2 Sides

6 Jan

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.

Frankly, I think we should be more afraid of all you normal people.

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:

CMHA

NAMI

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…

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35 Responses to “2 Sides”

  1. slouching mom January 6, 2009 at 10:13 pm #

    Thank you for speaking the truth so thoughtfully and clearly.

  2. Cynthia Page January 6, 2009 at 10:19 pm #

    Excellent post.

    I’m still reluctant to mention my diagnosis in many circumstances – the idea that mental illness is a character flaw is so very common.

    Simple things like going to outpatients or an after-hours clinic for a pulled muscle lead to sharing I’d rather not do. I don’t want to tell the doctor what medications I’m taking. I don’t want the follow-ups questions and I don’t want the assumptions. I want to know I received treatment based on what is ailing me, not dismissed because they assume who I am because of a label.

  3. Hannah January 6, 2009 at 10:36 pm #

    Sing it, sister.

    You know that when I first found your blog, it made me uncomfortable sometimes, scared for you sometimes, sometimes unwilling to inhabit your world even for the few minutes it took to read that day’s post. But I stayed with it and my life is richer because you’re in it.

  4. Bon January 6, 2009 at 11:10 pm #

    this is one wicked post…full of power and clarity. you stand tall against fear and stigma, Thor…but i’m awfully sorry the wind is so bitter these days.

  5. ebj123 January 6, 2009 at 11:12 pm #

    I just found you through the whole Twitter brou ha ha and although I am sorry that that’s how it had to happen, I am so thankful I have discovered your words.
    Add my voice to the moms saying thank you – you’ve said perfectly so many of the things I have been thinking these days.

  6. kate w January 6, 2009 at 11:27 pm #

    Great post, Thor! I’ve been thinking about you lots. I haven’t commented on the recent stuff because I missed the beginning, and didn’t really catch up enough to add anything, but I’ve been with you in spirit.

  7. March January 6, 2009 at 11:52 pm #

    your words are powerful, and honest and straight to the point. you have all my admiration and so much of my understanding. whether you realize it or not, through your words you are making this world better. I know you have made mine so. a clearer, better world.

  8. crazymumma January 7, 2009 at 12:18 am #

    Personally a news story about someone with dysentry drowning a city block in shit would be refreshing right about now I think.

  9. Meagan January 7, 2009 at 1:05 am #

    I am fairly certain my mother had undiagnosed bipolar disorder. I wish she had been as open and frank about it as you (maybe, that the people in her life had allowed her to do so). I wonder if it might have saved her life. Instead, she died of alcoholism-induced cirrhosis and pneumonia when I was just 22.

    I applaud your bravery.

  10. Meagan January 7, 2009 at 1:06 am #

    PS–she was an excellent mother in spite of and in some ways, maybe because of her illness. But she struggled so much more than I do, I know that. I wish it had been different for her and somebody had reached out or she’d reached out to somebody.

  11. Cruella Deville January 7, 2009 at 4:37 am #

    Thordora,
    I am from South Africa and I found your blog through another blog called “So Close”. I am so sorry that you had to be the victim of some bored fuckin attention junky. I love your style in which you write, and I love your honesty.

    Please keep the good writing coming and don`t ease up on the honesty, or the humor. I suffer from depression and it`s like ointment to the soul reading your blog. You have an excellent way with words. I am also a parent and I can totally relate with your comments on parenting as well.

    PS Thanks to your blog I also found Salty Lithium. It`s great to have found two new blogs at once, where one can enjoy reading intelligent thoughts by interesting people. Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us, we are honoured.

  12. exactscience January 7, 2009 at 5:28 am #

    You are sickeningly eloquent. I am lucky I suppose in that most of my experiences with telling others sees them thinking of it as a character flaw and not an illness.
    Dealing with having been diagnosed sucks but is something you handle with great poise and strength.

  13. Cruella Deville January 7, 2009 at 5:47 am #

    ….SaltED Lithium I meant.

