Tag Archives: mental illness

Paths without Glory: PTSD and The Neverending Now

Now you cannot escape.

You are trapped Now. Now you have no past. Nothing exists before Now. All your life is the inescapable hell of Now. You cannot remember when Now began. Now is with you when you wake. Now continues when you sleep. Now you cannot remember ice cream. Now you cannot remember the ocean. There is no vacation from Now. Now you cannot remember a smile. Now you cannot remember kindness. Now you cannot remember peace. Now you cannot remember love. Now you have no friend. Now is the inescapable foe. Now you cannot recognize the dead from the living. Now you forget which you are. Now you howl to no one. Now there is no one to hear. Now you are forgotten. Now you are utterly alone. Now is deaf. Now is dumb. Now is The Nothing stretching before you. That holds you fixed in its gaping stare. Now is The Nothing behind that pins you pitilessly Here in Now. Now is The Nothing of repeated repetition. Now is The Nothing that seeps into your soul, your being, the marrow of your bones. Now has no meaning. Now you are Nothing. Now has no past. Now has no future. Now never ends.

This is my experience of PTSD. And while the untouched have always struggled or refused to understand what has been called “The Soldiers’ Disease,” “Shellshock,” “Nam Flashbacks,” “Battered Wife Syndrome,” and just as often plain cowardice or an inability to “get over it,” I know this thing exists. I have seen it in films like “The Hurt Locker.” I have read stories of the Roman soldiers attempting to literally bury their heads to escape the slaughter at Cannae. I’ve read of the morphine addiction rampant among veterans of the Civil War. The alcoholic nihilism of Post-WWII Film Noir is rife with it. I have seen the homeless veterans of the countless savageries of war from Vietnam to Afghanistan living on the careless streets of the country they gave their youth for. Heroin, opiates, and alcohol have claimed more soldiers’ lives than any “enemy.” I have watched my Father carry a fly-swatter with him at all times. And when I asked him why bother over a fly, I heard his endless refrain. “Have you ever seen what flies can do to a dead man’s body?” I have heard my Mother tell of how her uncle, who cleared the tunnels at Iwo Jima, and her brother, who was wounded in Vietnam, break into tears at the mention of tunnels and pits and caves. The humor of the TV show M*A*S*H is the humor of the trenches. In Vonnegut’s “Slaughter House Five,” as the Germans and prisoners emerge from hiding into the rubble of Dresden, a bird challenges the meaning of human suffering with the call “Poo-tee-weet?” And Ahab chased the blind, dumb creature that took his leg and humanity around this circling world, a danger and a warning to all who witnessed his pain and rage. And, of course, there is Tolkien’s Frodo, closest to my heart. The author’s elaborate creation begun in the trenches, and so painful he constructed new languages just to speak of it.

I have never been to war. But I watched my Father wither from a robust, vibrant, keen and caring man into a skeletal mockery from cancer. I endured his final opiate-hazed days when he returned in his mind to Korea, and issued orders to my Mother, my sister, and myself. I remember how we pretended to obey his commands, lifting imaginary boxes of medical supplies that were desperately needed on some godless hill in the Frozen Chosin. That was how he earned his Bronze Star as a logistics Sergeant. Saving men no one remembers from slaughter in a war no one mentions on hill known by a forgotten number.

And I watched my Father die. And I had moments when I looked in the mirror and did not recognize my own image. I stole his drugs to kill my own pain. And when those were gone, ten dollars would buy a bag of mainlined oblivion for a day.

And then there was Him. Dark haired and dark eyed, tragically lost to the romance of the poppy, yet full of artistic promise. I thought I could save Him. But when he exchanged the needle for the bottle, well I wished he were back on dope. He never threw me down the concrete stairs in front of our apartment in the snow, half clothed, front left tooth broken by the gum line. Me with never a cavity. Those beautiful teeth. He never did that when he was on dope. He never pulled me from my bed by ankles and the long hair I will never wear again. Repeatedly pulling me from bed, slamming my face into doorways and tile bathroom floors. Right front tooth shattering with the tile beneath my face as he threw my head again and again and again against the cold surface. He never did that on heroin. I learned not to lock myself in the bathroom.

