We’re all bad together here…and proud of it »« Thanks, M.D. Anderson, for adding another confounding variable

I’m holding this excuse in reserve

You know how, as the work piles up and the grading becomes onerous and the students get more demanding and critical, you sometimes need a day off? I wonder if my division secretary would be sympathetic if I called in and said I had the brain whispers really bad one day.

Sick-Day

Actually, the secretaries sometimes look a little fed up with us faculty around the time we’re failing to meet all our deadlines…they might reply that they’re feeling it too, and then I’d be terrified.

Comments

  1. Pierce R. Butler says

    Voices come and Voices go – the really important secret messages come from those moving flowers on the wall paper…

  2. Subtract Hominem says

    Oh I get it. It’s funny because psychotic episodes like those experienced by people who have schizophenia, schizoaffective disorder, or complex PTSD are nothing but excuses they made up to get out of work for a day.

    Yeah, no. That’s not how it works.

  3. Louis says

    No you see schizophrenia and sundry diseases with disturbing auditory hallucinations are funny. Ahaha Ahahaha Aha Ha…. Ha.

    Ha.

    It is to laugh.

    Louis

    P.S. big fan of mental health ableism and perpetuating the stigma that people with mental illnesses are just putting it on. No, really. Superb work. [Golf clap]

  4. J Dubb says

    The response to this will be interesting. Best case, the regulars here read PZ the riot act, PZ quickly issues a mea culpa, and everyone is reminded to fight the stigma of mental illness. Worst case, we have a new kind of slyme pit, different yet the same.

  5. Louis says

    People fuck up.

    I fuck up. PZ fucks up. Everyone fucks up. Possibly this cartoonist fucked up (it’s a cartoon I like generally). I can just about see a gallows humour/irony/satire in the cartoon, I don’t know if the cartoonist is a sufferer for example. So there’s many possibilities. Assuming no relevant illness on the part of PZ or the cartoonist, I have to say I see this as a fuck up.

    It could be something else, and I’m happy to generously issue an Official Benefit of the Doubt (so kind am I!) and await further context. But, it has to be said, in a cold, narrow reading, this is a perpetuation of the standard stigma/denialism that surrounds mental health. Which is a destructive thing.

    IMO PZ, and the commentariat in general here do not have tin ears to this kind of thing, so I severely doubt Pharyngula to Mental Health Slymepit transmogrification will occur. My bet is on “Oops. I get it now”.

    Louis

  6. Nick Gotts says

    Wait, wait… isn’t this where we prove we are all PZ’s sycophants, absolutely convinced that he can do no wrong?
    .
    .
    .
    .
    No. Apparently not.

    I have to agree with others above here, PZ – this is one of your rare screw-ups. Almost certainly, there are those among the Horde, or the lurkers, who hear voices – maybe even voices telling them to do terrible things to themselves or others. There’s an interesting article in the Sept/Oct Scientific American Mind, adapted from a TED talk, by a British woman, Eleanor Longden. She hears voices, was diagnosed with schizophrenia, but now describes herself as living “with peace and respect” with her voices, is a PhD student, and works with Intervoice (www.intervoiceonline.org).

  7. Louis says

    Nick Gotts,

    Wait, wait… isn’t this where we prove we are all PZ’s sycophants, absolutely convinced that he can do no wrong?

    Shhhh! Ixnay on the ycophantsay. The People Who Don’t Read So Good And Are Misogynists And Don’t Really Want To Read Better Because It Will Hurt Their Tiny Little Minds will get confused. And we can’t have that. Can you imagine the bleating?

    Louis

  8. Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought says

    Thanks for talking about this, folks. I was laughing at first, I admit. There were some second thoughts, but no real awareness until I saw Ibis objecting.

  9. DLC says

    Louis. I had a lot to say, but do not feel like talking about myself here. This forum is too public. I’d written a whole world-wall size rant, and then deleted it, about 4 times.

  10. chigau (違う) says

    Why is this kind of thing one of the last we “joke” about?
    Mostly, jokes about race, region, poverty, physical disability and most mental disability are met with disapproval.
    Why is “voices-in-the-head” still “funny”?

  11. chigau (違う) says

    And for a wade through murky waters, try searching for ‘temporary insanity’.

  12. says

    In a completely different context, I’m going to adopt brain whispers. It’s a good way to describe what happens when I’m triggered, or the track in my brain won’t shut the fuck up.

