I am a good friend. If I am your good friend, I promise I will pick you up from the airport, buy you a drink, support your writing, painting, music, IT and accounting skills, and assure you that your hair looks good even after haircuts gone very wrong. I will not save your life by sacrificing my own, loan you books, give you my last Diet Pepsi, or hold your hand during your vasectomy.

I was misled.

Silas asked me to drive him to and from a “minor surgery.” As said “minor surgery” required that I pick him up at 5:30 AM, I suggested that he take the train and offered to pick him up when normal people were awake. He said he wanted me there. He sounded nervous. I did not want to invade his privacy and ask the nature of the surgery (yes, I did), and assumed, when told the surgery would take place at Planned Parenthood, that he had something growing on him that should not, something that required uncomfortable cotton swabbing, or something stuck somewhere it should not be stuck. I thought his vagueness was meant to protect me.

Silas and I dated for about five minutes, then became good friends. Just before we were formally introduced at a mutual friend’s birthday party, I overheard him say he did not want children. Umm, ok, hi, nice to meet you, guy who doesn’t want kids. I’m girl who does want kids. Five minutes was a pretty lengthy relationship, given our respective procreative intentions.

On the drive there, my 6’6” life of the party friend was pale and squeaky. I asked, and learned that I was chauffeuring him to his vasectomy.

Anyone here think a vasectomy is minor surgery? Yeah, that’s what I thought.

The disclosure was followed by the confession that he wasn’t sure he wanted to go through with it. 5:45am on the Bay Bridge. I offered to buy him a box of condoms and drive us both home. He squeaked his resistance. You can’t turn around on the bridge anyway.

We arrived, Silas filled out some forms, and I pulled out my laptop to begin dcumenting. He fidgeted. I tried to distract, noticing his English pallor was paper white; his hands served as a fortress for his offering.  Though he did not want Silas, Jr. to be implicated in the creation of a different kind of Silas, Jr., his reticence was understandable. The choice between having a kid he didn’t want and having someone touch his parts in a way he did not like his parts to be touched was like that one Sophie had. He was not going to win. Not that day.

The wait was long. He got squeakier, whiter. Then silent. I asked if he wanted me to come in. Part of me wanted him to say yes. Not many women – even wives and girlfriends – observe the minor, yet major, snip. The part that hoped he wouldn’t take me up on the offer didn’t care to (a) observe Silas’ genitalia, or (b) pass out, puke, and/or laugh.

He declined. The nurse retrieved him and they disappeared around a corner. Seconds later, he returned and waved me in.

The doctor asked if I was Silas’ wife or girlfriend. We both said no, fast. Bruce got chatty with me. Dude looks at vas deferens all day. And girls at Planned Parenthood are generally there to prevent things or get antibiotics for things, or, you know, to do things a guy doesn’t want to know right away about a girl. I was a mystery who wasn’t afraid to watch.

Silas was not happy with Bruce’s attempts at speed dating. His stuff was getting taped up against his belly. For access. I held his hand. It was limp, too. Doctor Bruce gave him a hand mirror so he could watch.

It was quick.  It was fascinating. I won’t describe: I am a good friend. I will not abuse my power to invoke widespread wooziness. All I’ll say is we both faltered when we saw smoke coming from his boy parts. This was not a he was so turned on his loins were on fire situation. Silas was not experiencing pre-coital metaphorical heat. There was smoke. Down there.

He lowered the mirror. I felt slightly dizzy and put my head between my legs. A few minutes later, he was taken to a room with other limping men for crackers and juice. I didn’t get any juice.

I drove Silas home. Carefully. He called me every day to tell me what color it was. He asked if I wanted to see it. I said I knew what black, green, blue, and yellow look like. The next time I saw him, I gave him a card with a picture of a kid who looked a little like him. The kid was making a goofy face and had French fries stuck up his nose and crammed in his mouth. I wrote “Congratulations. You are not having one of these.”

He asked if I wanted to see it. I asked what color it was. He smiled. I told him I knew what that color looks like. The card is still on his refrigerator.

 

 

Since psychiatry has proven itself to be anything but a science, the entire concept of mental anguish must be reexamined. Might the elements of “mental illness” more properly be called personality traits as well as reflections of the societies in which those traits occur? Might those elements even be called talents of a sort?

Psychiatry’s masterwork of pseudo-science, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM IV), once included homosexuality amongst its “scientific” diagnoses. Psychiatry thus reflects the “values” of the United States far more than concerning itself with patients, much less looking past and through society’s existing prejudices.