He’d have a beer or six and a drop of alcohol. And I would see his eyes lose focus. And rage rage RAGE at the world that he felt rejected his genius, and all fell on me. Sometimes I would hide outside. And he would scream and look for me. Sometimes he’d find me. Sometimes I’d sneak back into the apartment when it got quiet. Sometimes he’d wake up and again I’d be torn from bed or the closet or kitchen cabinet under the sink, which was spacious for a girl whose driver’s license says 5′ 1”. Again the beating, the sleeplessness, the bruises. Begging my landlord not to call the cops again. Lying to the police in Spanish somewhere in Central America that by all outward signs was a paradise. The safest, most stable and enduring democracy in Latin America. Full of Pura Vida and 90 year olds who loved to dance. Dinosaurs lived there. And monkeys! Real monkeys in the wild, swinging from tree to tree like one imagines monkeys would do. That I lived in Paradise at this time is probably the reason I am still alive.

But Paradise had a lot of cheap, pure cocaine, and cheaper alcohol. I don’t mind thinking of heroin, or seeing it on TV or in movies or in the news. It has no hold on me. But cocaine. No. When you carefully open tampons and roll your rent money up and hide it in the applicator tubes, then carefully hide the broken seal on the wrapping, and he bangs and berates you until you give it up. When your debit card and credit card are stolen enough that no bank wants your money. When you keep calling out of work. When the makeup can’t hide the bruises from your students, colleagues, or bosses. When you are just tired, and curl in bed with your dog and hordes of benedryl that you keep hidden but ultimately he finds and flushes anyway. When you’ve tried cutting with the razor but cannot. When you stop going to work. When you are unable to move. When you sit with your father-in-law and his “girlfriend” at a Christmas/birthday dinner you have prepared to please the in-laws, as it were, and he, Him, keeps leaving for an hour, two, more. And you sit ashamed before a white-haired, white-toothed, twinkling, blue-eyed Irishman wanted by the FBI and his expensive, young female companion whose tits he paid for. I say, when you sit at that well-prepared table in that company and feel shame burn and twist inside of you: you will feel the same about that “party” drug.

And when you’ve mastered playing ‘possum on the floor while a man with 12 inches and a hundred pounds on you spits venom in your face: worthless, useless, talentless, unfunny, stupid, fat, ugly, friendless, unloved, unloveable, a shame to your father’s memory, and “just like your mother.” It doesn’t matter how untrue those words are, or how tortured your mother has been, when all you are left with is the churning emptiness between your heart and gut. When you hold and rock yourself like a child, and howl like a street dog with a broken leg to no one. To silence. To nothing. When your only recourse is to beg money from your mother, your little sister, again, this time for a plane ticket home. To January in the Northeast. Freezing outside of PHL airport waiting for your mother who brought you a winter a coat. When you have to leave your dog. Your dog! With a man who’s sold your rings and necklaces and has bashed out your teeth. When you’ve been cheated on more times than you care to know. And yet you’ve stayed loyal in word and deed. When you leave him, and run from not your home to not your home. When you are drugged and sodomized by a “gay” couple renting out a room. And even still he chases you. Corners you outside of a drug store and tries to steal your prescription anti-anxiety medication. Hounds you when finally find someone new and good, and have a new apartment, and a job. When he waits where he knows you walk that same dog which you finally rescued, and greets you by saying “I see you’ve chubbed up.” When he uses your social security number to buy six iPhones, and you spend a year trying to fix your credit. I say, when that happens to you, you have experienced war, and it becomes your Now. And it will remain your Now forever. It may ease. It may improve. You may learn to adapt. But you are marked. Touched. Changed forever. As much as Ahab was broken and torn by Moby Dick. As much as Frodo lost his finger, himself, and received his wound that never healed. Your Now becomes and remains that moment you broke. The moment that meaningless, blind, begging, scraping, pitiful, lonely, raging suffering and violence that took the last of what you were. That becomes your Now, and as with Frodo or Ahab, your End.

I’ve been in some sort of therapy or counseling, and on psychiatric medications since I was about nineteen. I had some other troubles in my earlier life, and I don’t speak of them because the man involved is physically/mentally unable to understand what he did. And I’ve been mugged so many times I’ve lost count. But I recently appeared before an adjudicating law judge who began to ask me if there weren’t “some way, some therapy…because it’s been so long…” I wanted to scream at him that there are still Vietnam Vets, men in their sixties and seventies, living in VA shelters because their 18th year is still their Now. That to speak of “getting over it” to me is as monstrous as the French who shot men who would not “go over the top,” or Patton striking a soldier who had followed him from Africa through Italy, and then just broke down.

