Half mast

Let’s stop lowering the flag for mass murders.

We lower it so often now that it doesn’t mean anything.
We lower it for –
Former presidents, Senators, current Supreme Court Justices or First Ladies who die. In honor of Pearl Harbor Day or September 11th. National (and some international) disasters.

When we lower it after people have been killed in a mass murder, we don’t show mourning anymore.
We say the murderer has won.
He’s gotten attention.
We’ve all noticed him for a change.
We say that our nation is diminished, when this is the time we need to be stronger.

By lowering the flag, we are lowering ourselves. We are showing weakness. This has to stop, because that is the last thing we should be doing at such a time.

Mental health vs. mentally ill

Originally posted on FB 12-15-12

I am so sick of lowering the flag to half mast. There have been too many tragedies. There have been too many murders of innocent people. But I’m also sick of the news and the public equating the term “mental illness” with “psychopath.”

I have a mental health diagnosis. I am bipolar, what used to be known as manic-depression. You’d never know it by talking to me. I know that once I tell people that I have a mental health diagnosis, things change between us. They look at me differently. They treat me differently.

Yet since being diagnosed I’ve done so many things that “normal” people are seemingly unable to do. I’m stable. I’ve had a job for 12 years. I’ve lived on my own. I have been married for over 8 years. I’ve not been in jail. My credit rating is impressive. I give credit to God that I am doing as well as I am. I also take medicine every day and visit a therapist regularly. I exercise, eat well, and pray regularly as part of my therapy.

I don’t like using the term “mentally ill” to describe myself. Mentally ill? Those are folks who don’t work with their doctor to get balanced. Those are folks who take matters into their own hands. One could argue that anyone who steps over the line and kills others is mentally ill – diagnosis or not. People who abuse their children – verbally, physically, emotionally – are mentally ill. Anyone who lies, cheats, or steals is mentally ill. Anyone who has “not loved your neighbor as yourself” is mentally ill.

I think it is time to shine a light on those of us who have a mental health diagnosis yet aren’t mentally ill.

What follows is from the NAMI website – http://www.nami.org/Template.cfm?Section=Helpline1&template=%2FContentManagement%2FContentDisplay.cfm&ContentID=4858

Abraham Lincoln

The revered sixteenth President of the United States suffered from severe and incapacitating depressions that occasionally led to thoughts of suicide, as documented in numerous biographies by Carl Sandburg.

Virginia Woolf

The British novelist who wrote To the Lighthouse and Orlando experienced the mood swings of bipolar disorder characterized by feverish periods of writing and weeks immersed in gloom. Her story is discussed in The Dynamics of Creation by Anthony Storr.

Lionel Aldridge

A defensive end for Vince Lombardi’s legendary Green Bay Packers of the 1960’s, Aldridge played in two Super Bowls. In the 1970’s, he suffered from schizophrenia and was homeless for two and a half years. Until his death in 1998, he gave inspirational talks on his battle against paranoid schizophrenia. His story is the story of numerous newspaper articles.

Eugene O’Neill

The famous playwright, author of Long Day’s Journey Into Night and Ah, Wilderness!, suffered from clinical depression, as documented in Eugene O’Neill by Olivia E. Coolidge.

Ludwig van Beethoven

The brilliant composer experienced bipolar disorder, as documented in The Key to Genius: Manic Depression and the Creative Life by D. Jablow Hershman and Julian Lieb.

Gaetano Donizetti

The famous opera singer suffered from bipolar disorder, as documented in Donizetti and the World Opera in Italy, Paris and Vienna in the First Half of the Nineteenth Century by Herbert Weinstock.

Robert Schumann

The “inspired poet of human suffering” experienced bipolar disorder, as discussed in The Dynamics of Creation by Anthony Storr.

Leo Tolstoy

Author of War and Peace, Tolstoy revealed the extent of his own mental illness in the memoir Confession. His experiences is also discussed in The Dynamics of Creation by Anthony Storr and The Inner World of Mental Illness: A Series of First Person Accounts of What It Was Like by Bert Kaplan.

Vaslov Nijinsky

The dancer’s battle with schizophrenia is documented in his autobiography, The Diary of Vaslov Nijinksy.

John Keats

The renowned poet’s mental illness is documented in The Dynamics of Creation by Anthony Storr and The Broken Brain: The biological Revolution in Psychiatry by Nancy Andreasen, M.D.

Tennessee Williams

The playwright gave a personal account of his struggle with clinical depression in his own Memoirs. His experience is also documented in Five O’Clock Angel: Letters of Tennessee Williams to Maria St. Just, 1948-1982; The Kindness of Strangers: The Life of Tennessee Williams by Donald Spoto, and Tennessee: Cry of the Heart by Dotson.

Vincent Van Gogh

The celebrated artist’s bipolar disorder is discussed in The Key to Genius: Manic Depression and the Creative Life by D. Jablow Hershman and Julian Lieb and Dear Theo, The Autobiography of Van Gogh.

Isaac Newton

The scientist’s mental illness is discussed in The Dynamics of Creation by Anthony Storr and The Key to Genius: Manic Depression and the Creative Life by D. Jablow Hershman and Julian Lieb.

Ernest Hemingway

The Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist’s suicidal depression is examined in the True Gen: An Intimate Portrait of Ernest Hemingway by Those Who Knew Him by Denis Brian.

Sylvia Plath

The poet and novelist ended her lifelong struggle with clinical depresion by taking own life, as reported in A Closer Look at Ariel: A Memory of Sylvia Plath by nancy Hunter-Steiner.


The mental illness of one of the world’s greatest artistic geniuses is discussed in The Dynamics of Creation by Anthony Storr.

Winston Churchill

“Had he been a stable and equable man, he could never have inspired the nation. In 1940, when all the odds were against Britain, a leader of sober judgment might well have concluded that we were finished,” wrote Anthony Storr about Churchill’s bipolar disorder in Churchill’s Black Dog, Kafka’s Mice, and Other Phenomena of the Human Mind.

Vivien Leigh

The Gone with the Wind star suffered from mental illness, as documented in Vivien Leigh: A Biography by Ann Edwards.

Jimmy Piersall

The baseball player for the Boston Red Sox who suffered from bipolar disorder detailed his experience in The Truth Hurts.

Patty Duke

The Academy Award-winning actress told of her bipolar disorder in her autobiography and made-for-TV move Call Me Anna and A Brilliant Madness: Living with Manic-Depressive Illness, co-authored by Gloria Hochman.

Charles Dickens

One of the greatest authors in the English language suffered from clinical depression, as documented in The Key to Genius: Manic Depression and the Creative Life by D. Jablow Hershman and Julian Lieb, and Charles Dickens: His Tragedy and Triumph by Edgar Johnson.