I suffer from many disorders of the mind. Chemical imbalances, terrible phobias, psychotic tendencies.
Back in the day, the mid 80’s, the medical world did not have the aptitude for mental illness that it does now, so, as my mental illnesses emerged and ran rampant in my early and mid-teens, I received more disapproving looks and glares than actual help.
There is nothing more painful than a 15 year old who has been cutting for a few years to overhear a shrink tell your parents it’s a cry for ‘attention’. They also dumped the blame on my mother, who was riddled with guilt for years thinking she had done something wrong in raising me. Cutting and self-mutilation are not cries for help. There is actually a chemical reaction within the brain that cutting and pain produces, while also the act of pain itself is an indicator that you can indeed feel, and it feels good.
One of my suicide attempts at 16 landed me in the hospital for a good while. Do you know what the therapy consisted of? The doctors yelling at me and threatening me to straighten up and fly right and quit being a ‘brat’. This same mentality also deems suicide as ‘selfish’. Suicide is not a selfish action. If someone commits suicide, it was not for selfish reasons or to hurt those who cared for them. It is a release from all that is twisted and broken on the inside.
To this day, one of my nearest and dearest tries to argue that I am selfish for even entertaining suicidal thoughts. It hurts when you can’t change a stigma. However, I am honest in my feelings when asked.
I wear many scars of my cutting. I’ve hand many trips to the ER because I let things get out of my control. My best friend gets sad when she looks at my scars. She, however, does not lecture. She empathizes the best she can. Most of my friends do. I don’t have many friends, really, a bare handful that I will sit down with face to face. I like my friends to be pen pals or online friends due to my own quirks that society doesn’t deem acceptable.
I had a complete nervous breakdown in 2004. With that mental collapse came acute agoraphobia. I stayed inside, rarely even leaving the bedroom. I had my nest there…all my needed things. Computer, books and all my comforts.
Getting me to leave the house for something important, such as a doctor’s appointment, when I finally gave in to see one, took nearly a month to plan. Part of agoraphobia and social anxiety is ‘mapping your route’. In my ‘mapping’ I refused left hand turns. I know this sounds so illogical, but this is simply one instance of how my mind works and copes with things.
Through therapy and medicine, my agoraphobia is more under control. I mean, look…I am teaching classes at the local library. I’ve been to Arizona and New Mexico several times to see my best friend. Yes, I am medicated throughout the journey, but the point is…I am leaving my comfort zone.
Speaking of ‘comfort zones’, I have carefully and painstakingly crafted my own personal room within my house. It was once the garage, but the original owners turned it into a sunken den sort of thing. It’s very big. I could put a bed in here if not for all my bookcases and swords and general (very odd) toys. Everything has its place. When anyone else comes in here and moves something, it irritates me to no end. Others may see this room as just an office, but to me it is so much more. This is my haven. And when I say I don’t spend any time in any other place in the house, I am being completely honest. I recently purchased a new living room suit with the intent of spending more time in the living room enjoying movies and whatnot with the family. It’s been two months now, that has yet to happen.
Obviously I am getting better at social situations, so long as they are controlled, like the classes I teach at the library. Though, don’t call me up and say ‘how about I introduce you to some of my friends and we go out for dinner?’ That would be a no. I have one close friend here locally that I will meet up with for coffee, or go to our favorite lunch spot. Sometimes with nothing more than a few hours’ notice. That’s a huge step for me. An accomplishment.
A large part of going out west to see my best friend and going down to Dothan to meet with my other close friend is that they empathize. They have taken the time to know me and understand me, and would never ask anything of me that would tax my limits. These people are rare and very much loved by me. They ask questions sometimes, to better understand things, and that’s good! It shows me they want to know the limits and they are looking out for my comfort levels.
One thing I am not in control of, despite the heavy medications, is my bipolar disorder. When I am in a manic high, well…its best to lock me in a room with no sharp objects and let me talk a lot, because I tend to get very chatty and animated. When I am in a down, you will be lucky to get me out of my room. I tend not to take care of myself as well. No sleep, no food, I neglect personal hygiene to a point. I am just utterly sad and feel so very alone. It’s painful.
When my bipolar disorder gets out of whack, so does my schizophrenia. I hear things. Sometimes just awful things. I used to see things a lot, but not so much anymore. I may see a flutter or shadow from my peripheral vision. Hearing the voices though…that’s something I can definitely do without. My meds usually keep me on a pretty even keel, and when I do slide up or down, it’s not as terribly drastic as before the meds.
I also have severe depression with psychotic tendencies. Pretty self-explanatory.
I feel things very deeply sometimes. It really depends on what it is. I have little empathy for the population at large. However, don’t ever let me see animal abuse.
Most of the time, I take criticism very well. I mean, you have to when you are a writer or artist. You are under scrutiny. I’ve tried to take all my reviews that were less than favorable as learning experiences.