Even those behind psychiatry’s Shroud of Turin question its validity. Of late, there has been talk of attributing DSM diagnoses by degrees rather than mere labels. Thus, a person would “have” a “mental illness” on a scale, not just “have” it. In such a case, the flatliners who dominate the population would once again establish the “typical American’s” plot-pointed life as “sanity.”

Yet no one who suffers emotional distress would applaud the benefits of that distress. To do so would be to refute its existence and betray oneself as an imposter. Far more likely is it that many flatliners never mention their irregular heartbeats. Could it be a Second Renaissance lies beneath the ever-recycling digital ruins and its constant skies of acid rain?

Consider anxiety. Those with anxious traits are often highly-attuned. To call them “sensitive” is, in this society, an insult. “Sensitive” implies weakness, an inability to “man up.” Instead, the anxious should be viewed as a tuning fork against which society reveals itself — rather than the “patient” — as out of tune. That no one else recognizes society’s discordant sounds only proves the anxious to be society’s musicians. Countless permutations of that metaphor support themselves.

The same may be said about every other “diagnosis.” Schizophrenia might be viewed as a William S. Burroughs’ cutup of “reality” as presented, emphasis on “presented” because, of course, most of our environment has nothing natural about it and is, in fact, a presentation in every sense.

Some conditions do respond to medication. Usually, the reasons remain unknown. In turn, the medication may solve one “problem” while creating many more. Those who take most antidepressants may no longer feel depressed about nothing, but they feel depressed about their diminished sexuality, especially males whenever they try to… express their end of sexuality’s conclusion.

Returning to anxiety, medication does relieve its incapacitating aspect, but the medications that accomplish the effect also accomplish something else, that being the worst addiction known to humankind. This class of drugs, benzodiazepines, includes Xanax, Valium, Ativan, etc., the whole lot of tranquilizers, excepting the rarely-prescribed barbiturates. In some cases, antidepressants may relieve anxiety. However, they do so for reasons as unknown as the reasons antidepressants diminish depression. Likewise, they alleviate anxiety but create symptoms that mirror anxiety, such as trembling hands, odd emotional states, etc.

Rather than diagnoses, all of these traits show themselves to be products of society, products of the product society uses to diagnose those personality traits, and the products society sells to treat the products of the product society uses to diagnose those personality traits. That’s to say, they’re products of an environment completely divorced from nature.

All of this enshrouds some rather simplistic facts about a complicated subject. To martyr those suffering in the way biographers now “diagnose” every author, musician and artist “of the ages” as “bipolar” reduces suffering by labeling it, making suffering a product of their products, that being books and, eventually, films based on those books. Those who write memoirs about their “mental illnesses” bend over backwards for sainthood and reveal themselves willing to do endure any humiliation in exchange for profit.

On the other hand, failing to notice the strange talents hidden within the emotionally inflamed creates an even greater injustice. These strange talents do not prove the existence of artistic talent, as many would like to believe, but they do reveal an artistic temperament. No one can suffer emotionally but for recognition of something and, more likely, many things, and their recognitions go unnoticed by the general public. Why does no one listen to them? Who do “doctors” listen only to themselves when they recognize nothing beyond the power of their prescription pads? Is it because they realize their absolute lack of talent, strange or otherwise?

Most of those suffering in the ways described cycle through life in various stages of function and dysfunction, and most have periods of absolute dysfunction. To calls these periods “nervous breakdowns” would be far more accurate than to split the hairs of the suffering with psychiatry’s blunt axe. They must be tended to as they once were, in humane sanitariums surrounded by the true environment. Such sanitariums could — with no joke intended — be established on useless golf courses around the nation.

With that, some proposals:

1) Psychiatry should be abolished. It simply lacks the will, or even desire to have the will, to fulfill its dream of being medicine. Psychiatrists should be stripped of their meaningless licenses and sent on their way to more suitable careers, like accounting.

2) The “mentally ill” should be educated to understand their conditions as also encompassing strange talents, until they begin to believe the fact that their recognitions are true even when masked by the wildest hallucinations.

3) Medications should be dispensed by doctors who have achieved certification in dispensing those medications. They should know, and prove that knowledge by required yearly testing, that they understand prescribing medications and the facts of addictions that may occur to any such medication they dispense.As it stands, psychiatrists receive eight hours of addiction “education.”

4) Medications known to cause addiction should be removed from any policing or government surveillance whatsoever. Those subject to mental anguish should not be criminalized for trying to relieve that anguish, including and even especially when relieving the added anguish of addiction to a prescribed medication.

