Now that I’m on a roll (four good days in a row!!), I thought it might be interesting to talk about how people with mental illness learn to determine the difference between what is “us” and what is our disorder. It’s taking me what seems like forever to figure this out, and even though I’ve got a decent handle on it now, I’m still wrong some of the time.
Looking back over this recent mixed-mood episode, for example, I can see where I made mistakes. I thought that because it was situational—I broke my toe, I’ve been unhappy at work, it was the anniversary of a horrific loss—it didn’t qualify as a legitimate episode. That’s why I didn’t call Dr. Awesomesauce until I was deep into it; I couldn’t pinpoint the causes nor articulate the reasons for my distress, so I blundered through it as best I could…..and went without needed treatment for weeks.
I also judged myself pretty harshly for what I believed to be an overreaction to everyday stressors. I don’t want to be one of those people who blame their condition for everything that goes sideways in their lives, but there are times when I really CAN’T control what my body does or what comes out of my mouth. It’s like the illness takes possession of me and spends itself in frenetic foot- and finger-tapping, leg-bouncing, pacing, and noisemaking. Unfortunately, it also has an obnoxious habit of speaking through me….and usually not for anyone’s benefit.
Still, I can’t just plead insanity every time the son-of-a-bitch gets me into trouble, and to this end I have gone overboard in telling myself that if I would simply try harder, I could avoid all the unpleasantness. (Funny how that hasn’t worked out for me.) This is what comes of being raised by a hypercritical mother who succeeded in driving home the message that absolutely everything that went wrong in my life was my own fault. In fact, she did her job so well that I’ve been known to let serious mood episodes go until I’m practically on the bottom steps of the psych unit before I allow myself to ask for help. Just like when I was a child, I’m afraid
Of course, Dr. A knows I have this attitude, and it drives him up the wall. The dear man has done everything he can to make me trust him, and for the most part I do. But I have trust issues with EVERYONE, so when someone—and that includes family and friends—goes the extra mile for me, it’s always something of a shock. I mean, if you can’t trust the woman who gave birth to you, who can you trust?
But that’s a post for a whole ‘nother day, so to speak. For now, I’m content just to have made progress toward remission, and learned another lesson in discerning where bipolar ends and I begin.