I don’t want what I have. But every time I wake up in a pool of cold sweat, from another dream in which He has taken all my money, spent it on drugs and booze, is with some other girl. And I am alone. Without a home, wandering the streets in the rain, unloved, unliked, unwanted, forgotten, useless, worthless, trying to navigate my way through mazes of bureaucrats and Nurse Ratcheds just to receive something, anything to help me continue to survive. I know my Now has not changed much. I will carry that weight and wound forever, as Frodo did. I may never find peace in the Shire again. And I will bear my eternal, mad, maniacal rage and pain as Ahab. A constant threat to the peace of those around me. A worry. A burden. Broken. A wary animal ruled by instinct. For if my chest were a cannon, surely such unholy madness as mine would burst from it and take all those who tried my patience with me. Save this blog where I told my tale in public first.

I have not written much lately here. I still struggle with accepting my new Now in my bed in my home. I still worry that I will lose everything. I worry about eviction. About losing utilities. About the time He lost the rent money betting on the Eagles. Who bets on the Eagles?! I horde food in bulk. I know what I can substitute for butter or eggs. And I lose sleep over when I only have one box of buillion or forget to plant or buy or dry parsley. I plant food. I pickle and can food. I carry at least one knife on me at all times. I have rebar wrapped in duct tape, and hatchets and machetes and baseball bats stashed around my house should there be an intruder. And I all of these items have names like The DiNero, or Killary. I can’t be in places with one exit. Ikea is my worst nightmare. I get nervous thinking of going to the supermarket, and rarely use ear phones. I have violent fantasies of taking down hostile men with some sort of Kung-Fu I obviously don’t know. But I know this house and the land it is on. And I know just how many doors I can lock behind me and still have an escape route like a roof. I check locks. I keep my house cold to keep the bills down. I spend hours throwing a pick ax to clear room for food gardens. Tear muscles raking. I diverted a stream with a shovel. I carry my weedwhacker like I’m Ripley or Vasquez or T2 Sarah Conner carried their weapons. I pack my backpack with first aid and mylar blankets and granola and fishing tackle, maps, and at least a liter of water. I purposefully overpack it and hike with it to build my endurance should I need to GET OUT. I instinctively note exits, and seat myself in public so as to have a clear view of the entrance, but behind the way the door swings should I need cover. Should I need to run. I can’t leave my house for long because my lack of a car and money leaves me feeling trapped and vulnerable. I have changed my appearance so as to not look inviting to men, and ensure I look and speak as white as I can with my mainly Mediterranean/Hungarian heritage. I live in the Appalachian foothills, and even if you knew my address, you couldn’t find me even with GPS.

But most of all, I hate my teeth. The bonding is old and beginning to crack on the first broken front tooth. And the bonding on the second tooth stains and needs replacing. And every time I see that stain, I want to put my fist through the mirror and his face. But life has punished him. And I have finally proved the medical necessity of crowns to my insurance, which is Medicaid, of course.

This is my Now. This is how I have adapted. But my family and long-time friend and love SP, and my therapist, have encouraged me to write again. My Mother gave me the money to renew this site and my domain. I was unsure what to write. Until this morning when I woke up more grateful to wake than any day I can recall. I woke up screaming and crying in a pool of sweat as I often do . He had spent all the money on drugs and was hanging out with some chick who was shooting up crack(?). I was living in my usual, lovely but changing cottage, by the landscape that is either near the ocean, or an old mill that has a good fishing spot, which he had destroyed. And the cottage was full of junkies and low lifes he’d brought around. And as I was crying and begging and pleading with him to leave me with something, he laughed at me. Laughed at how pitiful and pathetic I was. So I knew what to blog about today. Because I knew what he was laughing at. Now he had me trapped. This is my Now. This is my lonely path without glory. This is the story of my Neverending Now with PTSD.

-JL

While you’re here: Please check out the wonderful work done by the people at The National Alliance on Mental Illness and donate.

Check out my Instagram! There are pictures of stuff I like and hate.

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A Rainy Night in Soho: Loneliness & Song

I never made a point to go back and speak about the trauma I suffered at the beginning of this summer. It was a deep betrayal of a bond that kept me propped up emotionally. And I collapsed with it.

As I pointed out in an earlier post (In Which I Sing), I did pick up my Dad’s old guitar and have been practicing.