However, someone in a game I play said my writing was ‘underwhelming’. I have not written anything on that site since. I can’t bring myself to do it. I feel ashamed. I feel as if the whole community on that site is sitting back looking at everything I’ve ever written there (we’re talking 15 years of stories) and just grimacing as they read my words. It’s like a wound that just won’t close…it keeps bleeding and bleeding…and it only took one person to inflict it and drive me away.
As with most people that are on a lot of medications, when I am feeling good and happy, I tend to think I don’t need the meds. Huge mistake. I will admit, when I have a writing piece that needs to be done, or, say, NaNoWriMo is here, I will only take half doses of my bipolar meds, because yes, they honestly make me feel a little zombie-like. I am a very doped up person. In this little cheat time when I half my daily dose, it takes maybe a week before I start sliding up or down. In cases of an event like NaNoWriMo it is pretty solid that I will slip into a manic high.
I have admitted this all to my psychiatrist, and now every three months he orders blood work to check my Depakote serum levels. Damn it…he makes it hard to cheat!!
Another little thing I learned is to come up with tales of how I got hurt and need stitches. I used to be honest with the ER. Then my record made them stricter with me. They put me in a room to be stitched up, but they take my shoes, keys, purse, phone and even my water! So, the last time I did go to the ER, I had a wild tale as of how something sliced my arm.
I don’t know why I still cut. Sometimes, the thought just comes into my head and before I know it, I’m sitting there with a bloody rag and a feeling of calm. A serene calm. Other times, when I am manic, it seems to be a focal point for me, because my brain can’t seem to grasp hold of any one thing for more than a moment.
Are mental illnesses curable? No, I don’t think so. They are treatable, however. It takes a while. I’ve been trying and changing medications over the course of the last…almost 15 years or so. Hell, I was just changed to a new anti-depressant last month. It’s working, too! My Depakote has to be adjusted a lot though, it seems.
I think I am trying to make a point with this post…
If you know someone who seems like their struggling, try to help them. I know insurance and the cost of everything makes it very hard for people to get the treatment they need and the meds. Having good friends makes a lot of difference, too. Be a support system. If you suspect someone is hurting themselves, do not admonish them for it. Try to talk to them. Get to the heart of it. I have 4 people right at this very moment, at 3am, that I could call and they would not be grumpy or grouchy that I called them and woke them up. They would talk to me, ease me, their words would be meaningful and gentle and encouraging for me not to hurt myself. They would be there even if I just needed to cry. And I hate crying.
Mental illness is not a fad. Yes, I know there are people out there who claim to have illnesses that they don’t for the attention or benefits, but not everyone. In this day and age, depression is on the rise. When people do seek help, you aren’t just prescribed something and everything turns out fine and dandy. My first round of meds sent me so far out of control it was scary. A lot of the treatment is trial and error until you find something that fits with your body and brains chemical disposition.
Well, I’ve just rambled on, haven’t I?
In addition to the brain, my body is currently out of sorts as well. I took a trip to my family practice doc on Monday for a chest cold. I have COPD, so I don’t play when it comes to chest colds. Turns out I have myself a case of bronchitis. Antibiotics and cough syrup with codeine in it and I am still feeling like poo two days later. I get hot and then cold, I can’t sleep.
To top all that off, its pollen season here in the good old south. Everything outside is covered in a layer of yellow pollen. Allergies Ahoy!!! And with the pollen and nice temps, come all the bugs of the South. Ew.
The kittehs are all doing great. The kitten is growing well, though I think he is stunted from his time being lost and alone and eating nothing but bugs and stuff until my best friend found him.
Since cats are cats, and not all of mine get along, I can’t get a nice group photo. So, I think this weekend I will enlist the help of the daughter in setting up a nice background and sitting each cat up for a photo. Try to make it look all professional. Cyd and Siefer would sit together, and BaxterMarie would sit with Jeff. Any of the cats would sit with Jeff…he’s cool with everyone. However, little Spencer thinks it’s always playtime, so that’s going to be a challenge. And Quinny won’t sit still with anyone. Wow…this is starting to sound like a task…lol.
It has been almost 30 days since my last blog entry. For that, I am sorry. I lose readership and that’s sad, and totally my fault.
I have thought long and hard about even writing on this particular subject. It’s filled my mind every day, while I play with the cats, rearrange my office for the millionth time, read, write and put together my new computer. Oh, yes…new computer. Thank the stars above that I am super paranoid about losing my documents, programs, pictures and music. Everything is backed up on both Dropbox and an external hard drive…I didn’t lose a thing. And the new PC is awesome.
I’ll close this up by encouraging you to think things over, maybe open up some discussion in the comments.
I’m going to strive harder to not let 30 days pass without an entry again. It’s time to share some stories!