Funny in the Head

Like many other mentally ill people, I include a handful of sane citizens in my inner circle of esteemed friends. I don’t do this because I like them, I don’t do it because I think they have anything to offer me, au contraire mon petit fromage, I do it because my slavish devotion to a facade of political correctness dictates that I must pretend to believe that sane people are as good as folks like us. (This is nonsense, of course. These Wonder Bread and mayonnaise chomping chumps have been denied the advanced education in life’s rock hard realities mental illness affords and consequently must be tolerated with patience, good humor, and condescension as they muddle through their Romper Room existences.)
According to a recent survey, 90% of surveys referenced on the Internet are entirely fictitious. According to an entirely different, completely credible, survey, 87% of all information posted on the Internet is “useless, stupid, false, and/or toxic.” Survey author, Chumley Entwhistle, Dean Of Psychology at Basingstoke University, expanded. When he was finished expanding, he explained. “All of us remember the first time our parents caught us shooting heroin. We said, ‘But all the kids are doing it.’ To which our parents replied, ‘If all the kids were setting fire to their hair, would you do that too?’ After a considerable amount of soul searching we realized that we would.
Readers often ask, “Alistair, don’t you have any shame?” I am happy to answer them, “No, no I don’t.” Before you dismiss this remark as glib braggadocio, let me quickly add that shame has a very particular role in the lives of mentally ill people. After all, it was Taz Mopula who observed, “Guilt is when you feel badly about something you have done; shame is when you feel badly about something you are.” Gentle reader, not much in life hurts more than feeling horrible about your very self, your identity, your being. So when I say that I have no shame I mean that I have burned through every scrap of embarrassment I ever felt about being bipolar. I have acted out maniacally in the spotlight’s naked glare and looking back upon it does not raise a blush – quite the contrary, now I wear these memories like medals, battle scars I paid for very dearly.
Did you know that Socrates suffered from agoraphobia? Did you know that Kim Kardashian is credited with inventing narcissism? Did you know that Nostradamus committed suicide on Easter just so he could get credit for predicting the day of his own death? If you said, “Yes” to any or all of these statements you might want to consider your sources because they are absolutely not true. (Paris Hilton invented narcissism.) The world of mental illness is a quagmire of myths, misperceptions, and odd facts. So, instead of our regular cerebral deconstruction of themes relevant to the mental health community, let’s have a little fun and examine some of them.
Summer vacation season is fast upon us and with it visions of lazy afternoons stretched out on an oversized beach towel, savoring a hypnotic symphony of wave upon wave smashing sand in accordance with an ancient, cosmic groove, and diving headfirst into a pleasantly refreshing book. As luck would have it, I am pleased to introduce the First Annual Funny in The Head Recommended Summer Reading List, designed exclusively for people who, when they’re all not here, are not all there.
It’s that time of year again, time for the mentally ill in our midst to pack up the dysfunctional family and set out on what it known, with charming imprecision, as “the summer vacation”. These excursions into extravaganzas of unfulfilled expectations, simmering like gumbo on a sultry Louisiana evening before appearance as fully-formed resentments destined to plague psyches for decades to come, always seem to begin with an air of insouciance and breezy optimism based necessarily on our ability to forget what happened last year. We sally forth, armed to the gills with digital devices which, we believe, will simplify our lives rather than dominate them with unintended and unnecessary complexity, as they actually do; the very opposite of what one imagines for a vacation since the word, simply, means to remove one’s self from the pressures of normal reality – not take it with you.
Much has been written about mental illness among human beings, but almost nothing about mind maladies among those of the canine persuasion, aka man’s best friend, or, more popularly, dogs.
Ours is an age of scientific marvels where the distant fantasies of yesterday have been productized, packaged, and delivered to customers remotely before they even realized they wanted them. It leaves one breathless. Science, traditionally a discipline devoted almost exclusively to the enterprise of capturing insects, applying Latin names, then cutting them in sections, continues its ascent. Today, as society’s moral center erodes and the values traditionally associated with organized religion crumble, we observe that science has supplanted religion as the new sociological belief system – ironic, really, since there are no beliefs in science as such – only facts, or so the guys in lab coats remind us. Whether or not science, as an entity, actually reflects values, it is certain that society has put its faith squarely in science, relying on it to cure social ills and flatten barriers to the orgy of self-indulgence that characterizes contemporary life. And why not? Wasn’t it science that put men on the moon? Wasn’t it science that split the atom and teased open the mysteries of nature when nature wasn’t looking? Of course it was.
When you get to be my age you start asking yourself questions like, “What time is it?” and “What am I doing in Tijuana?” and “Where are my teeth?” If you are about to celebrate a birthday, (if celebrate is the right word), you may be tempted to gaze across the seemingly endless succession of impulsive decisions, high-speed car chases down cul-de-sacs, and manic spending sprees littering the ravages of what you generously describe as “your life” and wonder how you managed to squander the cornucopia of opportunities strewn at your feet as a child. Or not.
The Internet is a repository for mental illnesses of every description, but did you know that the Internet is also one of the leading causes of mental illness? That’s the conclusion of researchers at The Institute for Advanced Study of Studied Institutionalization (IASSI) who recently published a comprehensive white paper detailing their findings. At a recent press briefing, IASSI spokesman Reginald Frampton elaborated. “Mentally Ill People, referred to as MIPs in our document, are particularly susceptible to the sustained level of psychosis that characterizes Internet traffic. “MIPs are already having difficulty sorting out what’s real from what’s not, and extended immersion in the stew of dementia found in Facebook and other so called 'social networking' sites – which we at the institute call ‘nutworking’ sites – exacerbates an already worrisome situation. “Unlike most think tank studies, which are roughly as deep as a Frisbee or the typical TED Talk, we have provided 5 action steps which, if aggressively implemented, will make the Internet safer for MIPs, and a whole lot less tiresome and irritating for non-MIPs. Here they are.