I suppose I enjoy it because my brain is full of words. Words strung together around an idea. Words to songs. Words to stories. I’ve never been short for words, until I was.

I suppose the answer lay the nature of the betrayal I experienced. That relationship was built on words. My words, mainly. And my words were suddenly turned against me, and worse, didn’t matter. I didn’t matter.

I’ve always been a talker. I have opinions on everything that I’ll back up with reams of words. I don’t even have to understand what I’m saying, or why, so long as the words sound good. That they string along well. They’re unusual or surprising, alliterative and witty.

But I can’t say I’ve ever been the popular type. I am exactly what I seem, the former editor of my high school literary magazine.

But I’ve always had friends. Until I was married, really. By the time I came to leave that relationship, I can’t say I had a friend. No one knew me, and I knew no one. My family and old friends had become strangers to me, and I to them.

One of my joys in piecing my life back together was rediscovering friends. Old friends and new. Renewing bonds and learning to understand what had changed during the gap in my life. Some friends took longer to regain, some I never have. I accept that.

Individual therapy has saved me more than once. In therapy, beyond the formal learning, I am able to practice being me. I was no longer sure who “me” was. I had a memory of me. Me healthy. Me full of confidence. Me the pain in the ass who wants to explain evolution to you. But who is “me” now? I knew I was deeply changed. In some ways irrevocably. But therapy gave me a safe space to explore this new “me.”

I suppose such a bond as that with a therapist becomes like a friendship. Mainly one-sided, but an open, honest, trust-based relationship. I like to wear my nice clothes and put on makeup to see my therapists. Present myself well. I want to impress, to prove I’m learning.

So, it was what I view as a betrayal of that bond by a woman I’d seen for two years as my therapist that sent me quiet.

I live with someone I love very much, who is good and kind to me, and who needs me too. I have family close by. But I don’t drive, and there is no public transportation here. I can’t say that I’d see many more people if my situation were different. But I would get out more. And a betrayal on such a personal level makes me less likely to seek people out.

The most helpful friends I’ve had lately are those like myself. Old and new. Involuntary hermits. Kindreds in mind and spirit.

As I said, I haven’t been writing as much. But music seems to help me channel some of that shattered pain, and the frail shards of happiness I’ve recollected.

Instead of speaking, I’ve become a prodigious doer of stuff. Good stuff. Extreme stuff. Gardening, fixing this old house, etc. I’m actually tough! But it all would be empty without my music. And if I feel nervous or unhappy, there is my music. I need my music. But what I listen to most is the words.

I’ve found a lot of solace in the music of resourcefulness. The kind that people make when times are hard, on what instruments they have. When work, if you can get it, doesn’t necessarily pay, and music is a chance at release. The music of folks who make a great noise at the passing of a loved one because they’ve earned their rest.

I like music about the confusion. About the search. Music to raise the dead. I’ve been working on this song above for some time. There are layers of meaning in it that speak to me of misspent youths, friendships come and gone, and somehow, purges my own demons. This song tells me “It’s OK.” Music to soothe. Music so I don’t feel alone.

I’ll borrow the words of others, until I regain my own.

While you’re here: Please check out the wonderful work done by the people at The National Alliance on Mental Illness and donate.

Check out my Instagram! There are pictures of stuff I like and hate. 😊

While there: check out my BFF’s Instagram and share some love.

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Just Like Everybody Else Does

 

 

“I am human and I need to be loved, just like everybody else does.”               – Morrissey

Invalid feelings and desires. That’s how I feel when I express myself as someone suffering from mental illness. It’s as though — once I’ve come out and said, “Yes, I suffer from Depression, Anxiety, PTSD, fill the blank” — that even the others who I’d expect to understand, write off every feeling or thought I have because I’m crazy.

It’s soul crushing. Admitting to having mental health issues demotes me from the status of human being to somewhere between a dog and a chimpanzee. Like maybe I can qualify for “personhood” and humans can’t use me for inhumane cosmetics testing, but other than that, my feelings and rights don’t count.

A man kills a church-full of people, and suddenly the talking heads are on about “mental illness.” Because, crazy people! People with mental illness are 10 times more likely to be a victim of violent crime than the general populace, and no more or less inclined towards violence, but so what? It’s much easier to discard a human being’s rights than the NRA’s cash. It doesn’t matter how you feel about the 2nd Amendment, the pattern of dehumanization is there. Crazy people check your rights at the door, maybe we’ll treat you as well as a dog.

