Tag Archives: relationships

Astonishingly, A Mental Illness Plot on House That Doesn’t Make Me Want to Scream!

Content note: This post contains critical plot elements from ‘Massage Therapy,’ the fourth episode of season seven of House.

Watching the House episode ‘Massage Therapy’ and approaching the grand denouement, I got ready to be infuriated. The storyline involves a character, Margaret, with schizophrenia. She conceals it from her husband and when she gets sick, the medical team spends an extended period of time puzzling over what’s going on until they finally figure it out. What I expected from this episode was much brouhaha, followed with a brisk round of ‘you can totally leave your partner for being disabled!’ What happened surprised me.

Now, I am not a fan of keeping secrets. I am, in fact, fairly strongly anti-secret. And I do not think that concealing very significant information from your spouse is an ok thing to do, even if I understood exactly why she did it, fearing the stigma associated with schizophrenia. It wasn’t really explored deeply in the episode, but it seems possible that they started dating and she never brought it up, and it got to a point where she couldn’t figure out how to say anything. So, I sympathise with what the character did, even if I don’t agree with it.

I expected House, who is kind of known for being a jerk, to support the husband in wanting to leave his wife because of her mental illness. But that’s not actually what occurred. Instead, when the husband follows House out of the room, looking for justification and vindication, House basically gave him a stern talking to. He pointed out that, yes, marriage and love and relationships are hard, and that, no, it’s actually not ok to decide to leave your partner because you just found out she has a mental illness.

‘This is not who I married,’ the husband says. House points out that this is wrong; Billy, the husband, married a woman he loved very much and shared a lot in common with. That hasn’t changed. She’s not a different person now that he knows about her mental illness. She’s the same person, and she’s someone who could probably really benefit from the love and support of her husband right now, while she works on finding a treatment method that works for her.

‘It’s too hard,’ Billy says. Well, I’m with House on this one. Life and relationships are hard. Concealing information is definitely a problem, but it’s worth exploring why she felt the need to conceal that information for so long, why she tried so determinedly to hide from her husband. Given his reaction, of wanting to leave her because of her mental illness, I think it could be argued that she had pretty sound reasons for her decision; this is something I have encountered myself, and that some of our readers probably have too, that once you disclose a mental illness, suddenly you’re not as desirable. You’re ‘too much work.’ And the person who was happily dating you, who had a lot in common with you, who was really excited about being with you, stops calling.

I’m not saying here that people should be forced to stay in relationships they don’t want to be in. What I am saying is that wanting to leave your partner because you just found out about a disability is a shitty thing to do. Wanting to leave your partner for keeping a significant secret, being concerned about the lack of trust there, is valid, but deciding you want to leave not because of the secretkeeping, but because the secret was a disability? Not so much.

Disability complicates relationships, for all parties. Recognising when a relationship is not working and being honest about the role disability plays in that does not make people bad people. In this case, though, the husband just decided that the relationship wouldn’t work on the basis of his wife’s schizophrenia, and wasn’t even willing to try and put in the work; despite the fact that their relationship had been working well before, he suddenly determined it wouldn’t any more.

Granted, I disclose before I’ve been married to someone for several years, because my mental illnesses are an important part of who I am and I want people to know about them. But I can certainly understand why some people choose not to disclose. What surprised me in this case was an incidence of pop culture showing a nondisclosure in a sympathetic light, and reinforcing it with House’s speech. Usually, episodes like this end with the husband marching off into the sunset, Deeply Wounded, and everyone castigating the evil secretkeeping wife and talking about how she deserves it.

Recommended Reading for August 17, 2010

Sarah Fenske at the Phoenix New Times: ‘Til Death Do Us Part: They Got Married. Then Everything Changed

This is a love story, albeit one with a medical twist.

Unbeknownst to anyone — including Kevin himself — there was a tumor the size of a Granny Smith apple pressing onto Kevin’s brain.

