

@WayDownSouth yes, you make some excellent points. I particularly like the one about people with mental illnesses trying to hide it, as opposed to someone with a broken leg. I hadn’t considered this.

I don’t know how to show this compassion to someone who I’m concerned is developing alcoholism. I assume that I shouldn’t simply buy her alcohol or subsidise that activity financially. I also assume that I shouldn’t lecture about the evils of the demon drink or note that her professional life is stagnating. I therefore wonder how to actually help this person (if I can help at all). I’m very interested in your thoughts.

sh (#5,016)

@WayDownSouth Ahhhh, I don’t know that I am the person to ask, unless you want a litany of all the things I’ve done in your situation that were the exact wrong thing to do. Learn from my mistakes I guess:

–don’t promise to keep secrets, especially from people who are on the front line with you
–don’t drink/get high with the person
–if you believe the person to be in danger of harming themselves or others (or yourself) don’t hesitate to call 911
–as you say, don’t subsidize the person’s lifestyle, including giving them a place to stay with no end date and providing them with essentials like groceries, medication, etc
–ignoring the situation/pretending like it isn’t happening
–draw firm boundaries; don’t negotiate or plead. have a firm line “you need to stop or I can’t help you/talk with you/etc anymore” instead of “you should stop, please, I can help”
–get second and third and fourth opinion. Research. Tell people about the situation that *you* are in, have people on Team You, especially if you are in the tenches day in and day out. Take care of yourself first. Other people who are dealing with the person’s addiction with you, take care of each other second.
–Don’t blur the line between friend/family and caretaker; between telling the person what to do and being permissive

Quotes from an e-mail I wrote to someone about my experience that may or may not be of help:

“We didn’t think of X as an addict who needed help — though she was — we thought of her as our friend who needed help and therefore were more lenient, because we wanted to believe the best of her. I’ll say this, if I had to do this for someone else, I would tell them that I won’t let them stay with me, I won’t give them money, I won’t pay for their food, and if they call me and there is an emergency I will call 911 for them.  I would tell them that I will be there if they want someone to hold their hand during detox, if they want someone to help them fill out hospital/insurance/finacial forms, if they want someone to call rehab centers or find lawyers or doctors.  I wouldn’t tolerate a “don’t tell anyone” promise.  X tried to play people off against one another and that’s why information sharing is so important.  Plus, if she tells you that she hasn’t used in three days, but tells another friend that she was with her dealer yesterday then there’s probably a lie in there somewhere.  If I was doing this again I would (god this is going to sound callous, I’m sorry), mourn my friend and then treat the addict who remains with the utmost caution — they’re like the body snatcher that took your friend.  You have to find a way to work with them because they have your friend’s body, but they aren’t your friend.  You have to hope, pray, wish for luck that someday they’ll let your friend’s body go and you’ll get your friend back, but you can’t count on it.

I would guess that firm but gentle is probably the best way to go about things — calm, rational, firm.  It’s the opposite of what we were — emotional, willing to negotiate, etc.  Don’t negotiate, don’t try to force her to do something against her will, don’t rise to any bait.  On the one hand, showing her how upset she is making you could be the thing that convinces her to change, on the other that kind of emotional leverage was something that X used against us all the time, so I’m wary of suggesting you let her see the extent to which you’re torn up about this.  I don’t think you need to push her to rock bottom — I’m not sure how you would without also pushing her away — but don’t try to prevent her from getting there.  Which sounds awful, I know, but you can’t force her to want to be clean, you can only let her know that you will be there for her when she does want to be clean.  Realize that the addict will try to play you — the addict wants the drug.  The addict can be charming, terrifying, cold, alien, hilarious, dangerous, convincing.  The addict is not your friend.

Seek the advice of drug councilors, therapists, etc.  The more different ways you have of tackling the problem the better you’ll be.  If something doesn’t work you’ll have more options. … I think that to deny that anger exists in this situation is dishonest — the problem is really to temper that anger with the knowledge that yes you do love this person. It’s just really hard to hold both versions in your head, your friend & the addict, at the same time. It’s the absolute definition of a love/hate relationship.”


