The Words that Describe Us are Wrong

March 28, 2018



“Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.” Mark Twain   




“Language is a virus from outer space” William Burroughs    




“…. depression is so overwhelming as to be quite beyond expression.” William Styron “Darkness Visible”    



I do believe I’d sell myself to be hurled back to the days on the Mississippi River when a young Samuel Clements stood upon the steamboat “The Paul Jones” with Captain Horace Bixby and heard the cries of the leadsmen as they shouted “MARK TWAIN”: or in boatman’s terms, 2 phathoms, 12 feet, or better yet, safe water.


I do wax about the great author too much on occasion only because he renewed my love and ability to read and appreciate language. I say “ability” because I have always been (until my late twenties) a terrible reader and thus by default, a deplorable writer. Despite my tiny progress there are still writers who are far too gifted for me to ever approach. Proust, Joyce, and most of Shakespeare are artists who are far too clever and write what seems like eons beyond my scope. However, Twain, Orwell, Kalb, Auden, and few others I can can read as if I’m being personally addressed.


I have found that my comrades and I have been surrounded and shackled with language that does not suit us. We have no “safe water”. We have glib phrases that doctors, therapist, friends and family insist on using; highs, lows, manic, peeks and valleys and so on.


My “HIGHS” are not high at all. There is no blissful euphoria, no tingling comfort, and no desire to spread the feeling to others. It’s frigtening and isolating and may be the lowest pitch of terror and uncontrollability I’ve ever experienced.


The same would hold true for what ever non-sufferers mean by “LOWS”. Where is the word that describes a feeling of being “below the very bottom” and the high pitched gloom that it inevitability entails.


To be asked by an educated and trusted physician, “Have you ever been irritable?” is a question which not only erupts a sense of irritability bordering on sanguinary rage, but has to be suppressed and answered with a quiet affirmation as if the calculation and measure of the answer is definite. “Then by all means, Dr. Knowsitnot, I’M IRRITABLE.”


Why is this the case? Very few times have I been probed about my past, my education, or simple matters on HOW I think and feel rather than what a piece of paper that resembles something that looks as if it’s been torn out of a first grade coloring book.


If you insist on reducing emotions to graph paper, my highs and lows are far more linear than up or down. They are backed by a force that is at times unstoppable rendering my words and behavior as if I was a puppet dangled from the strings held by a person who isn’t very nice and says means things.


To fix this I think we need smart doctors who are suffering themselves, like Dr. Kay Redfield Jamison who wrote a wonderful book called “The Unquiet Mind”. We need to be interviewed by experts in linguistics. We need poets, and artists.


My fear is that this disorder won’t reach the full potential of it’s understanding until we are given a platform of language to utilize and stop using babyish terms that have been imposed on us by the ignorance and utter laziness by it’s so-called experts.

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