Writing about kids and attention seeking made me think about another phenomenon I've had a lot of exposure to... People with mental illnesses whose behaviour is also labeled as "seeking attention."
|PET scan of depressed vs non depressed brain|
A young woman is married to a nurse at the hospital. This young woman is depressed. She has been for almost a year, and suddenly, today, the weight of nearly a year of being so sad it is physically painful falls hard on her mind, and she cracks. Her husband goes to work early in the morning and for a few hours, she waffles. Take the entire prescription of T3 pills and Oxycodone with a bottle of vodka? Or get help? She would probably rather get help. But if she shows up at the hospital her husband gets to be the central focus of the entire fishbowl that is the hospital social scene, and she will be embarrassed. Plus, it takes less effort to take the pills.
Being alive hurts so bad.
She picks up the phone.
An ambulance arrives.
I am in it.
She is beside herself, freaking out that her husband will find out Don't tell him, do NOT tell him, please don't let anyone tell him! I've been in her shoes, although I didn't pick up the phone and call for help. I wish I had. She had more courage than I and I sincerely hope with every cell in my body that she got good help, which is hard to find in our medical system for mental health issues. It's even harder to find outside the medical system, so there's that.
Afterwards, my ambulance partner says to me, "Well she got what she wanted, lots of attention."
I didn't answer. You would think such a comment would slice me sideways, but to be honest I was so used to this attitude in the emergency medical system that it slid right off me.
Most people don't run into suicidal or schizophrenic or anxious or bipolar or dissociative or OCD (true, untreated OCD, not the funny ha-ha OCD everyone jokes that they have just because they like their house tidy or hate bugs or whatnot) folks very often. Maybe every once in awhile on your commute to work, if you cross a major bridge. But in emergency services, they are a daily event. Maybe regular people think major clinical depression is a cry for attention, too? I'm actually going to assume they do. It can be frustrating to deal with someone who is clearly irrational. Just snap out of it. Obviously the fact that you don't indicates that you like it somehow. It works for you.
Good Lord in heaven is there hope for the human race? The PET scan above should silence THAT.
I believe life is worth it. Worth living, worth fighting, worth helping others even when it is uncomfortable or repetitious, worth encouraging and pulling out of each other even when we don't understand each other's demons. It seems so logical to me that the nurse's wife I mentioned should be surrounded by love while she is treated for depression but in her mind, staying alive is no longer logical. The last thing she wants is someone observing all her abject self hatred and woundedness, but she picked up the phone anyways. She didn't want attention, she wanted a better life. An end to all that sadness and hurt, or at least a taming of it.
Love, care, and attention is as warranted for mental illness as for physical illness. If I develop diabetes or liver disease or Salmonella my friends and family bring me food, babysit my babies, and research diet changes or homeopathic treatments that might help me, and nobody thinks I have my disease because I want attention. But if I develop a bipolar condition, on either end of a swing I'm an attention whore? This makes no sense.
Grown ups like attention (so do kids), but (like kids) we generally prefer the positive kind. You know, the kind that shows our strengths and our scrubbed, clean, happy side. The facebook side of life. Any attempt to reach out to each other when life is tough? Ought to be applauded for the bravery it is.