Apologies for the long gap between blog posts of late. And for also deleting a previous post – something I’ve not done previously, as far as I remember. An explanation for both is needed!
First, about the break. I’ve started to get a couple of my comment pieces published online. This is fantastic – however, a few caveats. I’m not getting any editing work, and the number of hours that go into an article isn’t commensurate with the pay (who’d have thought?).
I’ve had three articles published in online newspapers/journals, and two of these were on paying sites (well that’s what they’ve promised). Of course two paid gigs do not a writing career make!
If the editing work starts back up (and it’s usual for me to have gaps, especially at the beginning of the financial year) then it would be a nice little combination – the writing satisfying the creative genie, the editing work channelling the left-brain-dominated control freak (and paying much better per hour).
But it is great for my confidence. Truth is it couldn’t have happened earlier. I just wasn’t ready. I can’t help wanting to use the word ‘maturity’ at this point, which is a bit sad considering that I’m 51 years old.
Blogging alone has helped develop my writing – just doing it – but the willingness to bend my own concerns to the needs of the journals just wasn’t there earlier. Getting my point across in 800 words or less? Where did these people get off? Any subject I was interested in required at least 2500 words.
Now I am slowly developing the art – not unlike haiku, or any kind of poetry – of making my points succinctly. After a while you realise that it actually takes less time to write a short article than a long one, so it’s an advantage.
But it’s bloody exhausting in a way that blogging is not.
Now about the little um blog entry deletion. Self-censorship? Perhaps.
The entry was about the revolution underway in the mental illness treatment community. These changes are both exciting and controversial. (As an aside, there doesn’t seem to be a consensus in the psychiatric community at the moment about what causes mental illness, and this in itself is all at once interesting, promising and disturbing.)
I originally started the article before moving house in May, and then other concerns intervened. When I went back to it a few months later I didn’t really think the issues through before completing and publishing it. Much of the impetus had come from reading the book Anatomy of an Epidemic and the blog Mad in America.
But the issues that these changes bring up are challenging and potentially life changing for many people. As someone with OCD, who is always concerned about the effects her writing may have on others, I’m more aware now of the caution that it is preferable to exercise when covering this area.
I’m probably overly cautious, but that’s my hang up – the internet is scary in its ability to disseminate information, and change the way people behave, very quickly. When it comes to mental health, that makes writing about it a big responsibility.
The other thing that made me pause for thought was that the health system in Australia is so different from the American one. The Australian system is a chaotic hotchpotch of public and private services, and everything in between, while the US system is, in my understanding, almost completely controlled by health insurance companies. It’s quite possible that there is more mismanagement and a greater reliance on drugs in the US, and therefore much more angst among consumers. In fact in Australia some of the new approaches, such as peer support, are being adopted by mainstream services, which is very exciting.
This doesn’t change the fact that the public system in Australia is desperately under resourced. My impression from the limited reading I’ve done is that psyche hospitals, which should be soothing, welcoming havens for recovery, are for the acutely sick only, and that after being stabilised on drugs you get kicked out quickly, leading to a revolving door syndrome for those without adequate community support (there are good community services available in some areas, but I’m not sure how comprehensive these are, and they are in flux right now).
The other problem is that I don’t find myself in either of the major narratives – the biological idea of illness and the anti-psychiatry push. Not that the anti-psychiatry movement denies the existence of acute mental suffering at all. It's just that for me, labels themselves aren't the problem - it's the kinds of treatments that they too often give rise to which need monitoring and review.
Anyway I am not going to weigh into any debates for the minute. I am very interested in writing about new treatments, but my OCD is a factor that I need to take into account. Still, it is an exciting time that may well lead to a synthesis of the best of old and new treatments.
And whether my other writing leads to a new 'career' is something that only the future can reveal!