  14. Di January 7, 2009 at 10:16 am #

    I just found your blog because someone blogged about the twitter debacle and I immediately subscribed. I hope you will visit my blog and click on the category “Depression.” Trust me, I have had some experiences that you will be able to relate to.

    Just had a conversation with my health insurance who declined to pay for my last three ECT treatments (but had no problem paying for the anesthesia and all the associated other things) because I was over my allowed 20 visits…like having a procedure under anesthesia is exactly equivalent to seeing my therapist.

    You can change therapists, you know. I have changed twice and have now found my soul-therapist. AND I never have to wait. She sticks to her schedule.

  15. Sara January 7, 2009 at 11:48 am #

    Exactly my point when I emailed you. Beautifully written. Thank you.

  16. bromac January 7, 2009 at 1:02 pm #

    Wonderful post, Thor. You are amazing in the way you are able to voice all the fears, rejection, and stigma we can experience.

    There are very few people who know about my mental illness. Not even my in-laws. Being a teacher of teens in this situation is very precarious as they can very much be ignorant and now throw around the idea that someone is bipolar if they act a little off. It is the new trend word I guess.

    Mainly, I can’t stand the way someone looks at me; with pity or judgement, when I tell them. Instead of searching for understanding and knowledge, they access their brain for foggy memories of the bipolar brother on ER so many years ago, and they judge.

    I won’t be judged by anyone. Well, I won’t listen to it or pay it any heed anyway. But, generally, I keep myself to myself so that I don’t have to deal with it.

    Hopefully one day it will be more sensitively accepted and understood. Until then, I guess I’ll keep my mouth shut.

  17. dw January 7, 2009 at 1:55 pm #

    thor, i didn’t know much of you until this most unfortunate deal you’ve recently gone thru. but your strength is apparent, and the many voices in supporting you are loud and clear. best wishes to you. keep on keepin’ on.

  18. Ameroux January 7, 2009 at 2:16 pm #

    Thordora, I read you frequently, but don’t often think of a response. However, I want to say that your writing has power and clarity and immediacy. Your blog resonates with my own experience of the lovely thing (not!) we call manic-depression. Thanks for writing. I especially loved your recent post about Vivian – it really touched me.

  19. Ulrika January 7, 2009 at 4:04 pm #

    I am bi-polar (the depressive type) and deemed crazy by my family of origin until I am totally sick of it. I have been accused of the worst of the worst and laughed at, joked about, and so ridiculed that I avoid them all now. Easy to do these days.

    My son loves me and has learned to enjoy my different ways which I channel into art and lately search and rescue (using canines). Abuse, oh I try not to think about being a child, not anymore. But I understand your struggles. Fortunately, once I started taking the right meds, life smoothed out for me – these days I can actually say I am happy and it is true. When the stress becomes too much – sad to say, but I take a tranquilizer – with anxiety and panic disorders there’s no thought tweeking that will stop the insanity. Of course I can put my dogs in cages when things overwhelm me – running helps – for some odd reason running helps.

    Best to you,

  20. Eden January 7, 2009 at 6:05 pm #

    You continue to amaze me.

    You crazy bitch 😉

  21. Jenny, Bloggess January 7, 2009 at 6:13 pm #

    Beautifully said, chica. I’m proud to have you on the crazy team.

    That being said? It’s possible that the people who jumped to conclusions and acted out of fear did it because they have some mental issues as well. I don’t mean that as an insult but when my anxiety disorder is high I am extremely paranoid and irrational. It helps me to remember that we all have a little bit of crazy in us. Those of us who know it and find help might be stigmatized, but at least we know that we’re being slowly mended.

  22. Eden January 7, 2009 at 8:40 pm #

    Jenny has a good point. Flora is exactly the kind of person who would have done that, for example. What people do, what they’re critical of, etc. all has much more to do with themselves than others.

    To quote Alfred the Butler, “Some [people] just want to watch the world burn.” I’ve been thinking that phrase a lot since this happened.