Kevin didn’t need therapy. He needed surgery.

Patient C: Pain: Attitudes

Often, before I even mention pain to others, I have to overcome classic attitudes I have internalized, the largest being “is this important enough to bother someone els[e] with it?” followed by “am I being a wimp?” I have found that the fear of wimp-dom keeps many people from talking about their pain at all, or at the very least only to those people that are trusted. If I do not trust you, I will never bring it up at all, or I will bypass a pain related issue by making a weak overall health generalization, if forced (which I hate, thank you very much).

Wheelchair Dancer at Feministe: Just Who You Callin’ White

My interlocutor poked me: “Your mama white?” All thoughts of positive interaction slipped beyond my grasp. I knew that we weren’t actually talking about race and yet. Yet, I answered her question literally. My English accent returning more strongly than usual, I talked about my white father and my Afro-Caribbean mother; I spoke bitterly about the loss of Spanish and Creole-speaking family members and English as the language of acceptance. I gave her the history full and square. “Now,” I demanded, “do you think of me as white?”

In FWD-Contributors-Elsewhere news, our own s.e. smith is currently guestblogging at Bitch Magazine’s Social Commentary blog! The series is called Push(back) at the Intersections, and you can read the intro post here. An excerpt:

Feminism has a problematic history. A profound lack of awareness about this history means that we engage in the same dynamics over and over again. For example, the failure of many nondisabled feminists to recognize the history of eugenics in the reproductive rights movement means that it’s hard to understand why disabled feminists feel marginalized by the mainstream feminist and reproductive rights movements. Likewise, a lack of awareness about the history of transphobia in the feminist movement leads many cisgendered feminists to stumble unawares into very loaded conversations.

You can keep up with s.e.’s series of guest posts over at Bitch Magazine!

And finally, my good friend Paolo Sambrano, an amazing artist, performer and writer whom I have known for many years, is looking for funding for his incredible solo show Bi-Poseur, in which he humorously chronicles his experiences with life, death, mental illness, and, in his words, “the quest to write the perfect suicide note.” The show premiered to rave reviews earlier this year, and Paolo is currently attempting to fund a month-long engagement of the show in the San Francisco Bay Area, beginning in September; donations will go toward things like renting theater space, printing programs, marketing the show, hiring a tech person, and more. Here’s some info about the show:

Bi-Poseur [is] a pop-culture encrusted, kinetic look at the intricacies of trying to hang oneself with a Playstation controller, possibly being bi-polar, full scholarships to exclusive Bay Area prep schools, psych wards with twelve year old white supremacists, finally grieving the loss of a parent, motivational speaking, to live tweeting your own funeral. And push-ups. Among other things.

If you’d like to learn more, purchase tickets to the show or make a donation, you can visit Paolo’s Kickstarter page, or his website. I urge you to donate if you can (some neat donation perks are offered at various price points), and go see the show if possible!

Dear Imprudence: Don’t Pressure People To Resume Family Relationships

Today on Dear Abby, a reader wrote in with a problem that some of us have been on the other side of:

Dear Abby: My oldest granddaughter, “Allie,” is a psychiatrist. I have always loved her, been proud of her accomplishments and have had a warm relationship with her.

Her mother—my daughter—got drunk and made several angry, harsh phone calls to Allie. Since then, Allie has refused contact with everyone in the family. I have written to her numerous times and so has my daughter, begging for forgiveness. My daughter has quit drinking, thanks to the patience and loving support of my family. She has also come out of an abusive marriage.

Allie gave birth to a baby girl last year. I have never seen my great-grandchild and it breaks my heart. Abby, what can I do to restore a good relationship with my granddaughter? I love her and pray for her every day.

