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Would You Rather Be Violent & Dangerous or Docile & Incompetent: Gender & the Stigma of Mental Illness

Would You Rather Be Violent & Dangerous or Docile & Incompetent: Gender & the Stigma of Mental Illness

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Published by Jed Diamond
I’ve been a mental health “professional” since the age of five. My father was 42 years old and I was 5 years old the year he tried to commit suicide. I made a decision way back then, though it was not a conscious one, to find out why my artistic and creative father wanted to leave his family and to leave his life behind. When I was about the age he was when he made his first suicide attempt, I found a journal he had written, which gave me a window into his world.
I’ve been a mental health “professional” since the age of five. My father was 42 years old and I was 5 years old the year he tried to commit suicide. I made a decision way back then, though it was not a conscious one, to find out why my artistic and creative father wanted to leave his family and to leave his life behind. When I was about the age he was when he made his first suicide attempt, I found a journal he had written, which gave me a window into his world.

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Published by: Jed Diamond on Jun 08, 2010
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05/27/2012

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Would You Rather BeViolent & Dangerousor Docile & Incompetent? Gender & the Stigma of Mental Illness
Jed Diamond, Ph.D. has been a health-care professional for the last 45 years.He is the author of 9 books, including
Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places,Male Menopause,The Irritable Male Syndrome,
. He offers counseling to men,women, and couples in his office in California or by phone with people throughoutthe U.S. and around the world. To receive a Free E-book on Men’s Health and afree subscription to Jed’s e-newsletter go towww.MenAlive.com.I’ve been a mental health “professional” since the age of five. My father was42 years old and I was 5 years old the year he tried to commit suicide. I made adecision way back then, though it was not a conscious one, to find out why myartistic and creative father wanted to leave his family and to leave his life behind.When I was about the age he was when he made his first suicide attempt, I founda journal he had written, which gave me a window into his world.Crazy Like My Father January 4:"I feel full confidence in my writing ability. I know for certain that someone willbuy one of my radio shows. I know for certain that I will get a good part in a play.Last night I dreamt about candy. There was more candy than I could eat. Does itmean I'll be rewarded for all my efforts?"June 24:"Your flesh crawls, your scalp wrinkles when you look around and see goodwriters, established writers, writers with credits a block long, unable to sell,unable to find work. Yes, it's enough to make anyone blanch, turn pale andsicken."August 28:“A hundred failures, an endless number of failures, until now, my confidence,my hope, my belief in myself, has run completely out. Middle aged, I stand andgaze ahead, numb, confused, and desperately worried.”
 
October 5: “All around me I see the young in spirit, the young in heart, with ten times myconfidence, twice my youth, ten times my fervor, twice my education. I see themall, a whole army of them, battering at the same doors I’m battering, trying in thesame field I’m trying.”November 8: “Yes, on a Sunday morning in early November, my hope and my life streamare both running desperately low, so low, so stagnant, that I hold my breath infear, believing that the dark, blank curtain is about to descend. My hope and mylife stream are both running desperately low, so low, so stagnant, that I hold mybreath in fear, believing that the dark, blank curtain is about to descend."Although his journals told a story of a man who was sad and depressed abouthis inability to find work in the creative field he loved, at home he was oftenangry, judgmental, and withdrawn. He would yell at my mother, then disappear for days.Five days after his last journal entry, he took an overdose of sleeping pills.Although he didn’t die, our lives were never the same. He was sent to a mentalhospital. I was sent to school to learn my ABCs. Neither one of us adapted wellto our surroundings. He ultimately escaped from the mental hospital after beingincarcerated for 9 years.I tried to be a good boy. I tried not to rock the boat. I tried to be smart andlogical about my life. I was terrified of my emotions and secretly sure I would turnout like my father. I thought if I became a doctor I could magically protect myself against his fate and save him, and men like him, from mental illness. I went intomedical school, but felt stifled. One day I walked out. Or at least I tried to walkout. I had to see a psychiatrist before they would allow me to leave. Anyonewho wanted to
get out 
of medical school, when most people would kill to
get in
,must be crazy.When I left medical school, the lid came off of my emotions. I let myself feelagain. Once I let go of control of my feelings, I found that I was happier and alsomore depressed. My emotions went up and down. When I was diagnosed asbeing bipolar (manic-depressive) I felt the stigma of being labeled “mentally ill.”But I also was able to get help, support, and good treatment. I could better dealwith the ups and downs of my life and I didn’t have to attempt suicide as myfather had done.

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