Just in time for the pub date of my book, the (slightly bizarre) NYT review of my book went live today!
A while back, I wrote a post worrying over the difference between pride and narcissistic self-display. I’ve since made peace with this issue and feel comfortable expressing my feelings of pride in accomplishment, sharing my joy with friends and family members eager to rejoice along with me. I’ve also been helped by a recent example of another author who better demonstrates the true nature of narcissistic self-promotion.
I received a review copy of Alexandra Jamieson’s new book Women, Food, and Desire, and read it with great interest. Advance word suggested it would touch upon food cravings as partly defensive in nature – that is, the ways we eat to avoid dealing with some unacknowledged psychic pain. I address the defensive use of eating in my own book, Why Do I Do That?, so Jamieson’s book naturally appealed to me.
Due to chronic lower back pain, caused mostly by spending too much time seated at my desk and staring at a computer screen, I decided to enroll in a four-week yoga workshop designed for people with similar issues. Like many of you, I’ve spent lots of time attending group physical fitness classes of different kinds over the course of my life. Though I don’t overtly show it, I become highly competitive when I find myself in such groups. Even before I attended the first class, I was wondering if I would feel the same way in yoga, to which I am a newcomer.
Earlier this week, my friend Sherry came over for dinner. After asking all about her trip to Las Vegas and briefly discussing our vacation, I finally got around to telling her of some recent developments in my writing career (more about this in a moment). After a few minutes, she said to me, “So you just told me all these marvelous things that are happening in your life and your demeanor hasn’t changed one bit. You’re not smiling. You don’t seem excited. What that’s about?”
One of the great things about Sherry is the way she calls you out (in a loving way). She is nothing if not frank. Anyway, I explained to her that I didn’t feel comfortable “tooting my own horn,” but that I was in fact very excited. When it comes my turn to talk about myself, I tend to keep it short and to the point … though I’m secretly hoping other people will show that they truly are interested by asking more questions. I’m usually disappointed in that regard (but that’s a different issue).
My recent posts got me to thinking about the term mental illness and how stigma-laden it remains to this day. As a society, we’ve come a long way from the bad old days when most people were too ashamed to admit going to a psychiatrist, when families kept those members with obvious psychological problems hidden from view. Back then, a moralistic aura surrounded mental illness, as if having one implied that you (as well as your family) were morally defective and therefore to blame for your emotional difficulties. This view of mental illness still prevails on the religious right — as in the claim that homosexuality is a “lifestyle choice,” for example, and that gays are obviously making the “wrong” one.
In society at large, the easing of stigma has a lot to do with the marketing of psychiatric medication to address “chemical imbalances” over the last few decades. Nowadays, you don’t suffer from mental illness, you have a mood disorder, a result of faulty brain chemistry rather than a moral defect and of course, not your fault. While I strongly object to the widespread overuse of anti-depressants, I do believe that removing the shameful stigma surrounding depression and manic-depressive illness has been a good thing. It’s difficult enough to struggle through depression without feeling you’re a bad person to boot for being “abnormal.”