Imagine I’m Broken

"Psychosis," a painting by Amber Christian Osterhout.

By Don

“Imagine I’m broken. You can’t see that I’m broken. I mean I don’t have an arm or leg in a cast. I don’t have obvious scars or defects, yet still I’m broken. They tell me the problem is with my brain. I wish it were my leg or arm, because then you could see the broken part and know what is wrong.” ~anonymous

I have been wondering what I was going write about this time. A few days ago, I was making my regular afternoon trek to the vending machines when a book display in the living room at the Macon County Library caught my attention. The theme for the display is NAMI or National Alliance on Mental Illness.

A few titles stood out, but one book in particular stopped me, I think maybe because of the cover art or the title, “A Fractured Mind – My Life With Multiple Personality Disorder,” by Robert P. Oxnam.  This is an excerpt from a Puplishers Weekly review of the book, “As a child Oxnam worried about how the fractured Humpty-Dumpty could be fixed. This nursery rhyme later became a metaphor for his “fractured mind.” Oxnam was outwardly a successful China scholar and president of the Asia Society. Inwardly, however, he struggled with self-doubt and inadequacy, blackouts and alcoholism. He sought treatment from psychiatrist Jeffrey Smith, who, during a session in 1990, found that Oxnam’s problem was not alcoholism but multiple personality disorder when Tommy, an angry boy, emerged as the first of Oxnam’s alternate personalities.“

Oxnam’s disorder affects only about 2% of adults. MPS is only one of numerous mental illnesses that a number of people deal with regularly. Here are just some of the known mental illnesses and the numbers of people in the U.S. affected by them; according to NAMI, in excess of 40 million people or 18% of Americans deal with a form of Anxiety Disorder.  Among other disorders are; Bipolar 2.6%, Major Depression 6.7%, Schizophrenia 1.1%. For Panic, OCD and PTSDs I could not easily find statistics.

According to some counselors and psychiatrist, the numbers of people who are affected by this disease are skewed. Many people with a mental illness are never diagnosed with a mental illness, and of those who are diagnosed only a small fraction of them receives treatment for their illness regularly.

One of the reasons people don’t stay the course being diagnosed or with treatment is because mental illnesses are difficult at best to diagnose and the process can be lengthy. Once diagnosed with a particular disorder, determining a treatment may be even more difficult than the diagnoses. There are drug and non-drug therapies for many mental illnesses. Often a combination of both types is used. Many of those suffering from a mental illness can live successful lives.

I guess my reason for writing this post is that people cannot help that they are broken. It is not their fault. I am thankful that there are organizations like NAMI out there helping those that often cannot help themselves.

Think about it. Oxnam was outwardly a successful scholar and president of the Asian Society, yet unknowingly lived with his illness for some time. It could just as easily be you, a family member, co-worker or patron. It could be anyone.

There were a number of books still on the display. There were also some empty spaces. Go to the Fontana Regional Library homepage, click on the link for the Online Catalog and do a search for any of the terms used in this post. There are a number of titles available.

5 thoughts on “Imagine I’m Broken

  1. Hi Don, I’m president of Nami Appalachian South in Franklin and I want to say thank you so much for your words. There have been many times I wish my bi=polar could have looked like a broken bone or diabetes or heat disease.We should never ever have to feel ashamed for having a biological disease like mental illness.Again I thank you.


    • Debbie, you are welcome! This one was easy for me to write, but most difficult to post. I almost didn’t. However, I felt compelled to post the information and will likely write more on the subject in the future.


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