AND SO I SAY TO YOU….
And so I say to you, yes, you, the friend that challenged me to write something to promote an understanding of my illness and not use profanity expletives or writing in a manner that made me sound angry and militant, I have pondered my thoughts over the last twenty four hours and thought about what exactly it is I DO want to say to you. Not just you, but others, how do I reach them, how do I make them understand? I suppose ultimately and ironically it is a bit of a mute point, as there will be those who strive to understand, and those who never will nor will they ever wish to understand. Yet, I accepted this challenge so let’s begin. I listened as I always do to your opinions and ponderings yesterday as we began a conversation about a number of things including my current state of being and several things seemed to have resonated over the last hours that have passed. Ok, here I am already challenged not to let my first thoughts, and yes they are profanities, as I work with a newer version of this software than I have used before and I inadvertently turned this document into a pint size unreadable, I laugh to myself, thinking, hmmm, perhaps she is right, I am incapable of expressing myself in a more mainstream appropriate manner. Sigh, but I digress. Yesterday, as I left after asking your assistance with a couple of things needed to finalize my disability status, I thought as I drove home, thinking smugly, I can do this, I will show her, I will rise to the occasion and be articulate and leave that salty veneer I carry with me always, most often a defense mechanism I have developed over many years, and write something to her within the perimeters she has challenged me to write within, after all if I am indeed going to follow my grandiose rants about muscling my way to the floors of the Senate or Congress to share my story or to speak for others with mental illness, it will be good practice. I mean I realistically, should I achieve that goal, realize I cannot stand before these government officials swearing like a sailor, dropping F bombs, being animated and militant, and expect that I would then be accomplishing what I had come there to accomplish. It would not indeed give credence to my claim that the system misjudged us all and we were not all “loose cannons” waiting to misfire. I further, thought about you telling me that I should sensor myself in my rants and ramblings on Facebook, and your reasoning behind that being, that if people that did not know me did not get an opportunity to see me as the intelligent articulate woman that I can be. I felt a bit of a barb in my side at the suggestion that I should not be so open with my disorder. In all honesty, I understand that your sentiments were well meant. To be further honest, before my very public fall from grace with my illness, I did have a bit more of a middle of the road approach to disclosing my illness, not that I was ashamed of being bipolar, it was just that I did not before the events that have drastically changed my life transpired, did not feel the need to where the scarlet letter proudly, nor did I consider my illness a scarlet letter then, and in fact if I am brutally honest, I was, as a woman diagnosed with bipolar disorder for nearly twenty years, a bit smug. I was even a bit unfair to my fellow sufferers and judgmental. It is ironically funny how karma will indeed sooner or later knock you right out of that ivory tower slapping you firmly
to the ground. It is in painful brutal honesty that at least regarding the issue of my smugness, I indeed reap what I sowed. I cannot recall the number of times, although I thought was with well intent, that I lectured others with my disorder about their inabilities to make their way in the world. I did in fact give them a bit of the insulting, smug, cheerleader attitude that one could not let their illness cripple them, or let them limit themselves in what they could achieve in life. After all, and of course this was before karma came calling, if I could do it anyone could do it. It was simply a matter of making up your mind not to let a mental illness dictate or control your life. As I write this, let me say, to all those I have met along the way in the past two years, I apologize. I was wrong. With a mental illness often it is not a matter of what you allow to control your life, in spite of what the logical assures you, the chemical imbalances can override the logic and it is indeed torture. It is torture two fold. It is torturous in that what you tell yourself in order to function, what you LOGICALLY know, and the war between your body’s chemical imbalance and that sound rational can leave you hopeless, and ashamed that you CANNOT in spite of medications, your best intentions, or sheer brute will stop the illness or rise above it. In my case, my illness was escalated by three adrenal systems running awry at the same time, menopause and the hormonal system, my thyroid, and my brain chemistry, virtually turned me into someone else. I went from a woman who did well in mainstream society, managing my personal and business affairs outwardly well, although it was not, nor is it ever perfect in anyone’s life to rock bottom. I was considered by most eccentric, firey, unique, not full blown clinically crazy. I went from managing my mood swings and illness, and when I say managing I will not say there were not issues, but in fairness, are there not issues in every person’s life, even those so called “normal people, to being arrested, crucified in the press, to three weeks after this event and the pressures that transpired, attempting suicide. Again a line, I arrogantly told my fellow sufferers I would never allow myself