“Smashing heads does not open minds.” –Deborah Tannen, The Argument Culture.
This is not a post about mental illness, not really. It is a post about frustration and anger and trying to change other people’s minds.
So many times when I hear people talk about the mentally ill, I feel angry. They don’t get it, I think. I want to smack them upside the head with reality: you’re talking about me. Me.
My mental rant continues erupting, spewing anger and frustration, pointing toward society and church and any unlucky person in the path of my lava-like rage. I might throw a few chairs, too, or stomp from the room. It’s all imagined, of course. I don’t want to physically or emotionally hurt people. Besides, volcanic eruptions change landscapes, not minds.
But over the years, I’ve mentally ranted at the People Who Don’t Get It. It might be eating disorders or the legal system or the stance of their political opponents or simply the other side of a silly argument, the type where the people talk past each other and they might as well be speaking Swahili and Mandarin Chinese to each other. (But that’s a different blog post.) I usually fume in silence.
Every once in a while, though, I come across something I can’t ignore and the volcano erupts.
Case in point:
Months ago, a Christian denominational magazine ran a cover story titled, “In The World: Following Christ into a Relationship with the Mentally Ill.”
As I read, I was infuriated. Just in case I was being overly-touchy, I handed the magazine to my husband and had him read it before I shared my thoughts. “Did you notice anything about the article?” I asked.
He furrowed his brow. “Well, the author didn’t talk about any non-violent mentally ill people. The only people they talked about were the extremely violent ones, like Adam Lanza. And it acted like mental illness was all out there and not in the church, too.”
I wrote a letter to the magazine editor, detailing what I found offensive about the article. Initially, I wrote a screaming rage-rant, the type that uses expletives and all that. Later, I toned down the anger in my original rough draft, taking out the four-letter words and overall nastiness. I thought hard, polished and edited and made certain that I was rational. But when I read this letter now, ten months later, I remember how upset I was. The anger is still there.
I sent the letter by email to the only email address I found in the magazine. (This one never publishes letters to the editor, and there’s no “contact us” type of address listed.)
The editors never responded.
I don’t know if my email was caught in their spam filter. Or if it got to the right person. Or if it did, and the right person didn’t have time to respond. Or if they dismissed me as a “crazy” person they needed to ignore. Or if they never respond to emails, ever. Or if it made the writer think, at least for a moment, about the consequences of her words. I don’t know.
I know this: I’ve waited for a response and never gotten one.
The silence increases my frustration. My letter did absolutely no good.
Was this a case of smashing heads? Was I expecting changed minds from a technique that never changes minds? Was I smashing heads or simply being passionate in my argument?
I don’t know.
Was I too unreasonable? Too angry? Too offensive? Was I re-enforcing the stereotype of “crazy mental case” by writing this?
Again, I don’t know.
Was there a better way to handle this? Was there a type of response from me that would have prompted a response from them?
Once more, I don’t know.
I wish I did.