And that’s just one issue in the public sphere that has me pissed again. But do I have the right to be pissed? I mean, seriously, if I’m crazy then you don’t have to listen to my crazy thoughts and feelings, right? I must be having “a bad day,” or be “overreacting due to past traumatic stimuli.” My thoughts and feelings are invalid. Perhaps my family has changed from using the term “dramatic” to “sensitive,” but I still feel limitations.

But, family, eh? What are you going to do? What about when it’s my therapist or psychiatrist? Then what? When the very institution I’ve given myself over for treatment for the past five years, suddenly makes it glaringly obvious that my questions are not welcome. I can follow all the damned rules, but why can I not question my psychiatrist’s “discomfort” with helping me through something? Is there “a no questions” rule for crazy folks as well?

I use Pennsylvania Counseling. I’ve been receiving my therapy and psychiatric visits with them since 2013, when I moved from Philly. In Philadelphia, I worked with Thomas Jefferson’s various outpatient clinics since I was 19. I am committed to my treatment. I spent 2009 until 2013 with Dr. Serota at Jefferson. And before the Obamacare federal expansion, he’d help me renew my Medical Assistance every year. He’d fill out the “Health Sustaining Medications” form. And he’d mark me as disabled, so I could still work if I could and get Medicaid. More than that, he was a kind and gentle man. And he liked to talk about film and literature with me. He made me feel like a human being. I wasn’t just “good girl.” *pant pant pant*

I always feared, when I moved to the Susquehanna Valley, I’d get some friggin Mennonite with a stick so far up their asses it kept their bonnet on. And wouldn’t you know it! Bingo! 

If Pennsylvania lost the Medicaid expansion, I’d be shit out of luck. Forget how long I’ve been receiving treatment at my current facility.

This place won’t touch a thing that would help me get services I need. And I’m a compliant patient. I go to my therapy, when I remind PA Counseling that my therapist has been out since Labor Day, and I’m in a bad way and get a damned appointment.

With a few exceptions, I have not generally experienced that Germanic, Prussian tendency to “just follow orders” and expect everyone else to goosestep in line that I expected here. Although I’ve had my share of nightmares in which I’m in a re-education camp though. And some printed dress down to the ankles wearing, post-stroke Nurse Ratched, Sarah Huckabee Sanders bitch wants to usher me to the gas chambers. Usually because I didn’t take Jesus into my heart.

Pennsylvania Counseling won’t just won’t return my calls. Or they call at 4:59, leave a message then bugger off. Talk about treating the mentally ill in crisis with dignity and respect, and generally making me feel as though I don’t matter.

But now, having experienced it, all I know is I have very limited options for care in my area. And no one cares because I’m crazy. And definitely not a human being with the right to a question, feeling, or opinion of my own, just like everybody else does.
“Sit crazy girl! Sit! Good crazy girl.”
Rough! Ruff!

 

While you’re here:  Check out my Instagram! There are pictures of crazy stuff I like and hate! 😊

While there: check out my BFF’s Instagram and share some love.

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The Soil Falling Over My Head

“I know it’s over, and still I cling. I don’t know where else I can go.” – Morrissey

Last few weeks were so bad. How bad were they? I’m glad you asked. So bad that I tried to watch a David Attenborough nature program, and my mind over-dubbed his narration with Werner Herzog. “The screams of the infant monkey will not bring back its dead mother. But merely fall silent on the pitiless jungle of life, bent on meaningless slaughter and overwhelming murder.” Morrissey was too cheerful to listen to, even when safely in my bed. So, we’ll go with “very bad.”

I felt, and still do to a point, as though I was slowly being buried. And each good thing that brings me joy was like a gasp of air, but each gasp seemed shorter and shorter, and provided less air for less time. Eventually I was buried under. Nothing meant anything, even my life. Even my life.

My mind is my favorite organ. And it just could not work.  I started being more flighty than usual, then forgetting dates in history, people’s names, what day it was, what time it was. I began losing things, too. And I don’t lose things! I just don’t. So when I do, I feel like I’m losing my mind, and I — tentatively using the past-tense — was. I had days lost in bed in silence. I didn’t want any sound or light, just to fall back to sleep. I was staying in my pajamas, not showering. And I simply could not handle anything anyone else said, or communicated in any fashion. There was no room or ability to pay attention, or listen, or just have others’ thoughts in my head. I didn’t even eat.