to cross. Yet, I did and I nearly succeeded. On the day I overdosed, obviously I had many pressures mounting, as well as all factions of my health deteriorating, and being mentally ill does not negate my responsibility for the decisions that led to those pressures, chemically imbalanced or not, I was calm and lucid working on that Tuesday as I had dozens of Tuesdays before and it was not premeditated when it happened. There was no suicide note, no plans to guide those left behind, no hesitation, no forethought, at least not consciously, I in the middle of a work day stopped by home between jobs, as I had done thousands of times of the preceding six years, thought to myself, I have a headache, reached into drawer where I kept my advil and my medications and without hesitation, as if it were the most normal thing in the world to do, opened a bottle of valium and took what I later estimated to be about 125 pills and washed them done with a diet coke. Morbidly and ironically funny, my next thought as I walked past my roommate to sit on my front porch was, I cannot die here, they will never get the gurney through these small hallways and turns and my dogs will be upset by all that commotion. So I grabbed my phone to call and cancel an appointment, dialed that number and began explaining, while smoking a cigarette on my front porch waiting calmly to die. Of course I did not finish the conversation, and I have been given accountings and read the medical records, however, in reality except for pieces, I have lost eight days of my life. After four days in a coma I awoke with what I am told is a normal psychosis, although that phrase seems as ridiculous as jumbo shrimp, or military intelligence, ripping tubes from my body and screaming in a room full of strangers. After being forcibly medicated and sedated, I woke up after an unknown amount of time, with both hands and feet tied to the bed rails, alone, entirely alone. I totally and completely understand what in my mind is, the true meaning of the word powerless. So combined with my treatment in my arrest, and all other
junctures prior to this event and after, I discovered that now, no matter what I had been, I was now treated with less dignity, respect or caring than an animal. Ergo, this is the source of my militant attitude and bitter anger. My illness escalated, and yes I changed. But my ability to think, reason, articulate, contribute, rationalize, or otherwise behave and function as a human being was altered less by my illness than it was altered by the way I was perceived and treated from then on in “the system”. The reason, I tell this story in this piece I pen to you is this: in our conversation, you said something to me that really did hit a nerve with me, I could not decipher if it was anger at how it “sounded” like stigma, disappointed because I believed your understanding was broader, or hurt. Although ultimately, I had to step back and gage my reaction to the words and instead I decided knowing your heart and your character as I do, those three words were intended to be a conveyance of compassion. And the three words used in the sentence I am referring to were “you are impaired”. If I am honest, I was a bit taken aback, because of all the words positive or negative I have redundantly obsessed over when rapid cycling in the many many hours I have had to contemplate, punish myself with, fortify myself with to stay alive, or in any other way process, until yesterday the word, “impaired” quite frankly, had never even occurred to me. It actually shocked me a bit. So when I objected to that phrase, you did try to explain and I knew you meant no harm in it and it was intended to be a term used to apply compassion, instead it sadly still rings in my head as a perception that mainstream society have of myself and many many others. So, now to the education process of what it means to have a mental illness and some relevant facts. Here in the United States, there are in excess of six million individuals with the diagnosis of bipolar disorder. One in four adults or 25% of the world’s population will at one time in their life seek or suffer from a mental illness or condition. For example, in my own family, my sister, and I will try to say this in a manner that does not take her inventory or express my deep sorrow in the loss of our relationship, to reflect my point; my sister does not consider herself to have any mental health issues to the best of my understanding. Yet, I know, if not at present, at least in the past she has taken psychotropic drugs for episodes of depression, anti anxiety drugs as a subcategory such as Xanax or valium, or sleeping pills to aid in sleep disturbances, which technically and categorically are drugs used in the psychiatric profession to treat people with mental illness. Yet, she categorically and totally shuns any suggestion of “if the shoe fits wear it.”. Now, that having been said, in my grandiose alternate universe, if I was to find myself in my polished persona, which yes, is a part of who I am and can be, were to find myself standing before a Senate or Congressional Committee and posed this challenge to them, how many would recoil in indignation at this question…Ladies and Gentlemen, would each of you kindly reveal the contents or your medicine cabinets and explain in detail what each prescribed drug was prescribed for and the symptoms leading to the diagnosis as well as the prognosis for same? Ouch, that would strike too close to the bone wouldn’t it? Suddenly the parable of Jesus and the adulteress comes to mind. “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.” People with mental illness are far more likely to be victims of violence than perpetrators.
