“And now the attic is right here”

I watched David Letterman’s episode with Kanye West on Netflix recently and while Kanye’s politics are not totally clear to me, I love his music, always have. When I watched the episode, I was really intrigued by some of the very self reflective things he had to say about his bipolar diagnosis and his experience with psychiatric medications. I have a long history with meds as well so I was really wondering what he was going to say about why he isn’t taking any right now. I won’t give away the ending but surprise, he’s rich enough to have a doctor come to his house every week to monitor his mental health. This does really make a difference.

So when Kanye experienced “ramping up”, as he describes being manic in the show, he was rushed to hospital. His retelling of what happened next is heartbreaking, I encourage you all to watch the episode and listen to what he has to say. What I want to remark on is his exchange with Letterman on how we used to treat people with “those problems” and how we are treated now. Letterman remarks that we all had that “one crazy Uncle Al” who used to, “live in the attic”. And Kanye responds, “and now the attic is right here”. It’s a great moment between the two of them.

I want you to think about the stereotypes and biases we have about “those people”, the ones with mental health issues or a diagnosis of mental illness. We don’t live in attics anymore, or at least if we do, I hope it’s a really nice penthouse or loft. The truth it, some of us are lucky and have access to great doctors and decent medications. Some of us live in nice homes and have good jobs. Some of us can afford really good therapists. Some of us can afford gym memberships and fresh, healthy food. You get the picture.

So, the next time you think about your “crazy Uncle Al” or Aunt Sue who “can’t cope” or Mom who is super high maintenance because she has an anxiety but doesn’t know that or doesn’t want you to know, think about me. Think about Kanye West or Robert Downey Jr (yes, the guy who plays Iron Man has mental health issues). We’re “those people”, we just happen to be a lot more visible these days. xo Janet

Published by Janet Gwilliam-Wright

Feminist and queer. Professional teller of truths. Slayer of personal demons.

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