I considered entering inpatient psychiatric care. I got this bad for many reasons, some of which I can control, and others that are completely out of my sphere. And part of it that I could fix came down to my therapist. She has been absent since just before Labor Day, and she was helping me with some difficult issues. But after some naturing over the weekend with friends, and a desperate visit to my psychiatrist, I was finally given a new therapist. And she’s great. She has an extremely positive vibe, but manages to not be punchable because of her tremendous empathy and inner beauty.  So, I’ve climbed off the literal and figurative ledge for now. But it’s not as though I’m raring to freakin’ go this week. Poco a poco.

I still feel the need to constantly excuse myself to my family and loved ones for asking for anything.  I fear over-taxing them and that my crazy is contagious. But I’ve found all the people that truly love me are happy to help me be happy. And I want more than anything for them to feel good too.

To accomplish this, I took the unprecedented step of looking for good things in my life. And stuff I enjoy. It began with my dog, Abbey, the go-go Border Collie who keeps me outside and moving despite the weather or how I’m feeling. She also gives excellent morning cuddles. And then there’s Mr. Puddems, my fancy kitten man, who is a world-class lap-warmer. The Stan-man, of course. Our home. And going to friends’ houses. And golly-gee but I started taking showers, dressing nicely, dressing in general. Coloring, and I even started an oil-sketch. Gosh darnnit, I even cooked and cleaned in the same day. I honestly have to stop all this or people might get the idea that I’m a capable human being, and like *gasp* expect stuff from me. I may have to go to family meals! They may expect me to be on time!

But, let’s not get ahead of ourselves here. I’m back to taking a lot of emotional strength and capacity to live and love from Mozzy and The Smiths. Some folks might mistake this as indulging in depression. But it’s not so. Morrissey is just on my level. All the right amounts of passion, aggression, gentleness, strength, weakness, frustration, and joy however fleeting, just suits me fine. And keeps me going. He still is. So, everyone just deal with my love of Morrissey. It’s difficult, I know, but I’m not going to desert the music that’s gotten me through my teenage years, and through many troubles in between then and now. I’m more sorry about asking others’ to accept this than for most anything else.

And then there’s this blog. I started it over a week ago. And I’ve written maybe a paragraph or two a day. I used to be able to do these in one afternoon. But it’s been rough to communicate at all, nevermind attempting to explain these feelings to others. I feel extremely vulnerable, and of course sorry for anyone reading this, and sorry for perhaps upsetting them. Some habits are harder to break or reinstate. But, hey, at least I can write this much again.

What I hope is two-fold. Firstly, I want my friends and family to know why I’ve just not been present for a while. Why I may not be liking your blog, or Instagram, or even engaging in the Book of Faces. Secondly, I thought my story might help both people living with a depressed person to see what goes on in their brains. And all of the people living with depression to see that they are not alone, and that, as Morrissey croons: “there is a light that never goes out.”

I’m still working through this extreme debilitation of my mind, I have a lot of work yet to do. I’m happy to have found a new therapist to help. I’m also glad that when it came to it, I grabbed the tool-kit I worked on in therapy, and not some rather more dangerous object.  I’m not gonna lie though, the Mueller indictments and that one guilty plea really helped. 😀

 

While you’re here:  Check out my Instagram! There are pictures of crazy stuff I like and hate! 😊

While there: check out my BFF’s Instagram and share some love.

Got a comment? Click below! I love the feedback. If you like what you’ve read, tap Like and Share on Facebook! Follow and share on Twitter.


All the Lonely People: Mentally Ill in America

 

mental-illness

“No, really. I’m fine.”

I’m a white girl from a good family, I have a college education, I have a life and loved ones, and I’ve been in treatment for mental illness since I was nineteen.  I’m lucky. But everytime I see a homeless person, hear of a suicide, see someone lost to drugs or alcohol, or working on a non-violent criminal record, I think: There but for the Grace of the Force go I.

But just because I’m crazy, doesn’t mean I don’t have every right to be extremely pissed at this particular moment in time. While the Congress debates precisely how much cruelty is acceptable in the US healthcare system, we clearly have a President whose clinical diagnosis is “Crazy-pants w/ nuclear codes.”