As with my diagnosis, there is a genetic link. If one or both parents are bipolar, there is a 50% chance that their child will be bipolar. Mood disorders are not a sign of character weakness, they are chronic and incurable, just as diabetes, or other organic illnesses. Yet you would not dream of telling a diabetic to “just get over it”. Like diabetes a mental illness can be treated and managed. Another falicy. Medication is the magic bullet. Wrong. The first psychotropic drugs were few and far between until the 1970’s, following this period of denial we entered an age of enlightenment. This concept is laughable. What instead transpired is pharmaceutical companies discovered the goose that laid the golden egg. In a pill nation such as our own, everyone wants a quick fix, but in reality, again a fallacy. These classifications of drugs come with many side effects and cause many secondary issues. What works for one individual does not work for another, as is the same with the dosages. There is no exact formula for prescribing these drugs it is a willy nilly throw a dart at a dart board approach. There is a break in period and a detox period if a medication is not effective. And then the process begins over and over, with the hopes of devising a cocktail that levels out the mentally ill individual. Ideally if that balance is reached then the agonizing trial and error process has ended. Not so, doctors do not know why but a drug can lose its effectiveness for no apparent reason and the process begins over and over again. Long term physical damage caused by these drugs to various systems and organs in the body, including but not limited to, the liver, which process these chemicals, is common. Long term studies? There is a new drug out every week in this run for the money manifesto and there are really few if any long term studies. Generally the results of the study vary with who the underwriter of the study is for that drug. So long term studies? Teeheehee, I have been diagnosed for over twenty years. I AM the long term study. So, contrary to the ever redundant and annoying question, “Are you taking your meds?” Often the answer is yes, yes I am. No longer after I am outted as mentally ill am I ever again allowed to become frustrated or depressed by outside stressors in a manner in which “normal” people are allowed, in other words. I can’t have a simple, bad day with at least one person asking that question, “Are you taking your meds?” So you see, crazy is not for the weak of heart! Fact: If a medical provider is concerned about my demeanor or well being they may call the police, disclose I am mentally ill, wherein the police and a “crisis team” will come to my home and it is at their sole discretion whether or not I am taken into the mental hospital or not. The last time this happened to me, I was for all intensive purposes “held in custody” on my front porch, while a two hour inquisition took place, and then if and only if, they were satisfied with my answers would I or will I remain free based on law enforcement, and the crisis team assessment and the laws governing people classified as mentally ill. How many “normal” people have to undergo that scrutiny? I can be legally medicated against my will. Again, anyone else “out there” have to consider that? I have upon disclosing valid physical symptoms to doctors and then in an order to provide them with true and correct information to treat me disclosed my medications and upon discovery of my diagnosis and meds given for same, have had legitimate physical symptoms dismissed and been told to check in with
my psychiatrist. Furthermore, I have had those symptoms verified and legitimized with proper medical testing, yet often the first response is…she’s just crazy… I am by classification Bipolar II, a rapid cycler, operating in mixed states. I have two cross diagnosis as well ADD and GAD. This in laymen’s terms means, the chemicals in my brain that control moods misfire so frequently and unpredictably that my moods can be extreme and change from moment to moment. ADD is attention deficit disorder, meaning I am scattered and cannot finish things or concentrate properly, GAD is generalized anxiety disorder leading to panic attacks as well as things like agoraphobia and such. My condition is complicated and was escalated by thyroid issues and menopause, ruled by two other adrenal systems that rule and regulate mood among other things. The anxiety disorder did not happen until the police broke down my door and drug me half naked into the street even though I offered them not one moment of resistance. Further just before they broke my door in I did call to them I was coming and prior to that arrest I did not have so much as a traffic ticket on my legal record, indicating that other than the story of the complaintant in this scenario, there was no evidentiary reason for the excessive and brute for I suffered including assault rifles and that cold steal resting on my temple as the manhandled me, refused to show me a warrant or tell me what I was charged with, or mirandize me, as well as other horrors in this process. I am told in spite of the fact there were several witnesses to verify my claim, as a “mental patient” it will be my word against theirs so who ya gonna believe? Yes, I am angry, yes I am outraged, yes I am militant, and dozens of other adjectives and rightfully so, because I am relatively intelligent, and resourceful as well as my strength and other factors have made me or blessed me with the ability to navigate this all and protect myself. There is much much more I could say or teach you, my friend. But I have gone on for some time now, and that will be for another day. I want to say lastly, I am sorrowful and enraged at the number of people who this system handle or process so badly that they have not the strength to make it out of it alive. But again, another day. I must also acknowledge that in spite of it all and the humbling that Karma brought me, I have been blessed on many levels as well, the biggest blessing is, somehow, in spite of myself I am still alive to write this to you today. Now, may I revert to my arrogance and point out, not one obscenity, and I believe my tone although indignant was markedly less than militant. So, to conclude for now, my friend, I have risen to the challenge you presented me, how did I do?
Post script? I apologize for any spelling errors…I have not yet mastered this newer version of word…lol… does anybody now where the f**k spell check is on this? …lol