  13. Louis says

    Rutee,

    I do think this is a rare Myers Mistake on Matters Mental. One that will be amended somehow. I hope I’m not proven wrong.

    Louis

  14. Louis says

    Caine,

    Oh yeah, if the cartoonist (or PZ, or you, or me for example) have pathological auditory hallucinations or schizophrenia, then the joke is theirs (ours) to make. AFAIK, neither the cartoonist nor PZ do experience these things. Granted, it’s not my fucking business if they do! But equally granted, it ain’t their business to make this sort of dismissive joke if they don’t.

    Louis

  15. says

    In Toronto the other day, they arrested a woman who has now been charged with attempted murder for beating up her eleven year-old son and, reportedly, dropping a fridge on him. Witnesses in the apartment building reported hearing a her talking a lot of religious talk during the incident and praying, as well as her yelling “you’re not my son”. When police took her into custody, she was smiling and blowing kisses at bystanders. One said she seemed not right, maybe drunk or on drugs. I’m no psychologist or psychiatrist. I’m not making an armchair diagnosis I’m not equipped to make. But it does seem at least plausible that this woman is mentally ill and suffering from delusions, paranoia, or hallucinations including hearing voices telling her that her child is possessed by a demon or is an imposter. Most schizophrenics are not violent. But when people who are mentally ill hear voices urging them to commit violence it’s not a joke. It’s not a made up excuse to get away with playing hooky. There’s just so much wrong with this cartoon I don’t even know where to start.

    And PZ. after spending much of last night and today reading the Stunned Silence thread and being proud and grateful that you’ve created such a safe space as this, I’m disappointed.

  16. Rich Woods says

    Give me some background and I might be impressed, if, as Louis suggested, the cartoon was gallows humour or sharp satire. But lacking any authorship background I’m going to chuck this one down the memory hole (for my own peace of mind, not anyone else’s) and find something better to do with my evening.

  17. Louis says

    I have to say, 26 comments, ~8 hours of thread time. I wonder, if a similar joke had been made that dismissed LGBTQ people, or women, or people of colour what would the status of this thread be? On the order of 1 in 6 to 1 in 4 people will experience some form of mental illness in their lives. That’s not an insignificant proportion of the planet’s persons! It’s of an order of magnitude with respect to those other groups named.

    I wonder if I get to notice this interesting apparent anomaly? Or perhaps I shouldn’t make too much of random internet trends.

    Louis

  18. Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought says

    I’m sorry, Louis. As today draws to an end, I feel all I can say about things any more is that everything sucks.

  19. Walton says

    I agree with Louis. This is not at all funny or appropriate.

    (I am not schizophrenic and have never had hallucinations, but I have both first-hand and second-hand experience of various other mental health problems.)

  20. NightShadeQueen, resident nutcase says

    Myoo

    Yeah, like the others said, this isn’t funny, it’s ableist.

    I’ll admit I laughed, but, wow, you’re right.

    Oops.

    I’m sorry.

  21. says

    I wonder if I get to notice this interesting apparent anomaly? Or perhaps I shouldn’t make too much of random internet trends.

    Part of it is also defending PZ though. There’s usually hordelings who will say “No, this was fine.” But… yeah. I’d also contrast how measured people are being to PZ about it, and how… well, not measured on that thread where Chris Clarke said “I’m done.”

    I do think this is a rare Myers Mistake on Matters Mental. One that will be amended somehow. I hope I’m not proven wrong.

    I don’t disagree.

  22. Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought says

    Rutee,
    Since I’m the common variable in both threads… my reasons for different behavior:
    1. I still feel bad about what happened then and am trying to be more measured in my responses
    2. that one hit personally and hard (depression), this one didn’t (as I admitted, it took time to even realize the wrongness)

  23. Louis says

    I suppose I have….funny….ideas about what can be funny. I get the joke, I really do. It’s even well constructed, and therefore pretty damn funny if you like that sort of thing. I just didn’t think…erm, how do I put this…we generally liked this sort of thing. It’s a joke that punches down (in absence of other context about the author etc. Even then, it’s a tricky joke to make because it is based on trivialising mental health issues).

    I genuinely don’t believe a similar joke of identical construction, or a bigoted claim of identical logical form, would fly here. I am curious as to why this has flown so far with so little buffeting from Pharyngulean winds.

