On my journey back to mental wellness I’ve started to notice a few things. I’m not the only one who channels Snow White’s seven housemates. You know them surely; sleepy, grumpy, sneezy, dopey, et al. I’m also noticing that I’m not the only one who does not appreciate having their every minor decision questioned.
I find that the best response a friend or family member who is channeling one of these dorks is, “Pfffftttt” or “I see” and a good shrug of the shoulders, followed by an immediate evacuation of the scene. Further pursuance of the question at hand will only result in a blowout. So it seems that I have to remember how much I hate getting dragged over the coals of sixty-four thousand questions when asking questions.
Well damn! Living in the real world can be a pain in the kazoo. I think verbal manipulations should be registered as an Olympic sport. Yes indeed folks. I’ve come across people who actually manage to take an innocent question you ask such as, “how are you?” and twist around to imply that you are a selfish mental microbe who doesn’t care about anyone or anything.
The following hypothetical dialogue (based on an actual conversation) illustrates my take on this scenario:
Me: Hey how are you?
Person X: Well I’m fine, but I’m just tired.
Me: (falling into the trap) Oh, why are you tired?
Person X: Well I was up all night worrying about the national debt. Unlike some people I know (read you) I care about what happens to our country. Also I kept smashing my big toe with a hammer.
Me: (taken aback) OOOkkkk, Uh, why were you smashing your toe with a hammer?
Person X: Well someone (not me obviously) has to take steps to protect our economy. If my toe hurts then I won’t go out shopping and buy wasteful things while other people are suffering.
Me: (feeling a vague unnamed guilt) Uh, I don’t understand how not sleeping and injuring yourself is helping anyone.
Person X: Well of course you don’t see it! And therefore YOU are part of the problem.
Me: See ya later pal, I think I left something on the stove.
I always end up with a mild headache and wondering how I managed to blunder into such a conversation. However, with some people this seems to be the norm. I never did quite comprehend how worrying about something to the point of harming myself helps anything or anyone.
Well damn! Mr. Husband is doing our taxes. He keeps asking me questions. I want to scream! Oops, I think I did scream. Sorry about that.
I tend to describe myself as an outgoing loner. A big part of the problem is that I’m always a half beat away from everyone else’s rhythm. I can do taxes myself just fine, but I can’t figure out how to do them with another brain. It’s not a matter of “my way or the highway” or even “your way or the highway.” It’s either my way or your way. I can’t think about taxes or do any other complex and/or mathematical complexity in tandem. It ends up being a 3 legged race and those are always hilarious, but not very productive.
This morning he asked me what DSW was. My response was “Designer Shoe Warehouse.” Of, course. What the hell else could it be? (If you ask the question of a shoe freak) It ended up that he did know what DSW meant. What he was asking me…I think…was how to describe it in QuickBooks on our bank statement so that he would remember what it meant, at some point in the future. Dude, are you serious? You are asking me how to prompt the inner workings of YOUR brain? I spend the majority of my time trying to figure my own self out, and sometimes failing miserably.
What is going on is a major case of temporary denial. I’m clicking along finer than fine and then – BAM, I’m not. No particular reason, nothing is different. I’m OK then I’m not, that’s all there is to it. I almost hear the click as the switch flips. The way things look literally changes – drastically. Colors are not right, the angle of the sun seems wrong for the time of day.
Running water sounds like Niagara Falls. The tone and drone of the voices of the newscasters on Fox News (Hub likes it – I hate it) become so annoying that I want to throw the coffee table through the TV and then run outside and Hi-five my neighbors. Everything and everybody seems out of sync. Like listening to the static between radio channels and trying to make sense out of it.
Oh yea, I know what this is now. I keep forgetting that I have this totally frustrating, stupid bipolar mood disorder thing. I am minding my own business, and it sneaks up on me when I least expect it. I wonder, could I get a restraining order from this disorder where it has to stay 500 feet away from me at all times? That would be cool.
What I can do is remember that bipolar just happens, it’s not my fault. I didn’t eat the wrong thing, or stay out in the sun too long, watch the wrong movie, or listen to the wrong conversation. I can be vigilant, and try to pay attention to warning signs, but sometimes there are none. What is not helpful is beating myself up when it just happens without a warning.
I follow a blog called International Liberty – Restraining Government in America and Around the World. Written by Dan Mitchell. I don’t always agree with his views, but I do share his aversion to rampant passing of an endless stream of laws.
He posed a question today: “You Be the Judge: Should the Law Discourage People from Becoming Vagrants?”
Not going to reblog his entire post here because it was a long one, with lots of questions to ponder. An interesting and rather disturbing read.
My comment on this post was:
I think that turning homelessness into a crime is similar to the way modern medicine treats illness – by addressing the symptom instead of the underlying problem.
Granted some bums are just bums because they damned well feel like it. But the majority would prefer not to be homeless. The National Alliance for Mental illness estimates that 1/3 of the homeless population in the US are veterans. Another 45% have untreated mental illness, and few options to receive treatment if they tried. Since the 50′s the population of people cared for in mental hospitals has decreased by 90%.
