Saturday, 26 November 2011

Skeptics and mental health

JT Eberhard has given the talk I was hoping to give one day, rallying the skeptics to address mental health issues and to support those afflicted by them.

Unfortunately I’m a random internet asshole with no power or audience, so the chances of me being the one to give the talk was vanishingly small, but I find comfort in my delusions nevertheless. Although there is a slight bitter taste in seeing someone else do the talk one has been building in one's own head for some time, really it wasn't realistic to suppose I would get the opportunity to give it. So I'm incredibly gladdened to see that the talk was given. And to be honest, it was given in a much more engaging fashion than I could have done - so I'm even more glad that Eberhard did it. Given the reaction on the blogosphere, it seems to have achieved precisely what I dreamed a talk like this could have achieved.

He has urged others to ‘come out’ and there have been lots of skeptics coming out with with their tales (mostly of depression, which given its surprising frequency in the population is to be expected). JT suffered from depression related to anorexia, and his story is very moving.

There is a great deal of stigma for an atheist to come out about being depressed. After all: this just proves that without god, there is no hope, only despair etc. That isn't to say there is more stigma than for a theist, indeed it may be worse for some theists...much worse.

There is an additional stigma on top of this with psychosis I think (not that I’m trying to be competitive over this or anything). JT himself said that he suffered from some hallucinations, and he addressed this very point. Since I am delusional, people can simply write off whatever I say as being the ‘ravings of a madman’ and anything that I say can be explained as being symptomatic.

I haven’t written for a good while in my blog. This is predominantly because of a soul crushing belief that I am not worthy to write. Nobody knows about this blog’s existence, and there’s probably nobody that would care if they did. The despair and apathy combined are powerful factors. Just about any guide on writing blogs suggests that writing be regular/frequent, something I had hoped to attain when I started this blog but I knew it was a big ask. This of course (in my dark periods), underscores what a complete failure I am. Although I love writing, I can’t do it regularly enough to attract an audience.

By sheer coincidence (I assume), PZ posted a “Why I am an atheist” from someone with mental health issues which is also worth highlighting:

So much of my life had been spent seeking help in this invisible being, yet to no avail and to the persistence of very tangible pain. Finally, after years of delusion, something clicked and I punched myself with some brutal honesty and the fear turned into anger. A subservient to this “God” is what I had been, begging and fearing for a life that was barely worth living. That night, the “Fuck you God!” night, shed my life of the false safety net that was actually enslaving me. It was perhaps the most liberating experience of my life.

Finally, skepticism about medication is another issue that JT raised. One the things I struggle with is that I know there was shenanigans about the side effects of the medication I am on. Suffering from paranoia, this information is the kind of thing that might threaten my compliance. It was grotesquely immoral of the drug company to pull shenanigans on a drug used to treat psychotic people, given that psychotic people are very sensitive about conspiracies to drug them. That's a rant for another time.

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