    Oh and Beatrice, everything doesn’t suck! This is an error, not a damning dive into the abyss. I fuck up, you fuck up, he/she/they/xie fucks up. The only problem is when the verb is conjugated badly: I am perfect AND CAN NEVER MAKE ERRORS, you are a bit of a fuckwit, he/she/they/xie, are fucking hideous devil spawn who can do no right because they are untermensch fuckbubbles with no redeeming features.

    Did I get the word fuck in there enough? Fuck.

    Louis

  24. Louis says

    [O/T]

    Rutee,

    Chris Clarke said he’s done? Do you mind if I ask where, I must have missed it.

    Louis

    [/O/T]

  25. NightShadeQueen, resident nutcase says

    Louis

    It’s this thread.

    ….and yeah, this is the type of joke that can be bitterly funny if told by someone who actually has a mental illness, which is I guess why I found it funny. [ I've played the involuntary hospitalization game, and the nearly fail out of school because you're too busy trying to write a suicide note in python game. The "nutcase" part of my name is sadly literal ]

  26. Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought says

    Louis (#36),

    Well, fuck, that made me LOL (the conjugation bit, not the first bit)

  27. Nightjar says

    Uh. I guess I just want to second what everyone else is saying: saving some sort of context (of the kind Louis pointed out already)… not okay. I’m really glad it only took three comments for someone to point that out, and so far no one is defending the OP. That’s good.

    Louis, #28: it could be just because it’s Saturday, I guess. Traffic on weekends is slow. I’m not sure if that explains the apparent anomaly, it just occurred to me that it may be playing a role too.

  28. says

    Chris Clarke said he’s done? Do you mind if I ask where, I must have missed it.

    That was the impression I had with it in his last post on Pharyngula I know of.

    1. I still feel bad about what happened then and am trying to be more measured in my responses

    Taht’s fine and all, but I don’t just mean you (Actually I didn’t mean you to start with, I have notoriously poor memory and couldn’t remember who all was there, only that it happened and roughly what happened). There were several people.

    I genuinely don’t believe a similar joke of identical construction, or a bigoted claim of identical logical form, would fly here. I am curious as to why this has flown so far with so little buffeting from Pharyngulean winds.

    Optimist that I am, my preliminary guess would be that we care less about issues for non-neurotypical people. Heck, I’m not neurotypical, although I think I get off lightly, and I know what, in general, I get more motivated by.

  29. The Mellow Monkey: Non-Hypothetical says

    The reason I haven’t posted here is because all my spoons have been taken up with the Stunned Silence thread and then the spillover into the Thunderdome.

    I can see what is problematic here and why people are bothered by it, even if it doesn’t personally upset me. Just because I’m currently insulated from harm doesn’t mean everyone is. And yes, I have “brain whispers” during my darkest depressions or PTSD episodes. And for full disclosure, I laughed.

  30. Jacob Schmidt says

    ….and yeah, this is the type of joke that can be bitterly funny if told by someone who actually has a mental illness, which is I guess why I found it funny.

    Same here. Reminds me of my friend who cracks jokes about his dead mother (no seriously; he lost his father too).

    That said… no. I can’t support this.

  31. Happiestsadist, opener of the Crack of Doom says

    Yeah, this is a little too “punching down” for me. And as a crazy person (so many ways, even some of the scary, serious ones), it just kind of makes me sad. I mean, I make terrible jokes about my mental illness because, well, I get to. It’s like the only perk of being crazy. (I didn’t so much get to miss work as have my career die in ways that will never recover.)

  32. Chiral says

    As someone who suffers from auditory hallucinations and doesn’t get enough sick days for all my health problems, fuck you PZ. I appreciate your stance on most issues, but this is pretty awful.

  33. Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :) says

    Why is this kind of thing one of the last we “joke” about?
    Mostly, jokes about race, region, poverty, physical disability and most mental disability are met with disapproval.
    Why is “voices-in-the-head” still “funny”?

    I shouldn’t be glad that there’s actually SOMETHING other than the issues I have (disability-related social difficulties and trauma from “being picked on as a kid”) that people still feel comfortable belittling after all, should I. :(

  34. says

    I would think the “lack” of responses has a number of factors involved, not least that it’s a long weekend in North America, and the Saturday of that long weekend isn’t likely to be a huge time for people looking at new posts.

    Also, for me at least, there’s been so much energy and time tied up in the silence and thunderdome and lounge posts, I’m only now catching up on the posts made on Saturday.

    Also also, yes, mental health issues are still a bit difficult to get people not to be always making jokes about; there’s a good bit of resistance at FTB to the idea that we crazy types get to be annoyed at that.