Things are more clear once you’ve gotten that person into a rehab center (as in the article). I think that in the example in the article, a family member in rehab, there are tons of things to do: visit the person, write the person letters, let them know that you still love and care about them and their family, help them try to pick up the slack in the rest of their lives a la the giving food to someone with cancer example*, offer to drive them to and from appointments if they don’t have a car/lost their license, just be there for them as a friend/family member, listen, distract them with things like games or movies just to give them a break from all the other stuff.

*Addiction recovery, as with any recovery from a serious (chronic) illness takes spoons: — spoon theory is originally for physical disability but can also be applied with caveats to mental illness/other illness, which addiction is; offering to help — not forcing help of course — with daily tasks can allow the person more energy to focus on recovery.

And, for mental illness it’s this whole other, if related, ballgame that varies so much depending on what illness and what severity things are. In some ways I have much more experience with mental illness recovery as the “recovery” bit was never fully realized in my experience w/ X’s addiction. Whereas I have seen people come back from stays in mental hospitals, from being suicidal, etc.

Ahhh, yeah. I am going on and on now. I don’t really know that I’m the best person to ask about this stuff, but I hope this was helpful anyway. GOOD LUCK TO YOU. Addiction is the worst, addiction makes people the worst. <3<3<3<3 Be kind to yourself, no matter what happens.

WayDownSouth (#3,431)

@sh thank you so much. That’s very helpful and I’ve learned quite a bit from it.

Thanks for sharing this, Mike. It’s such a good point. When I was hospitalized in high school, it was an unspeakable thing, and very difficult for my parents (and me, but I was at least being cared for by professionals – they weren’t) to go through in isolation. I remember at one point during that period of several months when I was out of school and stuck in the hospital, getting a get-well card from one of my favorite teachers. It was the only thing like that any of us got, and it meant so much.

I think I’m going to send some people some cards this weekend. Thanks for making me think about it.

aetataureate (#1,310)

The recent political trolling on here is stressing me to the maxx. (This comment is not at all related to the link on this post.)

sherlock (#3,599)

@aetataureate Wait do you mean in the comments, or in the posts? Genuinely just curious.

aetataureate (#1,310)

@sherlock Comments always. Never posts. It feels like some kind of spambot is sitting waiting for people to say key terms — then not read context at all and just respond to them robotically and without the charity implicit in a literate human brain.

Liz the Lemur (#3,125)

@aetataureate And the spamming. While the political trolling is definitely the most bothersome, the secret spammers are irritating me a lot too. Although, I almost want Logan to interview one of them – it seems like they are in fact real people working somewhere on this earth.

EDaily (#4,396)

@aetataureate Eh, it stopped bothering me (I know who you are talking about), because I realized that that person doesn’t even try to have a reasonable conversation about anything. I remember watching Mike try to have a nice, fair conversation with that commenter and the commenter basically ignored all the fair, reasonable things he said to continue pushing his own agenda (which Mike even agreed with to some extent!). Basically, do not engage if you expect to have a calm, rational discussion with that person.

aetataureate (#1,310)

@EDaily I totally know you’re right but it’s so hard not to engage, and also I’m mad that this person has invaded what was formerly such a pretty safe internet space, knamean? It’s a bummer. But no, you’re right. There’s also an echo chamber that follows that person and adds equally brainless followups. I need to stop.

Eric18 (#4,486)

@aetataureate I assume you are talking about me. You can call me a troll if that makes you feel better and gets you thumbs ups. But just because a person holds different viewpoints and is a more direct in their opinions than you doesn’t make that person a troll.

Also, if you want to post on the open thread about how much you don’t like my posts partly in order to get support, that is much more similar to an echo chamber than anything I have posted.

WayDownSouth (#3,431)

@Eric18 I like your posts and enjoy reading them.