—Grieving Grandma

I must say, I dreaded Abby’s response to this letter, given that it painted a tragic tale of family torn asunder, a mother trying to reform herself, and saddened grandmas. I’ve had to cut off family members for my own health and protection, and it wouldn’t surprise me to learn that some FWD readers have had to do the same, for a wide variety of reasons. So I was expecting a lecture about how Allie ‘owes’ her family something and the grandmother should continue trying to pressure her into repairing the family’s relationship.

Here’s what Abby said:

Dear Grieving Grandma: As your letter proves, being a mental health professional does not exempt someone from having family problems. Depending upon what your daughter said to Allie, it is understandable that she might want to protect herself—and her baby—from her verbally abusive, alcoholic parent. While it may be harsh for Allie to have cut off contact with all of her maternal relatives, including you, she may have done so to prevent you from trying to pressure her to “forgive” her mother for what has been an ongoing pattern of behavior.

Write Allie one more letter advising her that her mother is no longer drinking and has left her abusive marriage. Continue loving and praying for her. But until your granddaughter decides on her own to relent, there is nothing you can do to “fix” this. I’m sorry.

Abby, I want to hug you and hand you a cupcake. This advice is right on. She reiterates that Allie may have been entirely justified in making her decision. Reading between the lines, Abby seems to be gently suggesting that Grandma should not have ‘written her numerous times’ and should have instead given her some space. The letter concludes by giving her permission to try one more time, something I personally feel iffy about, but, in the end, it reiterates that this is up to Allie, not the family, and that Grandma is just going to have to accept that.

Yes, Abby, yes. People who choose to cut off their family members do not do so on a whim. They do so to protect themselves. The last thing that people who make that choice want is badgering from other people in the family, or from family friends. They want to be left alone, and they want their choices respected.

Unfortunately, when these situations happen, many people often take it upon themselves to ‘fix’ them. As a result, people are forced not only to cut off the offending individuals, but the entire family, because they fear exactly this situation, people demanding to play a role in ‘reconciliation.’ In these situations, the offender is often painted as the injured party, and no one talks about the isolation experienced by the person who has to cut people off. If these decisions could be made and respected, people like Allie wouldn’t have to cut off contact with family members they may love very much.

You are allowed to protect yourself by choosing the people you associate with, including your family members, and you are allowed to not have this turned into a big drama with people insisting on getting involved left and right. You have the right to autonomy over your body and in your relationships, and it’s nice to see Abby stating that, albeit in somewhat less aggressive terms than I would have!

A Saturday sketch

(Cross-posted at three rivers fog.)

I noticed something was wrong in the earliest hours of the morning, when my husband had disappeared from bed but I did not hear anything going on in the bathroom and could not see him anywhere.

Around 8, he got up to go to the bathroom and I lifted myself out of bed to use it after him. When he emerged, he was very clearly not well and said, in a seriously distressed tone, “I just had the most awful night” and stumbled around me back to bed.

It’s not emotional, he clarified as he curled up awkwardly on his side of the mattress, it’s just physical. He had problems feeling seriously sick to his stomach, which never culminated in anything, just churned on and on without relief, and had serious sharp pains in several places — shoulder, lower back, knees — and a generalized all-over ache that left him feeling miserable, unable to find a single comfortable (nay, just non-miserable) position no matter where he stood, sat or lay.

“This is how I imagine you feel every day,” he moaned, as he tossed his body into a different awkward position in an attempt to find some relief.

He needed the still, quiet, restful sleep so badly, but hurt too much to stay lying in place in bed for more than a few moments, and the pain was too distracting to be able to actually fall asleep — and precisely because of this, he was in no condition to be anywhere else but in bed sleeping. A familiar situation for me.

A few minutes later, already in his thirtieth position attempting to achieve some state of rest in bed, he pushed over to where I sat on my side of the bed and asked, “How do you do this every single day?”

Staring at my nightstand drawer, I smiled a bit and replied, “A lot of medicine. And you to help me.”

Call for Submissions is out for Disability Blog Carnival #63: Relationships

The call for submissions is out for the 63rd disability blog carnival, which will be held at the Dreamwidth disability community. PWD and allies are welcome to submit.