5) All those suffering from the acute perceptions so well described in Rumblefish should ultimately determine their own treatment, including beginning or continuing use of addictive prescribed substances, even when addiction has established itself, for the suffering caused by eliminating that addiction will likely lead to more dangerous and illegal addiction.

Flatliners already receive society’s benefits. Those who benefit society without society knowing it — those with strange talents — deserve just as many benefits.

Ever since I’ve been allowed to hurl my musings at TNB, expanding my readership beyond my usual four, now that I have the potential for an audience of at least five, my brain has been taking it out on me.

I am not in my comfort zone. I have been skillfully and assiduously avoiding a public face on the internet since, oh, forever. I’ve written online extensively, but my name has not been attached. I have kept the innocent and the guilty alike hidden in my dedication to anonymity. I’m comfortable with that.

Perhaps it’s my name. If I didn’t have such a whacked-out name, I wouldn’t think about it so much. Search for “Angela Smith” on the intarwebs, you potentially face a long slog finding the “Angela” you’re interested in. But “Quenby Moone?” Yeah. There’s only one of those.

Megan DiLullo and I were discussing my future here on TNB, and she told me I should get on Facebook. It was a good way for people to contact me, make a face for myself. Really? Why in God’s name would I want to do that? So my psychotic ex-boyfriend can find me and ask me how my kid is?

But Megan is nothing if not clever, so I entertained that she might have a point. I’ve been pretty well-insulated until now, but if I had any hope of having a readership beyond my father, who has a genetic investment in my successes and failures, and my other three (possibly paid) devotees to my written brain queefs, I would probably have to go on Facebook and mingle.

I summoned no small part of bravery and signed up for an account. And I totally punked out, since I went by my white trash handle, Tawny Bouté. I poked Megan to show that I had the guts to be there, and then I poked my husband. I had two Facebook friends.

Not bad, really.

I don’t know how it happened. I don’t know how someone I haven’t spoken to in 22 years found me on there, buried under my white trash nom de plume, but there it was: a friend request from someone I hardly remember. And it wasn’t that I didn’t want to have him as my friend, I just didn’t know why he wanted to be mine. I panicked. I worried about it. I thought about “friending” him (a gerund which drives me nuts), and realized that it was the first step down a long road of friends I barely know all friending each other. It’s so weird, and nosey, and slightly voyeuristic.

But I know that it’s great, too. I know that people have discovered each other and re-kindled long dormant relationships to the benefit of all parties. And why am I so vain as to believe anyone would even care about finding me again? What makes me so special? Who, exactly, do I think I am? Miley Fucking Cyrus?

Then the self-flagellation set in.

So what if this was it? What if I had my two friends and died tomorrow, the pathetic woman with only her husband and her fellow TNB’er there to witness I was ever on Facebook at all? “I’d better go get some more friends,” I thought.

I found one hidden under a pseudonym and gave him a webby shout. Now I had three.

As a percentage, it was a marked improvement.

But what if one of my real-world friends discovered that I wasn’t their Facebook friend? Maybe they wouldn’t realize that I only had three Facebook friends, and would think I was actively shunning them. Would they de-friend me in real life? Maybe I should go and find everyone I ever knew and make them my friend. But what if they don’t want me as their friend? What if I discover I’m an undesirable on Facebook? What if I am actually a member of the lowest rung of the Facebook caste system: The Untouchable?

I couldn’t believe this was the inner monologue of someone who turned forty this year. Tawny deleted her account five days after she created it.

But the fact remains: Quenby Moone has never put a name upon her writing, and now she’s been graciously accepted into the cabal of “The Nervous Breakdown.” And my personal masochism is no longer about Facebook, but about what to publish here. “I’ll publish one about my boobs,” I’ll think. “Boobs are always a popular subject.” But then I’ll realize someone recently published one about her boobs, and it was probably ten times funnier than the one about my boobs.

“I’ll mix it up; I’ll send the one about the chickens.” But maybe I’m the only person who thinks a quixotic relationship with barnyard fowl is funny. “Maybe the one about my nervous breakdown? That would at least be name-appropriate. But maybe cliché. Maybe too cute and affected: ‘See what I did there? Huh? I wrote about a nervous breakdown on a site called “The Nervous Breakdown?” Clever, huh?'”

On and on it goes. So here we are. At the end of a piece about neither boobs nor chickens nor nervous breakdowns, but about my inability to decide what to publish on “The Nervous Breakdown.”

Think of it as an exercise in post-post-modernism.