“What if this is as good as it gets?”
Melvin Udall, to a group of depressed psychiatric patients, in “As Good as It Gets” (1997)
Unfortunately, psychological disorders are not rare, especially among some creatives. I have already made a posting about the excellent presentation by Elizabeth Gilbert who talks about the pressure of success of writers.
But it’s not only the person himself who has to deal with his psychological disorder. Via social relationships, which are essential to a healthy life, other people are confronted by it in one way or the other — and it is very hard when others cannot understand the disorder. Other people can see an amputated leg or an arm, they can hear when someone has a cold or trouble speaking, they can see the physical drain cancer patients experience, but many psychological disorders have no visible indicators.
It’s hard to convey that a depression is not a matter of simply “getting a grip” on oneself or “stop acting foolish”, that a depressive episode is very different from a case of bad mood that one can shake of. Or that Asperger Syndrome is different from being shy and introverted.
- “Living with a Black Dog. His name is depression.” by Matthew Johnstone depicts depression as a black dog who invades the life of a person. It shows how depression can happen, what it means in daily life, and what can be done against it.
Note: There appear to be two books — one about depression itself, one about dealing with people who suffer from depression. Look at the subtitle as the main title seems to be switched in some versions.
- “All Cats Have Asperger Syndrome” by Kathy Hoopmann illustrates Asperger Syndrome by comparing its symptoms to the behavior of cats.
While both books are rather short and by no means a treatise in clinical psychology, they are very useful in giving an aid to explain what it means to have a depression or Asperger Syndrome.
If you know any other books that explain a psychological disorder well, I’d be interested to hear about them.
Note: I am completely against using a psychological disorder as excuse for bad behavior (“I can’t help it, I’m xyz.”) or self-stigmatization (“I’m xyz and that’s all I’ll ever be”). A diagnosis of a psychological disorder by a professional therapist does not mean that one cannot do anything against it or that it defines the person. Quite the contrary. Diagnosis is important because it tells the therapist how to attack that psychological disorder and can help the person suffering from it to prepare for some symptoms. It should never be accepted as “that’s the way it is and I can do nothing against it”. The moment you do this you give up and the disorder completely takes over your life and damages those of people you like. Don’t accept it — get professional help.