    Also also also, the usual “it’s just a joke, you’re being oversensitive, oh look the PC police” crowd have made it somewhat hard to get any traction on people being appropriately thoughtful about making comments/posts that are dismissive of people with mental health issues, or which make people with mental health issues the butt of jokes. I’ve run into this reluctance a few times when trying to make this point here.

    Teal-deer version, yes, low response; no, not just “people don’t care about we crazy types”.

  35. skmc says

    I almost never comment, but there is concern about the lack of response, so here goes.

    The “joke” in the OP is that a person is having auditory hallucinations and using that as an excuse not to go to work. If there is a background context that mitigates the ableism here, it would have been better to elucidate that in the post.

    When my dad was dying of Alzheimer’s disease last year, he asked me one day if I could “please do something about the people who were coming into [his] room at night.” He was still living at home at that point; there was nobody going into his room at night. But he was terrified of them nonetheless. I promised him I would sleep on a couch outside his room to keep anyone from coming in, and I did that until he declined to the point where he was not safe at home and had to move to a long term care facility with a locked hallway to keep him from bolting in terror from the people he was convinced were chasing him.

    One of the last complete sentences he spoke was to tell my mother that the joke was on the medical staff because he had been watching the nurses punch in the security code to the door, and he had half of it memorized already! What he didn’t realize was they they changed that code every shift. My mother’s laughter at this was not her laughing at him, but admiring his unswerving determination in the face of impossible odds. So yeah, there’s place and purpose for levity, but it’s for those in the arena, not up in the stands.

    My dad was a research physicist at the top of his subfield, and I have no doubt he would still be working today at age 75 if not for his degenerative brain disease. Alzheimer’s wasn’t an excuse not to work; it’s what took him away from everything he loved, including his work.

    And of course it’s super funny that the disease runs in my dad’s side of the family, so my own genome may very well be “holding this excuse in reserve”. Oh my aching sides.

  36. beardymcviking says

    That’s… some kind of sarcasm I’m not seeing, right? As someone said earlier, it’s a well-constructed joke, but unless there’s some other context it’s pretty offensive to people hurt by mental illness.

    I think ‘brain whispers’ is a funny way to refer to a nasty symptom (and sometimes we need that). But the tone of this just feels.. wrong.

  37. =8)-DX says

    I laughed at this.. although I completely missed the “mental illnesses is just a silly excuse to skip work” interpretation. What I found funny was the mix of morbidity with everyday banality. It also never occured to me that anyone would mistrust the sincerity of the comic character – more an alternate universe where accurately reporting mental problems (as “brain whispers”), even potentially violent ones is generally acceptable and commonplace.

    I wonder, if a similar joke had been made that dismissed LGBTQ people, or women, or people of colour what would the status of this thread be?

    It didn’t seem intentionally dismissing to me. There are plenty of good comics including characters and issues of LGBTQ people, women, people of colour where a particular individual comic may be dismissive. Scenes From a Multiverse tends to contain a whole host of “crazy” characters, I can’t see it as being merely dismissive.

    Having described my privilege blindness, I am now shutting up and pointing people to the more relevant comments of people actually affected by mental illness.

  38. David Marjanović says

    …Huh. It’s that how it’s meant? I thought the part that’s meant to be funny was that she doesn’t believe the voices she hears, but is aware that they aren’t real (if perhaps only to the 2nd-to-last panel), which strikes me as massively unrealistic. :-| That still struck me as contrived enough that I didn’t laugh. I had to read the first few comments and scroll back up till “it’s a lie” even occurred to me.

    Looks like =8-DX shares this condition.

  39. Roxxi Seanne says

    The first few comments saying “Not funny”, saying what was objectionable here and the whole “everyone fucks up” thing is an example of how Pharyngula can react to newbs relative to what was said to be causing problems (the level of hostility and intensity of attacks).

    Also, the everyone fucks up thing is a good point, but one should give that to anyone, not just people they are fond of. I’ve seen commenters really tear someone up and conclude they’re scummy and apply the label scores. They could have said “PZ, you are an awful mental health ableist” and used that label itself but they didn’t. I take that as a sign of potential here.

  40. Roxxi Seanne says

    Also, if something is ableist, it isn’t appropriate to say it’s okay when people with the illness do it even if its to cheer themselves up, just like it isn’t appropriate to say bad things about minorities even if you belong to the minority group yourself. I don’t see how that erases what is wrong with it or takes anything away.