Every few weeks I wait for my shrink.
And I wait. Every few weeks I take an afternoon off work and spend 40 minutes waiting for my appointment.
Once, when I expressed my frustration I was told that “her time was valuable”-the insinuation being that mine wasn’t.
I have a job I reminded her-one that I need, and can’t afford to take multiple afternoons off because of delays, delays which are constant.
The dismissive wave of the hand? The pitiful “why aren’t you on disability anyway? look…the assumption that because I am mentally different, diseased I will just sit and wait like a good puppy.
This is living with mental illness. This is one part of every day of my life.
I take the drugs. I take them because they bring me closer to you-closer to people who perhaps don’t see music in color, women who didn’t sob uncontrollably whenever her breasts let down milk, men who don’t get really paranoid and worry obsessively about some idiot pushing that red button that says “BAD MONKEY! NUCLEAR BOMB BAD!”. People who do cry one minute, and smile at a world who loves them the next.
I live with worry. With fear. That someone will judge me not worthy, that someone with call my crazy and mean it. That the words and thoughts of another will be the basis for how good a mother I am, that someone else can judge how fantastic my daughters are.
I live daily with judgement, because I am not afraid of who I am. I have a biological disorder not yet fully understood by the medical establishment. I have my theories on how mine has manifested, but they’re theories. I have a sickness, a chronic illness that can be controlled, but as of right now, not cured.
I am not a famous artist. As a friend has said, there is no art in manic depression.
I am lucky, because I am not full bipolar. When I say I’m manic, I’m flighty, agitated, easy to annoy. Not the manic you think of when someone talks about the fat guy tasered at Denny’s last year. Hypo manic. Full of energy. I write a lot then. When I am sad, I am sad. But no longer at the expense of my own life. Now, I just get sad. Like you.
But because I have this sickness, I can be sat in judgement-I can be evaluated, scored, reviewed. When my mother was being treated for cancer, and short, often mean to me, no one judged her. She was sick! Because of my illness, my honesty is judged as a failure to mother, a failure to be some archetype of woman that frankly? Even if I was sick I couldn’t be.
I’ve lived with this for awhile, quietly, this building sense of entrapment by the people who are aware of what’s different about me. I can feel it-eyes waiting because they don’t understand.
You pass by us every day. You speak with us, possibly even love us. We might BE you.
Many individuals are closeted with their disorders because the world isn’t a safe one to be honest in-be it online, or at the dinner table. The world would rather hear “I’m dying of dysentery” than “I have a mental illness.” Seems, the world can understand diarrhea, but not variation in mood. Many people can’t grow and survive their illness because they have no room to move within it.
Because no one stops to listen.
I’ve been angered these few days, by the gross assumptions that being bipolar means I will hurt someone. See, the media likes to fill you up with OMG! TEH CRAZY PEOPLE WILL EAT US!!!! stories. I suppose it’s easier to hear than the multitude of plain old “just hurt someone” news stories you see day after day after day.
Many of us have survived abuse, neglect, death, almost anything you can describe. Yet so many of us are also drawn to survive, to try and fix ourselves, love our families, become better.
We, I am not what you think when you speak of mental illness, when you think “wow, she’s NUTS.” You wouldn’t know there was a thing wrong with me if I passed you in the street. Who knows. Maybe I already have.
I’ve been doing this since the summer of 2005 or so, and in that time have had many mothers, ill or just tired, cranky or frustrated reach out and say THANK YOU. Because I am brutally honest, even to the point of disturbing the more fragile of us. Because I am not afraid that something being a parent sucks. Because sometimes being sick is horrid, and I want it to stop. Because sometimes, I give voice to the thoughts that circle for but a moment.
Because who knows what could be made better with a little compassion, mercy and empathy.
Because who knows what reaching into the darkness could do, even if just for one woman, scared and alone far from here.
If you’d like to know more about bipolar or mental illness, a few good places to start:
Salted Lithium-Gabe has been a support and a resource more times than I can count. Plus, lots of links to other bloggers of similar mental persuasion…