Southern, so.

There is no real good place to start with our asynchronous conversation about the weirdness in my head. So, we are going to start in the middle and work our way out.  I am still, very much, a work in progress – I have just gotten to the point where I can talk about it. And thats where the southernness comes in.

Most of the world views the south as either Texas or Dukes of Hazard. I once had a person, I met on my travels, ask if we have paved roads. No, really.  They were dead serious. (And if you are wondering, yes our roads are paved. In fact, Charleston has 10 miles of cobblestone streets dating back to 1720’s. So, we have been paving for a while.)

No matter your view you realize the south has a culture. One thing that is very taboo, even today, is mental illness. People around these here parts don’t talk about mental illness. Depression or succumbing to depression is a sign of weakness or some internal flaw that reflects on you and your family.  If it is mentioned its in a hushed tone and in a “damaged goods” kind of way.  “You know the Wilkins boy has ….(whispered) mental issues. tsk tsk.” The tsk is not for the boy but the family.  There must be something wrong with the whole crowd.

Often, depression here is described as the result of “bad thinkin’ “. “Just think differently” and your problem will evaporate. I can’t think away a deficit of serotonin. Why would people even believe it could work that way? Its because we don’t talk about it and have a group immaturity on the subject.

This environment has two major flaws when dealing with mental illness: 1. People are not comfortable telling others of their needs or the needs of the ones they care for.  Its admitting you are a lower quality person than everyone else. 2. Most importantly, we don’t have language to describe what is going on. I can remember sitting in an emergency room (ooooh, foreshadowing) telling a doctor that I did not know the words to describe what was going on in my head. I needed him to ask me questions to help arrive at the problem. He didn’t. He made an assumption, gave me antipsychotics and sent me home. I did not take them and two days later I had a swollen liver and jaundice. But, thats a story for another day.

The point is I could not describe what was wrong to a doctor and he jumped to a conclusion before he even tested me. I needed an impartial diagnostician and what I got was, “Poor Wilkins boy.”

I love the south, but, I know that this culture caused me to live with mental illness for decades longer than I should have.  I am not damaged goods.

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