So who are the homeless? They are the lepers of the 20th century. We just want them to go away or lock them up out of sight.
I have a lot of siblings. 2 of them drift in and out of homelessness from time to time. They are both drowning in untreated mental illness and substance abuse problems. My brother is mentally impaired due to severe brain damage as the result of a fall when he was intoxicated. The severity of the brain injury is the direct result of being taken to jail because he was drunk instead of taken directly to the emergency room to treat his head injury.
He finally managed to get placed in government subsidized housing. But he has many restrictions attached to this home. The biggest is that he is not allowed to let anyone live with him. How’s that for ostracizing and warehousing one of our less than savory members of society? Seems like it would be cost effective to allow him to have a room mate.
The recent conundrum he faced involved a sister who ran out of bipolar meds, didn’t get refills and careened into a 3 week drinking binge and manic depressive episode. As a result she got kicked out of the place she was living. She ended up on my brother’s sofa alternating between sleeping, being out of her mind, and panhandling for money to buy beer.
So his choices are 1) let her stay and try to help her while risking losing his home? Or 2) throw his own sister, a mentally ill woman, out on the street to fend for herself.
What a horrifying decision to be forced to make. I don’t know what I would do in his shoes. I finally told him that my vote was that he had to protect himself and not risk losing his home. But why should he even have to make that choice? It doesn’t seem fair or even remotely humane. It makes me want to rip my hair out!
This sister’s “drinking buddy” who suffers from the delusion that she is a friend came and took her to a women’s shelter. The time limit on that stay is 3 days. So it’s up in the air about what happens next.
Men will confess to treason, murder, arson, false teeth, or a wig. How many of them will own up to a lack of humor? Frank Moore Colby (1865-1925) American educator and writer
A sense of humor is a gift from the Gods. I don’t know I would have survived as long as I have without one. It always puzzling to encounter a person who is obviously doing everything they can to squelch theirs. Even people blessed with creative nature. There seems to be this social convention that the best artist or poet is a tortured soul. Maybe they are just the ones who get the most attention.
Lately I’ve been reading tons of books related to Bipolar disorder. I need to sit down and list them just so I can keep track of them all. It’s not just morbid curiosity because this particular silver hammer fell on my head at a visit to head doctor a few months ago.
One overriding theme in almost all the books so far is the fear that medication to treat the manic phase of bipolar will some how rob someone of their creativity. I had that same fear and also the fear that I would sit around like a lump of clay and not laugh about anything, especially after coming across “inappropriate laughter” as a listed symptom of mania.
I did go through a mild phase of that right after starting meds until my body adjusted. But looking back, my creativity was not gone; it just got put on a high shelf out of harm’s way until I found my way back to the center and balanced. True there are days when I feel like I’m barely balanced on the head of a pin, but most days are good days.
I prefer to view inappropriate laughter as laughing out loud at a time when it will cause emotional harm to those around you. Seeing the humor even in death is not necessarily a marker for mental illness. I bolster my case by referring you to the Darwin awards (see example below). It’s a site that list stories of people who removed themselves from the gene pool by killing themselves accidentally in incredibly stupid ways. For example; making drunken love on a commuter train track, standing on a wheelchair on a balcony to water hanging plants, trying to use a lawn chair with helium balloons as a form of travel, etc.
I did actually have to squelch what would probably have been inappropriate laughter at a funeral once. The woman in the coffin was a friend who died tragically at a young age in a car crash.
I covered my face and just shook until the feeling turned to tears of grief. The need to laugh part was from wanting to howl, slap my knee and say “Girl, I’ve been telling you for years that you shouldn’t be texting, putting on makeup and giving yourself a manicure all at the same time while driving down the highway at 80 miles an hour, drunk at 3:00am.
Hmmm, wonder if she was a bit manic at the time? I’d like to think she’s sitting up on a cloud somewhere thinking “Yea, yea, so you were right. When you get here someday, I’m gonna slap you! Then we’ll do belly shots off of hot looking pretty boy angels.”
(12 April 2008, Florida) Traffic was moving slowly on southbound I-95. Shawn M. had recently left a Pompano Beach bar, and now he was stuck in traffic. As the saying goes, you don’t buy beer–you just rent it, and Shawn couldn’t wait another moment to relieve himself. “I need to take a leak,” he told his friends.
Traffic was deadlocked, so the waterlogged man climbed out, put his hand on the divider, and jumped over the low concrete wall… only to fall 65 feet to his death. “He probably thought there was a road, but there wasn’t,” said a Fort Lauderdale police spokesman. The car was idling on an overpass above the railroad lines.
His mother shared her thoughts. “Shawn didn’t do a whole lot for a living. He got along on his charm, just like his father.”
Though his death was tragic, Shawn’s downfall proves the old adage: Look before you leak!
“Guess he was dying to go.”
“He shoulda peed in a bottle.”
“Apparently it was just his time to go.”
