Friday, May 16, 2008

Mad Pride and clowns

I have just looked at the "Mad Pride" site and was more than somewhat disappointed. I'm not sure what I was expecting, but what I found was a bit distressing.

This group, called Mind Freedom, advocates for what are normally called "mentally ill" people and it's grand that they are searching for alternatives to that awful expression. But some of their tactics, well, they reinforce stereotypes that just irk me.

For instance, they do street theater where they dress in clown suits and carry rubber chickens while doing what are called "normality screenings". I'm sorry, but what the hell do clown suits and rubber chickens have to do with the distress of being diagnosed with a mental illness or disorder? In addition, the folks in the clown suits ask people to do things like cluck like a duck and jump up and down, do silly walks and other assorted shenanigans.

These kinds of behaviors are the stuff of television shows and bad movies. Yes, I saw the "crazy homeless lady" on CSI last week who wore a suit made out of aluminum foil because she thought it would keep "them" from getting into her brain. Yes, there are people who do have these kinds of delusions and "dress funny", but the majority of people in the psychiatric wards are, well, pretty normal. They're just miserable (just?)

Are people who are in the grips of psychosis happy? Do they cheer when they wake up in the morning to voices telling them what to do (like going out and getting a clown suit and some rubber chickens or wear tin foil)? Not very likely.

Most people who have psychiatric diagnoses are not enjoying themselves. Why do you think it's called depression? I have never met anyone who has told me, "Gee. I love feeling suicidal. It's exhilarating!" NO. Being depressed, anxiety ridden or being on the roller coaster of bipolar illness are not generally a whole lot of fun.

I may be overreacting to this because I have hated clowns since I was a child. I remember thinking they were very sad adults and it was plainly obvious. This scared me. It didn't scare me because I was afraid of the "mentally ill", but because I think pretending to be happy when one is not just plain stinks. I thought that as a child of clowns (and myself) and I still think that today.

I would prefer society being more tolerant of neuro-diversity. Absolutely. But just because I am neuro-diverse (supposedly) I am not a kook. Why does it have to be this either/or proposition?

I have wished to be so-called normal most of my life and, thankfully, I've given that up (but for what, I'm not sure). I do not know what normal is. I'm not so sure that I'm not and I'm not so sure that all these so-called normal folks are.

I would prefer we chuck the word normal out of our vocabulary and substitute it with the word average. This may cause a bit of jealousy amongst the average folks, but, as they say, turnabout is fair play.

Photo note: I obtained this from the Clowns of the World website. I'm glad I found it soon, for searching through Google's image results was an awful five minutes or so. I truly, absolutely, completely, and unabashedly hate modern clowns. I probably would have hated non-modern clowns if I lived in another time period.

There is a word for the fear of clowns: coulrophobia. More on this later (because I can't get the image of John Wayne Gacy's clown drawings and other things out of my mind and need to do something distracting!) For an interesting gallery show entitled "Coulrophobia", click here. If you hate clowns, don't do it.

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