I began reading One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest last week and reading the first part of the forward got me thinking about how the mental health perspective, as a way of analysis, is ignored.
The forward is written by the author Chuck Palahniuk (Fight Club, Choke) and in the first sentence he states that some people he loves, hate this book. He explains that people find it racist and sexist because Ken Kesey (the author of Cuckoo’s Nest) portrays women as “frigid monsters” or “whores” and blacks as “sadistic sodomites”. What is Kesey trying to say about women and blacks in this book by portraying them so negatively? He must be a racist and sexist asshole! Palahniuk says that we need to put race and gender aside (the blatant negative depiction of Nurse Ratched and the Aides is to surface of an analysis for me) and see Cuckoo’s Nest as showing the paradox of living in a modern democracy of only two political parties.
“How can you live within a democracy that expects you to vote and participate, to hold an opinion and vote thereby control and be responsible for your society-but at the same time, you must surrender and follow the will of others if even the slimmest majority disagrees with you?” -Chuck Palahniuk, Forward, One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest
Palahniuk is on to something there! I completely agree with him but I still feel a very important perspective is missing and it should really be the most obvious: the mental health perspective.
Is it just me or is not trying to understand a story that takes place in a psychiatric hospital from a mental health perspective a little weird? I think it further shows how society forgets people with mental health issues and feels that their experience is not valid and I guess not intelligent enough to deserve an analysis of its own.
My 18 year old sister encountered this in one of her university English classes last year. She was writing an essay on The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. My sister wrote about having neurosis and how it is stopping Gilman from fulfilling her duties as a mother, wife and the woman she wants to be. Her professor commented that no student had ever written this essay using a mental health analysis. Up until my sister, students had been handing in essays that talk about how women’s oppression caused Gilman to descend into madness, the pressure to be a wife and a mother were too much to take. The students neglected to look at the most obvious perspective, mental health but this could most likely be because it is a perspective that is just not talked about in academia.
I do agree that mental health can be linked to feminism. I do not think that it is a coincidence that women are more likely to be diagnosed with depressive mood disorders (passive) and men are more likely to be diagnosed with schizophrenia and ADD (aggressive/active). I have said on this blog and in my life that I believe part of the reason I have been diagnosed borderline is because I am an angry woman. But to ignore the actual mental health component is unjust.
We need to look at Cuckoo’s Nest through a mental health lens. Analyze the power imbalance between patient and staff, sane vs. insane, what does being insane mean, how are men viewed in mental health, patient rebellion and attitudes toward alternative treatment. Knowing this can help further our understanding of the mental health experience and how we can improve policy, treatment and social campaigns.
I thought it would be good to compliment my previous post, Freedom of Speech?, with the dictionary definitions of the two major discriminatory names used in society.
The argument is that calling a person these words is bad but using them to describe a non-person is not. I strongly disagree and I feel the definitions show that these words are used to describe mostly negatives that then link back to people (whether we are aware of it or not).
These words were FIRST created to describe people (which was the reason I heard someone would never say nigger, because it was first meant to push a certain population down) therefore we should be careful of using these words.
I know that language evolves but it all comes down to the word first meaning a messed up person and then being applied to a messed up situation.
I am left handed! It’s actually interesting that my sisters and I, our handedness goes left, right, left, right
Cracked.com published a list of 5 reasons why my life is harder than everyone else!
#5. They’ll die sooner
- Studies have shown that the number of left-handers who make it to old age is drastically lowerthan the number of their right-handed peers.
- One study surveying nearly 2,000 college students found that lefties report far more accidents than righties, especially car accidents.
- Another study of around 1,000 people living in Southern California showed that the risk of getting into a fatal accident was nearly six times higher if you were left-handed, and the risk of getting into a deadly car crash was four times higher.
- Research done on “true” left-handers (excluding those fence-sitting ambidextrous types) showed that lefties were 2.7 times more likely to suffer from immune disorders and 2.3 times more likely to have been hospitalized at some point.
The most agreed upon explanation is that lefties get in more accidents simply because they’re trying to maneuver in a world that’s upside down and backward to them.
#4. They’re more likely to go “insane”
- Although left-handed people make up only 10 percent of the population as a whole, they compose a full 20 percent of schizophrenics.
- Left-handedness is also associated with dyslexia, ADD and some mood disorders.
Clyde Francks, a researcher at Oxford University, believes that it might have something to do with a newly discovered gene called LRRTM1. The gene is closely linked with left-handedness, as well as being related to increased odds of mental illness. Francks believes the gene affects the symmetry of the brain.
Scientists have known for a while that schizophrenia and other disorders are caused by a kind of confusionbetween the two about which side should handle what. Now they think that a similar glitch in brain symmetry is one reason people might favor their left hand over their right.
#3. They’re screwed at school
- At school, they do worse on timed examsand suffer awful back and neck cramps in the process. Why? Right-handed desks. And scissors. And everything else.
Most school desks are biased toward right-handed people, forcing lefties to contort themselves uncomfortably in a desperate effort to reach across and take notes in our awkward left-to-right written language, their hand smudging everything they write, on a desk designed for their reflection.
In a recent survey of left-handers in 50 different countries, the number of lefties who were evertaught how to operate as a left-hander in a right-handed world sits frequently around 10 percent.
Pens, pencil sharpeners and other tools are also designed for the right hand, making life difficult (and even painful) for lefties.
On computers, the mouse is set up on the right side.
In wood working or metal shop the safety switches on all those spinning and stabbing blades are set up to be quickly accessible to right-handed people.
