Guess what? Just OFFICIALLY signed on the dotted line to make this site ElephantAdvocate.com! Turns out I don’t know much about elephant law, and this way, this site can engage in advocacy for other issues, too.
Like mental health.
Mental health is a topic that’s really important to me, and often misunderstood. Issues with mental health manifest so differently from person to person, too, making it that much tougher to understand if your brain works like it’s supposed to.
After news of Anthony Bourdain’s suicide broke today, I got about.. oh I don’t know… another 45 minutes of work done before I paid to cancel my workout class and came home early to work on this site.
It’s not just him. Every time someone dies this way it hurts me, physically and emotionally. I think because, I understand what it’s like to be in a dark place, but even I have been able to somehow bounce back every time I go there. And it hurts a lot to imagine others being in that dark place, either for so long, or hurting so intensely, that they don’t see a way out. Quite honestly, it also scares me, because I don’t have any more control over my mind than they have over theirs.
Usually a dark side will breed some sort of creativity – you see it a lot with artists and writers and so on.
So then, that means that a lot of people suffering from all sorts of mental problems have a lot to offer in terms of art or other thought-provoking mediums. And I think those creations are important, because they help us understand mental illness better than a psychology paper. For example, Sylvia Plath’s Bell Jar helped me understand how to put what I was feeling into words, and also encouraged me to start therapy, because I identified a little too much with the main character, if you know what I mean.
Another example is pretty much anything written by Andrew Solomon, who helped me understand my depression more than my own therapist. Had he not reached rock bottom, I wouldn’t have had his brilliant writing and speeches as a resource with which to understand myself. And that would be a shame.
Anthony Bourdain’s death is hard for me to comprehend, because I really identified with what type of human he was. I’ve worked in a lot of restaurants, and tended to appreciate the same sort of chaotic, fast-paced, late-night (I think he also mentioned free food and pilfered booze) life-style that he liked. I watched his shows not because of the culinary aspect, but because he seemed to not give a shit about anything. He seemed to be so open about everything. He wanted constant adventure – which I also get, because I tend to get bored with life really easily.
From my perspective (and probably everyone else’s), he seemed to have found a way to channel his constant need for stimulation or adventure, into something we couldn’t get enough of. He was raw and unapologetic, but still extremely charismatic, open, and non-judgmental. Or maybe he was judgmental. I don’t know. I don’t know him. All I know is that he had the life I want. And that, for me, begs the question – if that life couldn’t cure him, is there any hope for me?
Lately I’ve been “adventure seeking,” if you want to call it that. Really just putting myself out there in creative ways to see what sticks – performing, mainly. I’m doing it because the 9-5 life is not for me. I wish it was, I really do. But I feel more alive when I’m doing something out of the ordinary, and I’m tired of trying to fit myself into a box that wasn’t built for me. I’m wondering if Mr. Bourdain did the same thing, and then outgrew the adventures he was having. What if all of his adventures were in search of something, or running from something, and he got tired of running? And what if that’s what I’m doing? Will it be the case that, at some point, no matter what I’m doing, it won’t be enough?
I don’t think that’s the case for me. I don’t know what kind of demons he was battling, but I have to assume they were more powerful than mine.
Elephants need advocates because they can’t speak for themselves. They can’t form non-profits and dress up in suits and go meet with elected officials, and explain, “Hey, um, we’re being murdered by the thousands. Could someone maybe help us out?”
We have to do that for them. But in different way, victims of mental illness are also unable to advocate for themselves. Depression sends your thoughts into a constant tornado of negativity, anxiety, what if, and then – blank. It’s hard to even explain to a friend what’s going on with you, much less put together a task force to fix the problem. Plus, who wants to bring it up? “Hey, I see you’re having a good day. Wanna talk about how I can’t stop crying?”
Nobody wants to be that person. That’s why it sometimes falls to friends and family to ask for help for help on their behalf. Friends and family don’t always know you need help when you seem to have your shit together, I’m guessing. (Never had my shit together, so I can’t say for sure).
Anyway, there are a lot of topics I want to cover in the next few months, and mental health is joining elephants at the top of the list. If we don’t take care of ourselves, how will we save elephants?