    Also: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W3KQgulBzh0

  23. thordora January 7, 2009 at 8:46 pm #

    It’s a really good point, but one I didn’t want to bring up for fear that the “SEEE! You CAN’T trust a nutter!” conversation would come up, as I’ve been dealing with enough “bipolars kill people!” bullshit.

    But that is true. When I’m in hyperempathy mode, I see shit I shouldn’t. So perhaps I should have a little more of that empathy now.

  24. In Due Time January 7, 2009 at 8:56 pm #

    Just stopping by to send you a hug. ((((((Hugs))))))))

    Sorry you’ve had such a shitty week.

  25. sweetsalty kate January 7, 2009 at 10:23 pm #

    thor, beautiful thor. Just sitting with you and admiring.

  26. Kandi Ann January 7, 2009 at 10:42 pm #

    Oh please don’t stop blogging because of what that person did. I just found you through a Mommy blog. I have no children. I had quite the fight with my gyn Dr to take IT ALL OUT because I was so young but I KNOW and I knew then, I didn’t want to pass this Bi-Polar down to my babies. Its Hell. I am reading you now. Learning from comments and hoping to come away with something to help me finally even try a relationship again. Just last night I thought how horrible it felt to be with someone. And at holidays I feel so alone. I am on meds and if I take them right they help though I have some extreme pain issues too. My long way of saying, so glad I am here, I hope your not leaving!!

  27. tinsenpup January 8, 2009 at 3:48 am #

    I’m glad that Eden led me to you, just regretful it was under these circumstances. I often think that those of us forced to learn to manage our mental health with care are frequently better off and most often better people than those who never find themselves compelled to really look in the mirror.

  28. bromac January 8, 2009 at 9:43 am #

    Thor, I do the same thing when in my super empathy stages. I make bad social blunders b/c my emotions get the best of me and I just want to help everyone hurting so much that I overreact.

  29. thordora January 8, 2009 at 9:59 am #

    And a note-here in canada, FINDING a shrink covered under our provincial health plans is VERY VERY difficult. I only started treatment with one after my hospitalization. The one who diagnosed me refused to take me on because I “wasn’t sick enough.”

    I can’t go to another doctor.

    And most of the time, she’s great. But she seems to assume that everyone can just stop everything which many of us who, having already stretched the boundries at work with the particulars of our disorders, just can’t do.

  30. Kira January 8, 2009 at 6:47 pm #

    I’m really disgusted that your psychologist / psychiatrist would be so dismissive of you. That is not professional, obviously, but more importantly it’s detrimental to you. I know you just said that you can’t find another one and that she’s usually great, but it’s still not a great attitude to have. I’ve seen a few psychologists in my town (pop. 40, 000, Manitoba) and only had to deal with that on one occasion, which she apologised for.

    I don’t know where I’m going with this, sorry. I just hope she either gets a little more sympathetic, or that you can find someone who takes your concerns more seriously.

  31. thordora January 8, 2009 at 6:49 pm #

    She had a heart attack the other day, so I might get a new one after all. 😛

  32. cooledskin January 9, 2009 at 11:32 am #

    Ha ha. Some bizarre form of poetic justice?
    It *is* a little funny, but it’s the kind of funny I feel bad laughing at. And somehow guilty, as if my comment worked as some sort of Deus Ex Machina.

    As you can see, I’m clearly a very humble person (not egocentric at all). Clearly.

  33. thordora January 9, 2009 at 11:56 am #

    Yeah, I feel bad laughing-I don’t mean her harm, I just thought, man, go figure. Cause I won’t get a new one. I’ll just get shuffled around and given the number of one that’s overworked dealing with people who REALLY need help.

  34. Betsey January 9, 2009 at 4:58 pm #

    Maggie sent me your way when I laboriously bitching and moaning about not having decent blogs in my reader to read.

    She also said to give it a week because there was comment drama.

    I’ll read for more than one post. Promise. Thanks for the good read.

  35. Gwen January 10, 2009 at 5:05 pm #

    I admire your courage to keep on posting about your mental illness in the face of everything. You’re doing good, lady.

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