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LONG BLOG

Rico's thoughts on Mental Health

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Alright, so I had started this conversation in the comments section of qposts. But I feel like this requires a bit more time and nuance than that. There are a few things you need to know about me and the goal of this cblog before we can continue.

I have a more personal connection to the notion of murder than a lot of people you'll meet. I've looked someone in the eyes and watched as they tried to snuff the life out of me, twice. Not the greatest luck, I'll admit. You can choose to believe this or not. I tend to be a caring guy, but there are fewer things I care less about than whether or not people are willing to accept this fact.

I can't attest to what happened with one of my killers-in-training. She knew she was moving the same day the incident happened. I've always been a light person. Even now I'm still the same weight I was in Junior High (135, 5'11'). But many years before JH I watched someone look me square in the eyes, tell me "I hope you die." and shove me off a cliff.

If you curious what was the justification for trying to off a fellow grade-schooler, she wasn't allowed in the treehouse my friends had built. I was the smallest person there and thus the only real target. Such is life.

The second person is more the target of this conversation. My half-brother was treated incredibly badly by his father and step mother. Left in a closet with his older sister and both were told the "winner" could leave the closet. He's not a very tall guy even now, the size difference there was just as much a bane for him as it was for me.

Years passed and he finally got away from his parents and moved in with ours. Even though I hadn't been conceived at the time, he blamed me for my mother leaving his father and creating that environment he was left in. It's fair if you think she was pregnant with me I suppose, but she most definitely wasn't. I didn't exist beyond theory.

Regardless, he tried to suffocate me to death because of it. He only failed because my mother was walking by and caught him. My mother is a desperately sweet woman, sometimes to a fault. I don't recall her even hitting him in response. As far as I can recall, which is not much near the end of it. She scolded him verbally.

We got to know one another after that. I was always happy to listen to his problems like I am anyone’s. Unlike parents I didn't try to lecture him when he presented them either. I just listened and empathized.

Within no time we became very tight friends. There are few people on this planet that I trust more than him. With compassion and a constant companion, he turned from a sobbing mess of anger into an energetic young man.

It wasn't all roses but ultimately he has now gone on to be a great father. He's trying to finish college now after spending some time in the military. While on the front lines he faced death constantly. You'd think maybe part of me would have wanted that perhaps, but I can assure you I've hated every second that he's overseas. We don't see one another in person anymore because of distance but I still worry about him.

And so here we are. A life still living that nearly didn't, and a life still living that was nearly shackled forever. A single moment, a single fleeting glance of luck, was all that stood between both of us and everything being lost.

Yet, with love and understanding I was able to find the true person hiding inside him. To see what could be.

Each time I hear about anyone doing something truly destructive I can't help but wonder if they were like my brother. If they were someone who just never had an ear. They had problems they needed to discuss, and nobody was willing to listen without lecturing them. I've not known many people who enjoy being talked down to, and I know personally I'll avoid conversations if they seem to be leading to that.

Hopefully now we've established where I'm coming from. You might just see another apologist on the internet. But I'm coming from a position as someone who shouldn't be here twice over. Someone who nearly died by the hands of a stranger and came out of the experience with a genuinely loving brother that I strongly believe would take on an army to protect me or anyone in our family.

So what is the goal of this blog? It is not to apologize for people who have done genuinely awful things. Unfortunately, they've gone one step beyond what my brother did. Their lives are lost as possibly those of the people they acted upon. This is not a response to any particular tragedy that befalls the US or abroad. This is about my feelings on my mind, your mind, and how I believe we should perceive them.

When we talk about mental illness I fear that it is treated in the same fallacious way as cancer. A multitude of issues, each requiring a specialized solution, as if they are all a single thing. "The cure for cancer." is this concept I've always found hopelessly naive. A world of sickness and sadness bundled together beneath a single banner.

I don't know for certain if this is the fault of the DSM, The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, a book I became very familiar with in college. You spend a good portion of your earlier psychology courses talking about all of the things that used to be in the DSM that are no longer. Generally speaking, anything culturally unacceptable used to (perhaps still does) find its way into the DSM.

If you read the DSM, you'd be forgiven for thinking you have literally everything. Dozens of illnesses all interweave between one another and it’s a bit like WebMD telling you that your sneeze means you are dying.

