In the Eiger Sanction, Clint Eastwood’s character named Jonathan and his climbing partner are stuck on a mountain wall that has completely iced over.
Andrei, a Frenchman, remarks to his fellow trapped climber, “Johnathan, you’re very good. I have really enjoyed climbing with you.” “We’ll make it,” comes the encouraging reply. “I don’t think so,” says Andrei. “But we shall continue with style.”
Indeed. For what is more important in the face of death or an impossible situation? I want to tie this into mental health and the invisible, iced over mountain that so many of us are stuck on.
Mental health problems aren’t often visible. People that mumble incessantly, talking to themselves or to people that aren’t there, are clearly disturbed. That shows. People too depressed or anxious to go outside may give up on hygiene and present a ragged appearance when they do go out.
For most of us though, we keep up appearances. We keep ourselves clean, work if we can, get groceries, drive around, and run errands. What else can we do? Who would do these errands for us? We can’t be a burden on anybody else.
Unfortunately, this outward appearance of normality completely fights against our inward struggles and nightmares. The more we try to appear normal, the less people think we have problems.
I remember walking in San Francisco toward the Embarcadero Plaza one year. A completely disheveled street person was sitting on the sidewalk as I went by, asking for a handout. I ignored him, although I am normally prone to charity.
He yelled after me in a very angry voice, shouting about how I would like it to be where he was, sitting on a sidewalk like him. I closed my eyes and kept walking.
For several days before, I had some of my worst nightmares, which I have written about before. (internal link). Bloody, violent, suicide inducing nightmares, which have come and gone since October of 1988. Chronic, along with an induced anxiety in the day that is often unbearable. Would he trade his life for mine if he saw what I had seen? Too often, what I continue to see?
Appearing completely normal, and fighting to keep that way, those of us with mental health problems erase all indication of what we are going through. We have no credibility with the outside world as to our condition, we look just fine.
I don’t know what to do about this. I can’t worry people with descriptions of my nightmares, I can’t relate my anxiety, and believe, me, therapy doesn’t do any good for a condition that has gone on for decades. Although, yes, I am still seen by a psychiatrist. I hold out hope, still, like playing the lottery.
There’s an odd sounding theory in the law called the eggshell skull rule. Let me quote the Pepper & Odom Law Firm (external link) before getting into this.
“The basic principle of the eggshell skull rule is that the Defendant in a civil case must take full responsibility for all the damages that they caused to the victim, regardless of the fact that the particular Plaintiff was more susceptible than a normal person may have been.”
“This is a very important rule when it comes to personal injury claims and it shows up all the time in car wreck cases. For example, if an older person is rear-ended while sitting at a red light, and they suffer a broken back because they have weaker bones – whereas a younger person may only have suffered soft tissue injuries in the exact same situation, the person who hit them is still responsible for the full extent of the damages they caused.”
You take people as you find them. That’s the conclusion. That’s the point of law. Appearances aside, you take the whole person as you find them. Without appearing so, some people are more prone to damage.
You need to be kind. We all need to be kind. We don’t know each others’ lives, what stress they are under at work or if they just had a death in the family. Or a history of mental health problems. We need to be kind. There’s too many careless people in the world running people over.
“They were careless people, Tom and Daisy – they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness, or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made.”
Worse, though, are the mean and cruel. Management at my apartment here is like that. They won’t kick a puppy when no one is looking, I think, but they will do violence to the truth if their job depends on it or if they are just feeling like it. Like that woman who told me what I had seen was in fact an opinion. She told me that behind my back. As I was walking away. (internal link) No guts to say it to my face. It is this lying and tearing down of things that is so easy.
It is far easier to be destructive than constructive. You can burn down a building with one match what it took a year to build. Similarly, lying is easier than admitting a mistake. Being mean and cruel are like running downhill, there’s no effort involved. Compare that to being positive in the face of difficulty, that is like running uphill.
Cruelty has inherent power that kindness lacks. Kindness and good acts should be effortless as rain falls to the ground, however, most good works require some kind of deliberate, conscious, willful effort. Meanness is too often a thoughtless impulse, an immediate reflex, for the more inculcated, like Ribbentrop or this apartment’s staff, a way of life.
The mean have no interest in building up or caring. You have to care to be kind.
I continue, however, without as much style as a Frenchman. I never looked good in a beret. I try to make up for it, though, by watching early Bridgett Bardot movies. My mountain wall is not quite iced over yet, but until then, I am still setting anchors and handling ropes as best as I can. If only people knew. If only people knew how many others are like me. Don’t worry, we won’t worry you. But please, be kind to everybody. Please. Thank you.