I’m dead serious here. I don’t know what to wear to an intervention. A black business suit complete with pearls and high heels? Full body armor? Jeans, boots, hazmat apron, and a hockey mask in case spewage or violence? And it seems that soon I will be leading the charge on an intervention.
One of my siblings is in an extreme mental health crisis. She’s been passed out dead drunk and depressed on a brother’s couch for months now. She not eating or bathing, the only time she gets up is to stagger down to the corner store to pan handle for money to buy cheap beer. She’s sunk to the point where she will do anything, and I do mean anything for money to buy alcohol. Basically, she’s trying to drink herself to death.
My fear is that she well swim up from the depths of her despair long enough to have a semi-lucid moment and try some method of killing herself that may get more immediate results and she dies. Or gets raped and murdered in the alley she was lured into in search of funds for booze. However her alcoholism is not a stand-alone problem. She spirals into episodes because she has an untreated severe panic disorder. For lack of medical treatment to help her, she drinks. People in pain will resort to desperate measures to relieve that pain.
When you get right down to it, it is a horrifying situation. I think it’s the reason why I’ve never gone in for horror movies. Enough scary stuff going on in my family tree to keep me properly terrified at all times. Don’t need to drive somewhere, pay 7 bucks for a ticket, eat popcorn, and squirm around in my seat while viewing gruesomeness in high definition.
The catch 22 in mental health treatment is the prevailing opinion that “we can’t help you with psychiatric treatment or medications until you stop drinking.” You may as well tell someone with a broken leg “we can’t fix your leg until you stop screaming from the pain.” It’s ridiculous that otherwise intelligent, compassionate, professional people believe this.
I’m not going to use that tired old line about “why pay for a horror movie when I get it at home for free” because that is total hogwash. Mental illness is not free, it’s unbelievably expensive. Insurance coverage for mental health issues is sick joke. It is legalized stigma at it it’s finest. More often than not people who are in the throes of severe mental illness are not capable of keeping it together enough to have jobs and health insurance.
The main task of the day for the sick person is just living through it until the next day, and then make it through that day. When you start adding up lost jobs, lost relationships, lost homes and possessions, and treatment for stress induced illnesses, the cost of mental illness soars into the billions.
Patient rights advocates have been busy these past decades and posed the question “should someone be incarcerated or medicated against their will, if mentally ill?” Our bureaucracy has pounced on that as an excuse to close down mental hospitals nationwide and put thousands of mentally ill patients out on the street. You’d have to be living under a rock to have not heard the statistics of how many homeless people suffer from mental illness. “Let’s just pretend they don’t exist” is the mass delusion we’re suffering from. Just because someone can speak doesn’t mean they are capable of making rational decisions about their care.
And it is a total delusion. With new studies of the brain and genetics, scientist discovered that there is a genetic marker that indicates a risk of contracting a Mood Spectrum Disorder, such as severe depression, schizoaffective disorder, dysthymia, cyclothymic disorder, and manic depression. Similar genetic markers as those that indicate a woman’s chance of developing breast cancer. Does anyone yell at someone with cancer and say “Just snap out of it, take a shower, get off your pity pot and get a job?” No! Or at least most don’t. I won’t even go in to alternate new age, blame the victim, bull dung theories about illness is caused by Karma from a past life or any other nonsense.
Where the nature/nurture conundrum comes into play is in families with cyclical and generational mental disorders. Without intervention these families become more dysfunctional with each passing generation. Part of the problem is that no one has the coping skills taken for granted in a functional family. A healthy person might say “I’m feeling a bit down today, I’m going to take a bubble bath, go to bed early with a cup of herbal tea and a good book.” A person with a genetic propensity towards mental disorder raised in a generational loony bit will say “I’m feeling down today, so I’m going to down a fifth of vodka, wrap my car around a telephone pole after driving on the sidewalk for 3 blocks, and then strip down and flee the scene naked to the nearest sleazy bar and dance on tables for drinks, wrapped in a bar towel.
There’s a major disconnect here. Anyone growing up a midst of this madness is blessed by all the saints in heaven if they emerge unscathed. Chances of winning the lottery are more likely.
Back to my sister. In the past few months she been taken to the hospital by the police 3 times because she was in an alcohol and mental illness induced violent psychosis. What do they do? Keep her at least over night or give her a psychiatric evaluation? No. Send her to a detox unit? Nope, not a chance.
What they do is tie her to gurney until she is sober enough to string 2 words together and then RELEASE HER, as in just boot her out the door in the middle of the night; drunk, filthy, disheveled, penniless, out of her mind, partially clothed, barefoot and in the worse part of town.
Do they bother to inform a family member that they dumped a young woman on the street at 2:00am without even pocket change to make a phone call? NO. I think there should be a special section of hell for any insurance company executive or politician who pretends to think this is humane treatment of a human being. If someone treated an animal like this they could be facing hard time in prison.
OK, I got off a rant. But yes, I’m extremely angry about this. I’m so angry that I’m going to take my soapbox on the road. I’m going to try to get help for my sister. If I didn’t try I wouldn’t be able to live with myself.