The theme is “relationships”. Avendya explains:

This does not necessarily mean romantic relationships – how has your disability affected your relationship with your family? How do you manage balancing friendships with a limited number of spoons? How well do your coworkers deal with your disability? Basically, how does your disability impact (or not impact) your relationships with the people around you?

Submissions are due by February 20th – just leave a comment in this post to submit your article. Older essays are welcomed so long as they haven’t previous been in a Disability Blog Carnival.

Spread the word!

Recommended Reading for November 23

There was no recommended reading on Friday because I forgot I hadn’t done one for the day after the Carnival. Oops!

Changing the Perception of Braille

I recently watched a Ted talk that focuses on the idea that how we feel about something is totally based on our perception. It seems to me that in ore for us to improve braille literacy, we are going to have to change people’s perceptions. Organizations like the NFB and ACB are already doing things to help change people’s attitudes towards braille, but I think we can go even further.

Many people are choosing to learn sign language because they think it’s cool. So the question is how do we make braille cool? I think we have to start with children and teens. When we’re younger, we tend to me more likely to accept change and set trends. With this in mind, I have a few ideas of how we can make braille cool in the eyes of our children, and if we can do that, then maybe that will translate to the adults in their life.

Blind Need More Access To the Written Word

I love to read, and I’ve been doing it ever since I was able. My wife is also an avid reader. But we are blind, and so are many of our friends. The organization I lead, the National Federation of the Blind of New York, is made up of blind people. Although many of us read everything we can get our hands on, we can’t get our hands on very much to read.

There are services for us, of course. Government entities and nonprofit organizations convert books into Braille, audio or digital form for our use. But only about 5 percent of all books published undergo such a conversion. The largest collection of books in Braille and audio form in the United States has, perhaps, 70,000 circulating titles in its collection. A few more selections are available as commercial audio books, but these are up to three times as expensive as print books.

Service Dog Etiquette Part 1:

I’m sure you’re thinking, how does my petting a service dog undermine his relationship with his person?

Well, it works in two ways. First off, my service dog works for me because he believes I am the most awesome person in the world and that all good things come from me. All petting, all praise, all toys, all games, his soft fluffy bed, all food, all treats – that all comes from me. Secondly, if someone other than me pets him, he starts thinking…oh, people will pet me. If people will pet me, it’s worth paying attention to people rather than my partner. If he pays attention to people rather than to me, I could have a nasty fall (among other things) – one that could injure both of us. Keep in mind when you read this that the average person who works with a service dog is more likely to be hurt, and hurt badly, by a fall. We tend to have service dogs because there is some kind of physical fragility or injury to us already, after all. When you’re dealing with guide dogs, I think the risk is even greater – a distracted guide dog might walk his person into traffic!

When People Say Stupid Shit

I. Cannot. Afford. A. Place. Alone.

My maths are simple. I have an income, which I get from the state until they figure out what sort of job I can handle with my disability. That income is all I have. Anything I might earn by teaching two hours a week (which I do) is subtracted from that income. That means that I cannot raise my income in any way. Unless, of course, I do so illegally, which would be pretty stupid considering the risk of discovery. My income is what it is and cannot be adjusted upwards. At all. Not until I get some help for my disability.

In the news:
Study Unravels Mystery of Dyslexia

New research may provide an answer as to why children with dyslexia often have difficulty hearing someone talk in a noisy room.

Dyslexia is a common, language-based learning disability that makes it difficult to read, spell, and write. It is unrelated to a person’s intelligence. Studies have also shown that patients with dyslexia can have a hard time hearing when there is a lot of background noise, but the reasons for this haven’t been exactly clear.

Now, scientists at Northwestern University say that in dyslexia, the part of the brain that helps perceive speech in a noisy environment is unable to fine-tune or sharpen the incoming signals.