Crazy is classist. The brilliant film The Ruling Class (1972, starring Peter O’Toole) savagely explores the old saw that the poor are “crazy.” The rich are “eccentric.” Sometimes “unpredictable,” but definitely a member of the club. And they can get away with anything, including shooting a guy in the face in Times Square, as Trump eloquently expressed the principle. But you can also observe it at work in talk shows praising the “courageous” celebrity who admits to seeking treatment, and explores their “struggle.”

The rest of us who live with mental illness don’t get the same press or privilege. Whether we deal with abuse, genetic predisposition, addiction, or life experience — and it’s usually a complex of some or all — mental illness is a lonely slog. For families with mental illness and/or dysfunction — again, usually both — the family generally falls into camps. The “get over it and move ons” and the silent and suffering. And those camps often overlap. But the punishment for breaking silence can be severe for those brave enough to admit there is a problem.

Although I have found that adopting an attitude of “Yep. I’m cray-cray. But I’m not hurting anyone. So deal with it.” has been helpful to me, it took me two decades of continuous treatment to get to that point. It is liberating, but even so, telling someone you have a specific mental illness, doesn’t mean suddenly they will “get you.” It certainly won’t help in a job interview. Depression or Anxiety may be abstract ideas that exist in people’s heads, but when you behave like a person who suffers from those disorders, few understand.

While informing friends and family that you have cancer is a thing my father could not even do, cancer is something that people understand will come with a certain set of painful difficulties. They will often research it to see what to expect. Doesn’t work that way with mental illness.

If you tell a family member or loved one, “I suffer from mood disorders,” you might as well have said, “Hey, I’ve gotten really into day trading.” Their eyes kind of glaze over, and they sure as hell aren’t going to Google “what is day trading?” Or, “what to expect when a loved one is day trading?” But get ready to witness all manner and degree of expressions of shock, dismay, anger, and shame when you behave like someone with a mood disorder. Or when your needs and/or limitations get in the way of their life and plans. That’s why the most common thing a mentally ill person says is “I’m fine.” Especially if we’re not.

When most people think of mental illness these days, they think of school or church shooters. Violent killers, all of them “mentally disturbed.” But, even among schizophrenics, violence and mental illness don’t go hand in hand.  I have to watch idly by as people discuss forcibly registering people as mentally ill who want to purchase a shotgun for their home. That’s two Constitutional rights, if you’re counting. (The Fourth Amendment Right to Privacy is the other one.) “Mentally ill” is a stigma, and a silencer.

If I went to Senator Pat “I don’t ever listen to my phone messages” Toomey’s office to protest, all you would see is a white girl with a sign and an attitude. And if I were hauled off by the police, you’d probably think “Crazy chick!” You can’t see by looking at me that I have serious health problems. I “present well.” I appear “normal” and “fine.” But if you did discover you were right about me being crazy, you could discount my opinion completely, right? And I have been told too many times to not even follow the news. Apparently, I cannot even handle being informed on issues that affect me.

The mentally ill have no political voice or capital. No one is courting our votes. Should crazy people even be allowed to vote anyhow? We are not only socially marginalized and stigmatized, we have no say in policy or our care, if we can get it.

Do you know what the wait times are to begin treatment if you have Medicaid? At least a month. That goes for drug and alcohol, and dual diagnosis treatment as well. And if you have private insurance, how many therapy sessions does it cover?  Can you fit therapy into your work schedule? Do your medications impact your ability to work? How many hours in six months before therapy starts coming out of your pocket? What about the prescriptions? Do you just go to your family doctor and get some random “happy pill”? Get sent on your way with no therapy or guidance? Do you know what the side effects may be? Do you understand how to take it? Most importantly: can you afford it?

Now that opioid dependence is an EPIDEMIC thanks to white people. Except for Attorney General (for the moment) Sessions, more people in power are realizing that criminalizing is no substitute for immediate, accessible, free treatment. Perhaps mental illness can ride addiction’s coat tails into some public opinion and  policy? After all, if we can get past of the stigma of “junkie” perhaps we could get past “crazy.”

Most importantly though, when it comes to it, doesn’t it just make more sense to at least make sure that those who suffer from mental illness receive care and treatment to ease their suffering? Nevermind free those who are treatable to live productive and even happy, “normal” lives?  Ease suffering, make more functioning citizens? Am I making any sense? More sense than the latest Tweet or speech by President Trump? Or do I sound crazy? If only I had money.

 

While you’re here:  Check out my Instagram! There are pictures of crazy stuff I like and hate! 😊

While there: check out my BFF’s Instagram and share some love.

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