Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Mental Illness Comes out of the Closet

Is it me, or is there more conversation going on about mental illness right now than we often see in the news and in blogs? As the child of a mentally ill parent, I find my attention is always drawn to the subject. But several high profile/high readership sources seem to be raising awareness of not only mental illness, but the stigmas surrounding it, and for that I am most supportive and grateful

The New York Times is taking the bold step of publishing a series called "Lives Restored", specifically about people coping with life and mental illness. When I read this piece in the New York Times about Marsha Linehan, a therapist and innovator in the treatment of extremely suicidal patients , she herself a sufferer of bi-polar illness, it gave me hope that mental illness might be beginning to come out of the closet.

When a friend called late at night with the horrifying news about her husband's mental illness and the nightmarish course their lives are now taking, I wished for her sake that stigma did not have to be one of the burdens she was now facing. It is hard enough to watch someone you know turn into someone you don't even recognize. Not to be able to talk openly about it through feelings of embarrassment and shame only makes it harder, more isolating and frightening.

A short TED talk highlighting the difficulties of suicide survivors - yes, those who attempt suicide and remain living - shed more light on the isolation of the severely ill. Imagine the triple whammy of being so tortured that you attempt suicide, a mixture of elation/despair/embarrassment that you failed, and then the awkwardness caused by no one knowing what to do with you, say to you.

Why write about this? Why today? Because it needs to be said, because closeting of who any of us are can only do harm, because those of us with the ability to think rationally often try to apply that same rationality to mental illness, and fail those in need the most.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Millennials and Boomers: Parallel Lives

One of the topics at this week's TEDxSF conference was the Millennials and their effect on contemporary society. This population, made up of the children of Boomers, is forging such a new path through our world, and I think many Boomers have a mixture of Millennial-envy and a funny kind of identity with them. I know I do.

I found myself thinking about this as I recalled the uncannily parallel paths my daughter and I are on, though I am well aware that she will shortly overtake me and go on to much greater heights in her career. I trained as a fashion designer 35 years ago; she is a rising fashion star at age 22. Just this past week, she and I were both at our respective photoshoots, she shooting images of the Fall 2011 collection of her eponymous Zana Bayne line of edgy contemporary leather accessories, me shooting images of artful clothing for a more mature audience, for my contemporaries. Parallel lives, similar paths, you might say. In fact, Zana used to describe us as “Apple and Tree”.

But the reality is that how she is doing what she is doing is so wonderfully Millennial. Here is a business which was born through a blog (garbagedress.com), born through the magic of social media and Zana’s creating a personal style, a following, an international network of interested parties who converted to customers once she launched e-commerce. No backers, no advertising, no hype, just the power of a smart talented entrepreneurial young woman using the tools of her time to create zanabayneleather.com and landing with her work on Lady Gaga’s dancers just a few weeks ago.

My business at artfulhome.com is far more traditional. While it is an online business born in the first bubble with an interesting non-traditional model, it is fueled by more traditional direct marketing techniques and vendor relationships. The clothing part of the business is reaching out to boomer women with styles that celebrate all that a mature woman is: gutsy, unique, experienced, but maybe a little thicker around the middle than she once was. And it is hitting a chord with my contemporaries as much as Zana’s business is with hers.

I often think that were I to start a business today I might do it quite differently, but I suspect that is better done by Zana and her generation. Her generation makes up the consumer group that responds so differently from my peers, and therefore will continue to explore and change, and I, Boomer that I am, must admit that it is her time.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Memories from the Heart

At the TEDxSF conference this weekend, one of the presenters was from 1000Memories.com, a site which exists to record everyone's stories so that history of all of us, not just those famous and powerful, will go on record for posterity. While I wasn't crazy about the presenter nor his presentation, I found myself thinking about memories today, as I was deluged with them.

Memories based on the sight of an orange swimcap bobbing in the bay
Memories based on the scent clinging to a shirt left behind in haste
Memories based on the taste of wine
Memories based on a message I can't delete, not yet
Memories based on a song going around in my head
Memories based on the flash of a smile I spotted
Memories based on a dress in my closet
Memories based on a photo on the shelf
Memories based on that loss of appetite
Memories based on the airport terminal which will forever be linked to an argument
Memories based on an empty email mailbox
Memories based on a sleepless night

I don't want to try to hold onto these in any online repository. I think my heart is a good enough place.