I have a belief that our lives are dictated by nature and nurture. If you do not that'll make the rest of this blog somewhat insufferable, if it wasn't already. Nature determines the length of our bars. How tall we can possibly get, how large our muscles can grow, possibly even how smart we can be. Nurture determines where on those bars we land. A malnourished person with fantastic genes is still going to end up being shorter than they could have otherwise been.

But I take this further than even that. I believe your psychology is equally controlled by these two factors. Nature determines how predisposed to every emotion you are. And nurture determines how much of that predisposition you will display in your day to day life. Some people are so wildly predisposed to being a pacifist that they'll die before they harm another person. And unfortunately the same may be true in the other direction.

I had a retort to my comments elsewhere that suggested I was diagnosing people after the fact by their impact on the world around them. This is not always the case but it often is in our modern world. When you are dealing with the very small you spend your entire life understanding things not by themselves but by the fallout of their actions.

We are very bad at diagnosing people for a variety of reasons. I'm not anywhere close to smart enough to even tell you why. So all I can do is guess. I believe it is partly philosophical. A lot of people believe in things like good and evil, so we often try to rationalize great tragedy as the acts of "evil" and toss it aside.

"You can't stop evil. No need to feel bad about it."

Alternatively, we see a mind as something that is "healthy" or "ill" in a complete binary. And anyone suggesting that destructive actors are ill are just stigmatizing people with mental health concerns.

"It's not about being healthy or ill. Some people just wake up one day and rationally decide to murder people. You can't stop that. No need to feel bad about it."

Going back to our spectrum I see every single person as a vast list of bars. Think a bit like a ridiculously complex stats bar for a sim in The Sims.

Some people have a harder time filling certain bars than others. And for those people we need to address that as soon as we can and help them with whatever tools are necessary.

I'm going to steal Scrustle’s question about Gangs. If you've ever been wondering how you could obliterate gang recruitment, look no further than providing young people with companionship and obvious clear progress in their lives. Don't let people feel like they are forgotten or else they'll find people who are happy to give them a place.

And for anyone where those things are not enough, check other signals to see where they feel lost or empty.

I made the claim recently that if you murder someone you are not sane. This always ends up being controversial for one reason or another. I've stated why I think people like to think that above. But I stand by it. Because this is not a value judgment of anyone with mental illness.

Because I believe everyone has certain factors in their mind that are much stronger than the people around them. Variance leads to some people excelling at things. Whether those things are destructive or constructive can sometimes be a matter of the culture surrounding them. Other times it is more obvious.

Sanity to me is a bent towards constructive endeavors. Which you might think is incredibly subjective and you'd be entirely right. The mind, what is illness, and what is health, are all entirely subjective.

Frequently in psychology it is said that a disorder becomes "a disorder" once it negatively impacts your life. This is obviously changing from day to day, culture to culture. Your mind is not an objective thing. Certainty is something we don't have for food science, much less for cognitive science.

You likely have all sorts of nervous ticks, or unavoidable habits, but because they work with your lifestyle they aren't seen as problems. Because, in hindsight, they aren't.

Sometimes the only way we know something exists is upon looking back after it acts upon us. This is not a cognitive fallacy; this is just how the world works. Science and culture have not reached the point of objective diagnoses of mental states. We frequently realize a problem is a problem after the fact.

I've probably already forgotten some of my points. But I'll leave you with a closing thought at least. I get the desire for revenge, I would want it too if someone I loved was taken from me. You'll never catch me trying to defend people who do awful things. I'm not here to defend or critique the actors who bring horrors upon those around them.

I'm here to critique the world around them. Each of these incidents are not simply a failure of some product or individual. These are failures of society as a whole. Everyone is to blame to varying degrees. And the strong desire to pass the buck will just prolong the time that this is commonplace. It's the tragedy of the commons, a world being polluted by inaction and indifference.

I see lost people and wonder how many of them could have been my brother. How many of them just needed to be unlucky enough to fail in their mission and lucky enough to find help. These are snowballs left rolling down a hill. Seen as small and inconsequential until they aren't.

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About Rico the Penguinone of us since 9:32 PM on 09.10.2014

Maybe you are someone who likes stalking other people? If that's the case, here are some ways to keep up with me. It helps make me feel like a special snowflake and lets you bolster some numbers across your various networks. I'll be releasing an honest-to-goodness game this year. Probably within the next couple of months. So if you are interested in that, keep an eye peeled.

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And that's that! I imagine there are other things but I'm forgetting them at this moment.