Austrian neurologist and psychiatrist, and Holocaust survivor Viktor E. Frankl, wrote of this story in his book “Man’s Search for Meaning”—relating his experience in a Nazi concentration camp:
“Against the urgent advice of my friends…I decided to volunteer. I knew that in a working party I would die in a short time. But if I had to die there might at least be some sense in my death. I thought that it would doubtless be more to the purpose to try and help my comrades as a doctor than to vegetate or finally lose my life as the unproductive laborer that I was then. For me this was simple mathematics, not sacrifice.”
That’s kind of what this mental-health legislative-advocacy work feels like. I mean, it seems a little absurd to compare my life experience with that of a Nazi concentration camp survivor’s experience – however, Dr. Frankl also said, of camp life:
“If one of the sick men had died before the cart left, he was thrown on anyway–the list had to be correct! The list was the only thing that mattered. A man counted only because he had a prison number. One literally became a number: dead or alive–that was unimportant; the life of a ‘number’ was completely irrelevant.”
So…I don’t know, I mean—remove the physical abuse and substitute for it the mental kind, and the resulting emotional trauma begins to tend towards the same. Sounds an awful lot like a place I know—namely, this country that I live in—and the tyrannical capitalistic servitude by which it’s now run. I know, I know…but, seriously!! Listen:
“The camp inmate was frightened of making decisions and of taking any sort of initiative whatsoever. This was the result of a strong feeling that fate was one’s master, and that one must not try to influence it in any way, but instead let it take its own course. In addition, there was a great apathy, which contributed in no small part to the feelings of the prisoner…The prisoner would have preferred to let fate make the choice for him. This escape from commitment was most apparent when a prisoner had to make the decision for or against an escape attempt–and it was always a question of minutes–he suffered the tortures of Hell. Should he make the attempt to flee? Should he take the risk?”
That’s what it felt like!! To “come out of the closet” with having a “serious mental-illness”, I mean—that’s exactly what it felt like…
Sure I had a little more time than a matter of minutes, but it was literally a matter of days between when I found out about the October 2nd, 2013 Ohio Senate Civil Justice Committee hearing on the pending mental-health legislation and the time, if I’d so choose, to begin my speech. I found out about the hearing on the Friday prior, and the hearing was that following Wednesday. Written copy of testimony due 24 hours in advance, on Tuesday. In between, on Saturday, I found out from a friend, that her best-friend from high school had committed suicide that prior Thursday. Her best-friend had been struggling, trying to work with doctors who had finally diagnosed her correctly as Bipolar and were trying to help her with medication—medication meant to cure suicidal thoughts—medication with a simultaneous side-effect warning of increased suicidal ideation and attempts. It’s true, you read right. Just google any of the following with “side-effects” — Abilify, Paxil, Seroquel, Remeron, Aplenzin, etc. etc. and those are just some of the meds that I’ve been on! It’s craziness…not me, this situation!!
So anyways, I found out this young woman, twenty-something, smart, creative, talented – one of the ones that everyone loves – she’d killed herself. She left a note too. I don’t know exactly the words or specifically what it’d said, but I know in it, she’d spoken of America’s sociological ills and within it all, how she’d felt she’d lost her soul and’d never be able to get it back. I couldn’t sit by any longer and not do anything. It was no longer a question of sacrifice at that point—it’d then become a matter of simple mathematics for me.
I could no longer vegetate as a meaningless number behind a desk in front of a computer screen. If I was going to lose my soul in any case, then at least there might be some sense in my death, then—”it would doubtless be more to the purpose to try and help my comrades as a [lawyer] than to vegetate or to finally lose my life as the unproductive laborer I was then.” I mean, reading this book is uncanny…I really can hardly believe it. So, I kept on reading:
“Apart from its role as a defense mechanism, the prisoners’ apathy was also the result of other factors…Besides these physical causes, there were mental ones, in the form of certain complexes. The majority of prisoners suffered from a kind of inferiority complex. We all had once been or had fancied ourselves to be “somebody.” Now we were treated like complete nonentities. (The consciousness of one’s inner value is anchored in higher, more spiritual things, and cannot be shaken by camp life. But how many free men, let alone prisoners, possess it?) Without consciously thinking about it, the average prisoner felt himself utterly degraded. This became obvious when one observes the contrasts offered by the singular sociological structure of the camp. The more “prominent” prisoners…did not, as a rule, feel degraded at all, like the majority of prisoners, but on the contrary—promoted!! Some even developed miniature delusions of grandeur.”
So, this all was very interesting, the contrast/comparison between Nazi concentration camps and this American society that I live in. In conclusion, Dr. Frankl made this note:
“…in the final analysis it becomes clear that the sort of person the prisoner became was the result of an inner decision, and not the result of camp influence alone. Fundamentally, therefore, any man can, even under such circumstances, decide what shall become of him—mentally and spiritually. He may retain his human dignity even in a concentration camp. Dostoevski said once, ‘There is only one thing that I dread: not to be worthy of my sufferings’.”
And so, then when combining this reading with my recent focus on my status as a part of America’s “seriously mentally-ill” population as a result of my mental and emotional suffering—it was particularly ethereal to read this:
“If there is a meaning in life at all, then there must be a meaning in suffering. Suffering is an ineradicable part of life, even as fate and death.. Without suffering and death human life cannot be complete.”
“The way in which a man accepts his fate and all the suffering it entails, the way in which he takes up his cross, gives him ample opportunity—even under the most difficult circumstances—to add a deeper meaning to his life. It may remain brave, dignified and unselfish. Or in the bitter fight for self-preservation he may forget his human dignity and become no more than animal. Here lies the chance for a man either to make use of or forgo the opportunities of attaining the moral values that a difficult situation may afford him. And this decides whether he is worthy of his sufferings or not.”
And so—I haven’t finished reading yet—I’m just kind of sitting here in awe. Disbelief at what is really going on here in America—disbelief that the type of mental suffering induced by America’s “capitalistic servitude” is actually, not a new concept. Disbelief that my inability to desert my soul for the profit’s sake, may not be what America likes to call “mental-illness” at all. Maybe it is a defense-mechanism, like Dr. Frankl says…
Maybe what this country likes to call my “serious mental-illness” is a defense-mechanism against this American society’s soul-sickening, capitalistic servitude regime. Maybe that’s what, by “mental-illness”, they actually mean… Maybe that’s why my perception and my perspective on reality is, for them, so threatening… Maybe that’s why U.S. Representative Timothy Murphy from Pennsylvania and all his U.S. Representative co-sponsors seek so strategically to remove my voice so that they can easily medicate me…
I mean, I don’t know! I’m not entirely sure yet, and I’ve yet too, to finish reading. But, I don’t know…I just thought it was pret-ty interesting, if you know what I mean…
Okay, back to reading!!