Thursday, December 11, 2008

Ventura County Reporter : Uncomfortably numb

Mental health, illness and wellness in Ventura County

By James Scolari 12/11/2008

Last week my aunt found herself crying in a restaurant for no reason that she could discern, and found that she couldn’t stop. She was with her husband of nearly four decades, a man whom she loves, and their life is good — they raised four daughters, all of whom have more kids than I can count, every one of them well and whole and hale. The bills are paid; by nearly any measure she is blessed, and yet there she sat, in the Olive Garden, unable to stop crying. As I loaned a sympathetic ear to her malaise, I couldn’t help but hear the strains of Pink Floyd, of Roger Waters singing from the landmark album Dark Side Of the Moon:

The lunatic is on the grass
The lunatic is on the grass
Remembering games and daisy chains and laughs
Got to keep the loonies on the path.

It’s not that I minimized or failed to understand her distress; in point of fact, I understood her too well — even if impromptu, irrational tears strike me as, well, a little nuts, though it feels as if it’s more about the age than about her life.

lunaIf there was an age that could broker nameless malaise without tangible source, it would be this one.

People often refer to others of good sense or emotional stability as being “well-adjusted,” which connotes a subtext that looks, upon examination, rather dire. Adjusted to what, I wonder — to the generalized, de rigeur madness of a world that evolved more in service of commerce, power and busy-ness than humanity? Fearing that might construe an intuitive leap into a logical abyss, I consulted an expert.

“The term ‘well-adjusted’ suggests a stable personality that can dynamically adjust to life’s vagaries,” offers Matthew Bennett, Psy.D., of the Ventana Center for Psychotherapy. “It’s not an easy thing to build a self — it’s a vastly more difficult endeavor than most realize. The structure of a personality must be flexible and consistent and sustainable, in the face of what are the often-extreme demands of an unpredictable world and its inhabitants. While most of us seem to manage it,” he concludes, “we do so with more difficulty than is apparent to the casual eye.”

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