links for 2007-09-20

No, We Really Do Understand, The Center Cannot Hold: My Journey Through Madness

Elyn Saks is a scholar and law professor who has written The Center Cannot Hold: My Journey Through Madness, a book about her life with schizophrenia. Her statement “I couldn’t control what I thought, but I could usually control what I said” really, really resonated with me. This LA Times article on her schizophrenia and book is well worth a read.

A secret life of madness LA Times
Over 30 years, as she [Elyn Saks] forged her career, she wrestled with uncouth visions, violent commands and suicidal impulses, Saks explained to her listeners. In her worst moments, the TV made fun of her, ashtrays danced and walls collapsed. Sure she was a witch, she burned herself as punishment with cigarettes, lighters and electric heaters. She believed she was single-handedly responsible for the deaths of thousands of people. The brains of close associates were taken over by aliens.

Fearful of rejection, she told no one about her inner strife, other than her doctors and closest friends, even as she was hospitalized, force-fed anti-psychotic drugs and lashed to metal gurneys. She became an exhibit, she recalled, a specimen, “a bug impaled on a pin and helpless to escape.”

In her gravelly voice, Saks detailed for the psychologists how she became convinced that her former psychotherapist was a monster, how she needed to protect herself. Before one therapy session, Saks went to a hardware store to look at axes.

Still, she feared the therapist would abandon her, Saks told the audience, revealing her thoughts that back then raced toward a plot: I will kidnap her and keep her tied in my closet. I will take good care of her. I will give her food and clothes. She will always be there when I need her to give me psychoanalysis.

She was able to keep most of her delusional episodes private. “I couldn’t control what I thought,” she said. “But I could usually control what I said.”

Saks has schizophrenia, a severe mental disorder often characterized by social isolation, disorganized speech, delusions and hallucinations. She has defied the prediction of a doctor who once said she would never lead an independent life. She has even flourished, thanks to a strict regimen of medication and talk therapy. (…)

“Schizophrenia,” she would later say, “rolls in like a slow fog, becoming imperceptibly thicker as time goes on.” (…)

Whew. This all begins to sound like a great many things, alcoholism, depression. … but she really got my attention when she wrote about colleague’s reactions to how mental patients feel:

While researching a paper on the use of mechanical restraints in psychiatric wards, Saks mentioned to a professor how such devices could be both frightening and demeaning to patients.

He dismissed the notion. “You don’t really understand,” he said. “These people are different than you and me. It doesn’t affect them the way it would affect us.”

Even today, Saks shudders at those words. “He saw people like me as being less valuable, defective,” she said. “The idea that psychiatric patients would be insensitive to pain and harm. I wish I’d had the strength in my illness to say something.”

Yiiiiiiiiiiiii. I’ve felt that one too many times when it comes to taking about how drug users feel, or being autistic. Or even just a geek. Whenever someone evokes the “different than you and me” argument you know you’re dealing with someone who is not really engaged with what they’re saying and, frankly, hasn’t stopped to think about it at all. There, I’ve been charitable. You’re dealing with an idiot and possibly a bigot who can’t really be bothered to consider that people other than themselves might be different, but just as worthwhile.

Madeleine L’Engle, Author of ‘A Wrinkle in Time’, Has Died at 88

Thank you so very much for your books, Ms. L’Engle.

Madeleine L’Engle, Children’s Writer, Is Dead

Madeleine L’Engle, who in writing more than 60 books, including childhood fables, religious meditations and science fiction, weaved emotional tapestries transcending genre and generation, died Thursday in Connecticut. She was 88. (…)

Ms. L’Engle was best known for her children’s classic, “A Wrinkle in Time,” which won the John Newbery Award as the best children’s book of 1963. By 2004, it had sold more than 6 million copies, was in its 67th printing and was still selling 15,000 copies a year.

No Spoilers, Please…

We’re trying to preserve a Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows spoiler-free zone here. The book should arrive sometime Saturday and the reading will commence from there. So, for a couple of weeks, please give the kids and slow readers some room and copiously issue spoiler alerts. KTHX!

[finished on Sunday, 🙂 Go get yourself a copy!]

Colin Fletcher, Author and Backpacker, Has Died at 85

Garret brought this sad fact to my attention…

Colin Fletcher, 85, a Trailblazer of Modern Backpacking, Dies [NY Times]

Colin Fletcher, whose ornate prose and prosaic tips on subjects like choosing the right hiking boots helped start the modern backpacking movement, died June 12 in Monterey, Calif. He was 85. (…)

First published in 1968, the book [The Complete Walker] has sold more than 500,000 copies and remains in print. So, too, have two of the seven other books that Mr. Fletcher offered as paeans to soul-restoring and solitary strolls through the hinterlands. Hiking, he wrote in “The Complete Walker III,” is a “simple, delightful, intended-to-be-liberating-from-the-straight-line-coordinates-of-civilization pastime.”

I read The Complete Walker for the first time in 1971 and own both the II and III editions of the book. I quickly fell in love with his style of writing and eagerly sought out his other books The Thousand Mile Summer and the Man Who Walked through Time. I also read The Winds of Mara and The Man From the Cave when they were published. Chuckwalla Bill, who was The Man From the Cave, left his trunk in a cave in a mountain range just south of here, in fact.

My first encounters with Fletcher’s work coincided with my initial readings of Desert Solitaire, A Sand County Almanac, John Wesley Powell’s Grand Canyon exploration journals, John Muir’s writings and Walden. In my mind they are all intertwined and resonate equally.

Fletcher informed me about being a self-sufficient biped and helped me see how to camp with quite a bit less impact than the various methods I had picked up in my adolescence from several organizations. cough Boy Scouts cough.

I worked in the requisite backpacking and bicycling store near the Land Grant University for three years during my undergraduate career (I think that was my Junior years) and we could all quote from his books. I don’t know that we deified him, but you had to make a good case for deviating from most of his advice.

I remember his ‘Second Law of Thermodynamics Thermodynamic Walking,’ concerning wearing shorts in the summer and ventilation — “Give your balls some air.” [corrected –ed.]

I did not personally know Mr. Fletcher, but like many and especially Garret and Terry G., I can only say, thank you very much Mr. Fletcher, and Rest in Peace.

Mr. Warmth

Quite by accident I met Don Rickles at a signing for his book, Rickles’ Book, on yesterday (Saturday). He is downtown playing at The Golden Nugget over Memorial Day. The Nugget is very old school, but then, Don Rickles is old school.

He is a pleasant man, surprisingly humble and concerned about this fans.

[later:] I should mention that I did not go to a signing for Don Rickles’ book and was surprised that he was there. I went to this (large chain) bookstore and was surprised by the book signing. (Yes, it snuck on me and said, boo!)

links for 2007-05-24