Of Disapproving Doctors

Snarklings, the Lady of the Manners wants you to know, right off the bat, that this installment of Gothic Charm School was one she found more than a touch difficult to write. But even though the Lady of the Manners fretted and worried about what to say, she knew this was a letter she absolutely had to address. A reader who has labeled themselves Mentally Endangered Spooky Snarkling wrote in with this worrisome issue:

question: Dear Lady of Manners,

I am a goth in my early 20s. Unfortunately, I have severe mental health problems which mean I have to rely on the psychiatric system to survive. Although I have been much happier and more grounded since becoming involved in my local gothic scene, my treaters – doctors, psychs, nurses, techs, social workers – all act as if that is the problem. Last month I was hospitalized, and the experience was nightmarish in the bad way. My social worker flat-out told me I couldn’t be released until I promised to separate myself from my friends – the same black-clad, makeupped friends who visited me every day – and that it was imperative that I “get out of the goth scene.” (Supposedly, this would make my depression magically get all better!). The entire time, the staff treated my dark-clad, pierced self with suspicion. Your book had excellent advice about dealing with hostile family and peers, but how would you advise someone dealing with a hostile medical establishment?


The Lady of the Manners is very distraught to hear that the medical professionals who are helping you are being so … close-minded. The Lady of the Manners does have some suggestions for you, but isn’t sure how many of them you will be able to use.

Firstly, have you tried the tactic the Lady of the Manners suggested in her book for dealing with hostile family? Sit down with your caregivers and speak seriously to them about their misguided (and, frankly, wrongheaded) ideas about Goth? If you haven’t, the Lady of the Manners strongly suggests you try it. Ask your caregivers to specifically spell out, point by point and with examples, what their concerns and objections to Goth are.

The Lady of the Manners suspects that the people who are helping you with your mental health aren’t very informed about the Goth subculture, and are going off of whatever information they have absorbed from mass media and popular culture. You need to thoroughly and carefully explain to them that Goth isn’t about being depressed, it isn’t about hurting yourself, and it isn’t about denying reality. (At the risk of sounding self-aggrandizing, the Lady of the Manners does think it might be helpful to hand your copy of the Gothic Charm School book to your social worker and other caregivers and ask them to read Chapters One and Two.)

Next, explain to them that you do feel happier and more grounded since you started becoming involved in the local Goth scene. Give them specific examples of what it is about being part of the Goth world that makes you feel happy and accepted, and point out to them that your spookster friends were the ones who came and visited you every day. The Lady of the Manners feels that having a strong support network of friends is hugely important (heaven knows such a thing has helped her get through some very emotionally and mentally trying times!), and that your caregivers need to realize that trying to remove you from your friends would most likely be counter-productive to your working toward mental stability. Of course, if your social group is the sort that leads you into dangerous situations, or who encourage you to do things that would be a bad mix with any medications you might be taking, then the Lady of the Manners does understand why your caregivers might feel you shouldn’t see those people. But that is not the impression the Lady of the Manners got from your letter.

Is it an option for you to find caregivers in your area who will be more supportive of your lifestyle choices? The Lady of the Manners has been reminded by her very clever friends that you should treat the search for doctors as interviewing people who will work for you, and that you should have the option of rejecting working with someone who would be a poor fit.

A website that may be helpful is the National Alliance on Mental Illness: “NAMI’s support and public education efforts are focused on educating America about mental illness, offering resources to those in need, and insisting that mental illness become a high national priority.”

The most important thing, in the Lady of the Manners’ eyes, is for you to make sure that the people who are helping you get to a healthier place understand that Goth does NOT cause people to have problems, no more than being a sports fan, an avid sudoku player, or a fan of American Idol causes people to have problems. If participating in your local Goth scene makes you happy and gives you something to focus on other than your struggles, that is a good thing, not a cause for worry or alarm.

Good luck, and please write back and let the Lady of the Manners know how you are doing, or if her suggestions were of any help. And if any readers have any helpful advice, please send it along to Gothic Charm School.

The Lady of the Manners is going to indulge in a little bit of shameless self-promotion here, Snarklings. Are you scratching your head, trying to think of festive, yet gothy, presents to give to people? Weeeeelllll, there’s this very nice book available at bookstores everywhere … Or perhaps aGothic Charm School t-shirt, a Batty Heart necklace, or a jar of yummy-smelling body butter?

After giving you that collection of clicky-links, the Lady of the Manners is going to go listen to some CDs she intends to review here on Gothic Charm School, and perhaps indulge in a very silly book. Does the Lady of the Manners need to give you the Correspondence link again, in case you wish to write to Gothic Charm School? Well, better safe than sorry …

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