Not In Kansas Anymore...

Click your heels, and see if home is where you hang your hat, or somewhere else inside yourself as this simple, postmodern girl takes on L.A.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

I wrote this email to someone who is courting me ( see previous post!) , and in whom I have great interest. We had gotten into an argument, he thought I was being irrational, and said the THING I mention in the letter. I'm pretty sure I have a good sense of this guy's character, and I know it was said in anger, so I chose to let it ride. .Still I felt the need to make a few well-placed statements about mental illness to see what he said. He responded that he knew so little about it, he felt like it wasn't right for him to comment, and that he would look to me for education on it. Good answer, I must say. Not bad.

Still, it's always such a struggle to decide when and how to "reveal" this kind of fact about yourself; stigmas do still exist, and sometimes I really feel like I have to grapple for my right to be treated with equal personhood when someone finds out. I have to say, most people take it well, but I do notice they look at your differently, and sometimes, things get filtered through the "well, she's ON medication" lens, which really isn't fair. I know that if I could rank the Top 5 Topics that I hear at DBSA meetings, How And When and If To Disclose is always way near the top. It sometimes is followed by the subtopic But I Don't Think They'll Really Understand, especially when it comes to intimate relationships.

So this is my response to him, making sure my position and boundaries are clear.



Well, I was rooting around for a bias, I will admit.
I'm very, very touchy about ths subject, and you made a comment at me when we were arguing about "pushing more meds at you and telling you to piss off." I know you were angry. And I'm not trying to bait you into a fight. But THAT kind of statement is reflective of the exact kind of ignorance and intolerance I cannot stand. It's just not cool with me, nor will it ever be.

I suppose I just wanted to say my piece about it. It's a big part of my life ( not the illness, but the work about it)- I sit on a board for people with depression and bipolar disorders , ( ) and I'm supposed to (if Nicole ever gets me in there! ) start speaking for NAMI ( National Alliance For The Mentally Ill). I don't believe in stigma, I don't believe in judging someone's whole personhood in light of their having an illness. You wouldn't do that if someone were diabetic or had heart disease. No one would dare. But because it has to do with the mind, the mood, there is an assumption that it's okay, or at least understandable. Because people with mental illnesses....they're just crazy. Can't do a thing, not of any use, and certainly aren't stable enough to have well-rounded opinions,perceptions, thoughts or ideas.

I have a list somewhere around here of all the famous writers, poets, inventors, artists, musicians, politicians, world movers and shakers who all had diagnosable mental illnesses. Who went on to do amazing things and didn't end up tragically. Not to mention the> scores of people I see every week at meetings who have families and jobs and lives and friends and live well. It's not always easy- you have to take extra care of yourself, especially of your emotional life ( one of the reasons I'm so cautious with you, sometimes) so as to not add any undue stress on a brain that needs extra help making the right chemicals to fight off stress. Just like you have to count your blood sugar if you're diabetic. But people I do it. I do it. I have two degrees and live a very fine life, and I plan to continue to.

Sometimes my parents get overly cautious with me, like I should be living in a convent or something; if I call and I'm upset, they immediately assume it's the Big Slide Downhill starting to begin. Um, no. I'm just having a bad day, like people do. They're always on me to move back to Illinois where "its less stressful". I'll admit to anyone who asks that I hate LA and it IS too stressful, I think. But I manage. And like I tell my mom, " listen, what am I gonna do? Stay there my whole frickin' life and never DO anything because I have an illness? That's hardly living." They're parents, I suppose. They worry.

My friend R asked me once how I tell the difference between a bad day and the Beginning of Awful, and can I tell? The answer is YES, and I do it just like a doctor would. If I feel like crap for more than a week about something not all that major, that's not a good sign. And it *feels* different. In my head. THAT sounds crazy, I know, but trust me, it does. If I'm just in a snit or a funk, I may mope around and feel reallly, really badly, but if it's the disease, it starts in different ways, RIGHT away, and I have a very strong logical voice in my head that goes, "wait. That's not a reasonable reaction to that event," or "hey, it's not true that you're worthless or your life isn't worth living, why is that even in your consciousness?"

If I could tell the world just ONE thing it would be that: that unless you're psychotic, having had an actual break with reality and are truly,truly delusional, ( in which case it becomes impossible to find any shred of stability to cling to- but that's rare- I've seen even schizophrenics hold on with remarkable dignity), people with illnesses have a core to them that is ALWAYS sane. It's always there. It gets hard to reach and hold on to when you're sick. But you're never so lost that there's no string back to the front of the labrynth, or so ill that you don't understand the basic tenets of reality, of what's going on. Crazy is NOT what people think it is.

And our culture likes to pretend that they're so removed from it, that people like "us" are so differerent, when in fact it's astonishing how quick a slip through the looking glass can occur. They are us, we are them. WE are ALL human, and this is a side of humanness.

You sent me ( an article about his para-military job) because as you said, if we end up in anything serious, it will be a part of my life. This will be a part of yours. If that makes you hit the dirt and start running, okay, but I'm not ashamed of this.

It is what it is and it is a part of me. But it is not, and never will be the whole of me, just like your work will never be the whole of you.

Again, not spoiling for a fight.

Sometimes I think our job in this life is to stand in our own truth without shame for ourselves, and without inflicting shame upon others. A tough place to stand, but a worthy effort to try, don't you think? Surely only peace can come of that. And that's my only goal, I swear. Not spoiling for a fight, on any scale. There's enough of that go around already.