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Now, let’s not be crazy.

Now, let’s not be crazy.

Posted on 13. Oct, 2010 by gilly in READ

I dropped the entire banana I was slicing into my soy yogurt a few mornings ago when this headline yelled out of my daily paper: “Neurotic People aren’t only making their own lives harder, they also cost society billions of dollars in health care spending and lost productivity.” And after my yogurt splattered and toppled, I also dropped the knife onto the floor.

It has taken me this long to calm down enough to collect my thoughts and, even now, as I attempt to post something about this, I’m already seizing up with the same rush of rage and bewilderment.

This “discovery” is the result of a study at the VU University hospital in Amsterdam, which “measured” the medical cost of 5,500 adults diagnosed with a range of mental illnesses, calculated days they were absent from work, and drew some damning conclusions. Reuters disseminated the results of the study (would be interesting to find out what the study itself cost) and dozens of papers across the world blindly reprinted it.

The head-shaking, tut-tutting, dismayed hand-on-hip-tone of the article is not just astounding, it’s scary. Throwing around the term “neurotics” in such a vague, unassuming yet loaded manner is pretty shocking too.

Am I overreacting?

Could it be that, in our evolved, 21st century Europe, there is still a publicly-held belief that mainstreamed mindsets, normalcy-uber-ales, and don’t-rock-the-boat-behaviors are what one should be striving for? That having less neurotics (whatever that means) will make society a better place?

I mean really, think of how much simpler, easier and convenient life would be if we didn’t have these neurotics plaguing our workplace and public health systems? While we’re at it: why do we need people with bad eyesight, people who eat too much, drive badly or use too many adjectives? And what about the physically disabled, the infertile, those that are slow at arithmetic? Don’t you shudder to think of the cost of them?!

To calm myself down I surfed over to the AMA website to see how they defined neurotic. It’s worth knowing, for the record, that “the word neurosis means ‘nerve disorder,’ and was first coined in the late eighteenth century by William Cullen, a Scottish physician. Cullen’s concept of neurosis encompassed those nervous disorders and symptoms that do not have a clear organic cause. Sigmund Freud later used the term anxiety neurosis to describe mental illness or distress with extreme anxiety as a defining feature. There is a difference of opinion over the clinical use of the term neurosis today. It is not generally used as a diagnostic category by American psychologists and psychiatrists any longer, and was removed from the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders in 1980.

The night before my banana-dropping episode I had dinner with a Dutch friend who told me his daughter had been diagnosed with borderline personality disorrder. In Holland, he explained, this is a social stigma that can hang like a billboard on your back, condemning you to a lifetime of alienation and disapproval. I was stunned. In New York City everyone is borderline. Being even-keeled and emotionally stable is highly abnormal. In fact, it will scare the hell out of most people.

And now, astonished at the international recognition received by this you-see-how-awful-they-really-are-and-someone-really-should-do-something-about-it study, I realised what he was talking about: being normal is key!

I defy anyone out there to define normal.

I toyed briefly with writing to the authors of the study (and the two Reuters journalists who made this “news”) to ask them if our world would indeed be better off without (among others) Albert Einstein, Abraham Lincoln, Charles Dickens, Walt Whitman, Marcel Proust, Baudelaire, Oscar Wilde, Woody Allen and of course Van Gogh, that neurotic Dutchman.

I spent my university years studying some of the greatest British and French neurotics. Their genius is a huge part of what made me the person I am. The works of many neurotics (including dozens of borderline people) continue to expand my mind, soul and heart. I hope my children and many generations to come will be able to enjoy the immense wealth that “neurotics” contribute to society. Call me crazy.

12 Responses to “Now, let’s not be crazy.”

  1. gilly

    14. Oct, 2010

    Excuse-moi, mais je suis quand même à mon summum de créativité dans les allees du supermarché…surtout quand je prends les autres consomateurs et caissieres en grippe!

  2. gilly

    14. Oct, 2010

    Why thank ya hon’! And I look forward to reading your words of wisdom in the Economist! Did they tell you when it’s slated for?

  3. Aline

    14. Oct, 2010

    Gilly, l’évidence même, et ce pourquoi tu as pris le sujet à coeur et les journalistes en grippe, c’est que tu es toi-même neurotic. C’est pas grave, ça ne se soigne pas, et ça permet de faire des choses un tout petit plus créatives que de remplir son chariot au supermarché.

  4. Beth

    14. Oct, 2010

    LOVE your VERVE and passion!!! Go Gilly, Go!!!!!!!!!!!

  5. gilly

    13. Oct, 2010

    Danke sehr. Ursula!! how cool to “see you here”!! Visit again (and check out my post on Judy, in May).

  6. gilly

    13. Oct, 2010

    Thank you for sharing Mary. Fiery is exactly how I felt about this labeling and logic! Incensed, angry, out-of-my-mind (ha!)!

  7. Ursula

    13. Oct, 2010

    Love your passion and the point you are making. Am here for the first time, will come back. :-) U.

  8. Mary Bast

    13. Oct, 2010

    Gilly, this stunning – both your keen observation of the labeling and you fiery response. Thank you. I’m going to pass this on, want everyone I know to read it.

  9. gilly

    13. Oct, 2010

    Nice to meet you too Brenda! Tahnks for taking the time to read my crazy prose…

  10. Brenda

    13. Oct, 2010

    Nice to meet you….
    Excellet text

  11. gilly

    13. Oct, 2010

    Thanks Telma! Coming from a shrink, your vote of confidence means a lot. Hope all well w/all of you in Brazil!

  12. Telma

    13. Oct, 2010

    Excellent !!! Congrats :-)

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