Being a left-handed student in this day and age isn’t as bad as it used to be in your grandparents’ time, when teachers tried to solve the problem by beating left-handed kids with paddles.
#2. They’re more easily scared
- Studies have shown that, if you’re left-handed, you’re twice as likelyto suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder.
- They did a study to test left- and right-handers on their tolerance for terrifying things and forced a test group to watch a gruesome eight minutes of The Silence of the Lambs. They then measured the emotional response. What they found was that reactions differed depending on which hand the subjects used to cover their eyes during the gory bits. Right-handers were usually able to recount details of the entire scene they just watched, while lefties were more likely to give fragmented accounts.
- In left-handers, the right brain tends to be dominant, and you guessed it, that’s also the side involved in the shit-your-pants response.
Studies agree that the opposite-side dominance in lefties tends to make them more inhibited, spending hours making basic decisions and then worrying that they’ve made the wrong call. To test her theory, behavioral psychologist Lynn Wright of the University of Abertay Dundee conducted a series of behavioral inhibition testson 46 left-handers and 66 right-handers. On the tests of restraint, both left-handed men and women scored higher than their right-handed counterparts, while on tests monitoring lack of inhibition, to the surprise of no one, the opposite held true.
#1. Hating them is ingrained in their culture
- In certain parts of Africa, Europe and much of the Far East, it’s actually offensiveto do anything with your left hand besides wipe your ass. For this and other reasons, the left hand is considered unclean and carries a cultural stigma. This makes being left-handed especially perilous in social situations, since waving hello or (God forbid) trying to shake another’s hand with your left is akin to dick-slapping them in the face.
- Lefties also have to be careful not to use their left hand to give or accept gifts, eat, or pass food. If they forget, it’s not uncommon to see their dinner partners gaping in abject horror, like they just passed them a steaming bowl of their own feces, which isn’t far from the actual implication.
- A backhanded compliment, when you deliver an insult disguised as flattery, is also known as a “left-handed compliment.”
- Even the dictionary defines being left-handed as something that implies being “clumsy and awkward.”
The word “left” derived from the Anglo-Saxon word “lyft,” which meant “weak.” And “sinistra,” the Latin for “left,” is also where we get the word “sinister.” “Gauche,” which we use to refer to a social faux pas, is actually French for “left.” And in the Akan language of Ghana, to say that someone has “slept on his left side” is a euphemism for death. Why do you think your partner in crime is your “right-hand man?”
If you’re one of the 10 percent of the population who have become progressively more depressed reading all this, for obvious reasons, then you should know that there’s an upside — you’re more likely to be president. Of the seven U.S. presidents since Nixon, only Carter and Bush Jr. were right-handed. So good luck, but don’t get your hopes up!
My Mom told me a few months ago that if she knew then what she knew now she would have pushed for the insurance company to cover more therapy. My current insurance would basically only cover 1 sessions a month. This is why I take the public route. I may have to wait a while to get it but once I’m in then I don’t need to worry about where the money will come from.
I had this thought back in December, wrote it down but never did anything with it.
It is really REALLY easy to be crazy! How many of you say “That’s crazy!” when someone describes a situation you can’t believe happened? “That’s insane!” when you can’t understand why someone has done something?
It seems to be that craziness is closely linked to confusion.
You can use “crazy” positively as well, “This beat is insane!” (I know I’m listening to an “insane” beat right now) but it still means that you can’t comprehend how this beat could exist to be like this!
It’s interesting that we can label people and things as “crazy” based of off whether or not WE understand, not whether or not the person or the situation, when analyzed, makes sense and EVERYTHING makes sense it’s just whether or not we agree with the sense.
I don’t want you confusion and lack of understanding to be pushed on me! If you can’t understand me then just leave me alone. You don’t need to insult me.
I used to have no problem with saying “crazy” because I could separate it from “mental illness crazy” and non mental illness crazy. As I’ve gotten older and learned more I came to found that there is no difference. Crazy is crazy and as long as we throw it around like it’s no big deal we are giving people permission to degrade us by calling everything “weird” crazy.
I will proudly call myself crazy because I do not want words to keep my face buried in the dirt but I still can’t help but flinch when people use crazy, insane, psycho etc to describe situations and people. I’m all for taking back but it still hurts me to hear these words.
Crazy, insane, freak, psycho etc have been eliminated from my vocabulary (along with gay, “that’s so gay”, and slut, “she looks like a slut”) because it is just safer to never use them.
This does not mean that we shouldn’t talk at all about the language surrounding mental health and mental illness. We need to educate people on why these words are hurtful, how they have oppressed and which language we should be using.
We all know someone who has done something that we cannot fathom. They have done something that makes no sense to us. They have done something that has hurt someone, hurt the community, hurt society. They have done something that makes us believe something truly must be wrong with them.
They have murdered, assaulted, stalked, abused, raped, terrorized and many other things that make us horrified that such humans can exist.
We call them crazy, psycho, freak, insane, nuts, fucked up, monster, messed up and so on.
I have been called these names and more yet I have never done any of the things we usually associate “craziness” with. I have never murdered, I have never abused, I have never intentionally caused anyone pain!
All I had to do to earn these labels was be diagnosed with a mental illness.
I woke up “crazy”.
I went to school a “psycho”.
I hung out with friends as a “freak”.
I watched a movie with my family as “insane”.
I cried as “nuts”.
I laughed as “fucked up”.
I coped as a “monster”.
I tried to live as “messed up”.
That’s not fair!