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The Sun Magazine

Body and Mind

Mental Health

The Sun Interview

An Open Mind

Sera Davidow Questions What We Think We Know About Mental Illness

I’ll tell you what we don’t do: we don’t call the person’s doctor, or dial 911, or drive people to the emergency room. We ask what’s going on for them — not what’s “wrong” with them or if they have been given a diagnosis. If they do mention a diagnosis, we ask what it means to them. If they talk about voices, visions, suicidal thoughts, or injuring themselves, we meet this with calm curiosity. We’ve found that what helps people move through such feelings is being able to talk openly about them. Unfortunately many people don’t talk openly in clinical environments for fear that alarms will be sounded.

Essays, Memoirs, and True Stories

Bella

How do you know when it’s time to take your autistic, bipolar twelve-year-old daughter to the psych ward? (They call them “behavioral units” now.) Is it when you find yourself sitting on her back and holding her arms to the ground while your wife lies on her legs? When she head-butts you the first time? The fifth? When she spits in your face?

The Sun Interview

Misdiagnosed And Misunderstood

Steve Silberman On The Mysteries Of Autism

People often ask if I believe autism is overdiagnosed, if we’re just slapping a label on geeky kids who in previous generations would have been considered merely eccentric. I reply that I believe autism is still underdiagnosed in two groups: women and people of color. The cultural and class bias built into the diagnostic process was so pervasive in the 1980s that psychologist Victor Sanua claimed that autism is rare among families of color. The reality was that people of color often didn’t get decent healthcare.

Fiction

Two Moons

The quad of Abbot Academy overlooked a scenic pond, surrounded by red oaks and white pines, where one might imagine the boys pensively rowing at dawn across the misty waters. On the other side were a dozen charming, weathered buildings — the classrooms and dorms, which were more like houses. No one even called them dorms. They used the word home, as in “Do you want to go home after lunch?” A portion of a barn could be seen in the near distance, as well as a corral for the horses, since the type of preadolescent boys who attended Abbot were thought to thrive if given the opportunity to care for large mammals.

Essays, Memoirs, and True Stories

The Wreck Up Ahead

After two decades of wandering the country by bus and living below the poverty line, I’d been unable to find whatever it was I was looking for. My adventures had not supplied me with the artistic depth and raw material for a sensational first novel. I’d bet every last chip on the literary roulette wheel, and the ball had chuckled and hopped around and landed on someone else’s number.

Essays, Memoirs, and True Stories

Waterbugs

If you’re not familiar with waterbugs, if you’ve confused them with some kind of delicate creature that skips along the surface of a lake, you are adorable. Waterbugs are enormous cockroaches. Specifically they are two to four inches long: meaty, definitive proof that there is no God.

The Sun Interview

The Long Shadow

Bruce Perry On The Lingering Effects Of Childhood Trauma

One of the most important variables, in my experience, is when things happen. If you experience emotionally disengaged caregiving, humiliation, or a sense of being unwanted in the first year or two of life, even if you then escape that environment — maybe you’re adopted, or your parent who was depressed gets better — that early experience can still cause profound social and emotional problems for you all the way into adulthood. On the other hand, kids who have a good first year of consistent, predictable caregiving and then end up in shelters or foster homes and bounce around the system, maybe get sexually and physically abused, and so on — those children often function reasonably well as adolescents.