Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : April 23rd 2014 Contents A35
Wednesday, April 23, 2014 www.guardian.co.tt Guardian
There s something odd that happens whenever
I say to others that I m a mental health patient or
that I have been diagnosed as clinical depressive.
While I m quite comfortable with mental
illness/madness, I understand the discomfort such
a concept causes others especially because we ve
grown so accustomed to the discriminatory and
derogatory use of the term.
My abnormal mental situation does not scare me
nor does it instil unnecessary dread as it does in
others who may be so afflicted or who may just be
ignorant of the attending issues. Instead, I embrace
the condition and continue to work to help others
find a way with/through it.
In the book, Exploring Madness, the authors say
this: "Psychological disorders are usually considered
as illness; yet they are also perceived as somewhat
shameful---evidence of sin, punishable defects, a lack
of moral fibre."
This labyrinth of ideas about what madness or
mental illness is or isn t makes for much confusion
in the way we treat with people on a spectrum ranging
from short-term depression to insanity. It creates
for a "complex mixture of compassion, hostility and
In fact, I m aware that in order to diminish our
own anxieties, it s easier to label others and then
apply some humour.
We seem to think that all elements of mental illness
are tantamount to madness, which is presented as
violent or bizarre behaviour of some crazed individual
who flies into senseless rage, which precedes demented
If you ve followed my writing, you d know that I
always come back to this point---the axis of madness,
I call it, where it s imperative to talk openly about
mental health disorders and the attending negative
This I do in an effort to break down the prejudice,
chipping at it repetitively until I make a substantial
dent in the stigma or encourage a comparative increase
in advocacy from others like me on behalf of the
entire constituency, (which is 25 per cent of our pop-
"Madness is not well catalogued or codified;" says
Exploring Madness, "diagnostic labels are poor rep-
resentations of its inner world. There is ample evidence
that the world of insanity has parameters significantly
different from ours."
But it does nothing to explain to some that in the
world beyond a psychotic experience there are actually
positive and uplifting experiences, which take the
psychosis far away from the tragedy, illness, or curse
that it s deemed to be.
So, there I was, sharing in a public forum about
how delightful my life has been beyond the days
when I was known mostly as "Miss Verina daughter,
de one who went mad in the schoolyard at Cowen
Hamilton (Secondary)", hoping to inspire my audi-
It s always a risk. I was willing to take it because
on this public journey of my private circumstance
I need never to be cowed into silence by the inter-
pretations or misquotations of others.
I am free. Liberated sufficiently to speak of anything
in my life openly with only the concern for the fact
that some are unable to hear the real message.
That given, I ploughed through the mental notes
about being able to accomplish an impressive lot
even after that visitation of otherworldliness so early
in my life. I spoke about my days in the corporate
world and the difficulties I encountered, which forged
my pre-retirement in my 40s.
I shared too, about what my psychiatrist called
the "reinventing of myself" and the fact that I m
now a budding horticulturist with a lovely garden
house and a small business. And also, about how
happy and relaxed I ve become since I returned to
my childhood home and village and a life of minimal
To do that, I said I left behind the possibilities of
a well-paying job in media or communications having
attained a master s degree from a time of "reinvention"
and the fact that I d traded a constituency of friends
and relations for this solitude.
Other things were said and everyone looked happy
and supportive that I d been so open.
Fast forward one week. There I am sitting at another
public gathering when someone who was not present
at the one where I shared, singled me out and with
a stern, yet considerate, admonishment said at me:
"There is a thing you say about yourself that you
shouldn t. In fact, you should not let anyone say it
about you either. God is in charge and can heal every-
Bewilderment. I d been so careful in choosing the
words and expressions to describe my good fortune
in life having come from such apprehensive circum-
stances; it was difficult to think what could have
been transmitted from/about my previous conver-
All I know is that it d take some time before people
stop hearing "she mad" when I speak as eloquently
and cautiously as I do about the struggle that is
mental illness---a condition evident in one of every
four of us in any room.
I press on.
CAROLINE C RAVELLO
MENTAL HEALTH MATTERS
Standing again, at the axis of madness
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