Maybe some people don’t like yours or don’t like mine. Since no names were used, it’s difficult to say. Hopefully, if someone has an issue with another contributor, being specific about what is wrong will help to clarify the discussion.

qwer1234 (#4,140)

@aetataureate This. I don’t read comments section anywhere else on the internet now because they’re all full of such odious garbage. I’m still in the habit of reading The Billfold’s comments because they’ve always been so friendly and constructive–even in disagreement. Like you said, it was safe internet space. And I’m sure I’ll get shit for not wanting to hear opinions different than mine, and that’s okay. I’m not that interested in the opinions of people who spend an inordinate amount of time tearing down strangers on the internet they’ll never have to look in the eye.

laluchita (#2,195)

I’ve been really trying to talk about my depression and anxiety openly, and even at work. It means naming my anxiety, talking about my medications, talking about therapy in the same way that I do about other illnesses/issues in my life. Even though I work with an organization that is REALLY good on disability/accessibility issues, it’s terrifying (no pun intended) to regularly reference the fact that I have generalized anxiety disorder and I’m not always the best at dealing with it.

andnowlights (#2,902)

I work at a university and was talking to one of my students today. Happened to mention that I have generalized anxiety thing and it turns out she does too! It’s so important to talk about, because it makes people feel like they’re not the only one with this problem and gets rid of the stigmatization that “oh, you’re anxious, you can’t be a functioning person” when really I’m quite functional and awesome!

Derbel McDillet (#1,241)

How soon is too soon to ask for a raise/promotion? A little background: I’ve been at my company/position for 6 months. When I interviewed, I made it clear that one of my professional goals what to obtain a certain certification. This certification requires one year of work in a certain professional class with a masters degree (which I have). My current position would require a small classification bump to meet the requirement. My interviewers seemed excited that I was interested in this certification, since it would also look good for my department/supervisor.

So now I have my 6 month review coming up. My supervisor has already told me it will be “glowing” and I’ve received exclusively positive feedback since I started. Would it be out of line to ask if/when I could expect this bump? I’m thinking of couching it in a “I’m very future-oriented (which is true) and would love to discuss what you see for my future with the department.” Is that too much for a 6 month review? Save it for the year?

jquick (#3,730)

@Derbel McDillet I’m someone older who worked Corp America and made all the mistakes. Definitely make sure your boss knows you want to be promoted, and what exactly are the measurables to get you there. If you don’t specifically say you want to be promoted, for some reason, bosses don’t realize it. Re what happens when you get your Cert, it’s perfectly acceptable to ask “just so it’s clear to me, what should I expect after I receive xxx?” If there is a raise, its ok to talk about it. What is the range, or is it a standard amount? do you have to do something in order to get it (fill out paperwork with copy of Cert). Volunteer to give a 20 min lunchtime lecture on what you learned.

I’m NOT so keen on you asking boss man what she/he sees as your future in the dept. that sounds like you are future oriented, but leaving it up to boss to figure your future out. My best advise is to learn all you can…so you can take it with you to your next gig. Good luck.

Derbel McDillet (#1,241)

@jquick Thanks! I really appreciate the advice.

WayDownSouth (#3,431)

@Derbel McDillet there’s another way to approach this discussion as well.

I’ve worked in the IT industry for quite a few years. Professional certificates are nice, but not aren’t an end in themselves. On the other hand, my mother was a public school teacher and received an automatic pay raise after finishing her masters. So the answer may depend on the industry that you’re in.

When you speak with your supervisor about a raise or promotion, I’d focus on your job-based achievements, the projects which you have completed and their benefits to your customers and/or the department. Your manager can then consider whether you can continue to deliver at a higher level or need to gain more experience to do so. You can ask your manager what skills that you should focus on to get the promotion. In this way, you’re asking for guidance, not for him or her to come up with the solution.

You may also want to ask about the pay bands for your role and how you’re positioned. If you’re near the top, then you’d need a promotion for a raise. If you’re not, then the manager has more flexibility regarding your salary.

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