Close to Home

Friday, March 30, 2012

We all have things that "hit close to home." There are experiences in this world that we all have. Often they are difficulties that we face, or friends of ours have faced, or family. Obviously my biggest trigger is "Bipolar Disorder." But cancer, ALS, depression, death of a family member, dropping out of college- all of those things make me shiver when they're mentioned by someone else. For me, it's all of the blood draining out of my face and this hot hot heat that feels like it's radiating from my arms and torso. I wrote earlier this month about a tv show where the victim was depressed. Lo and behold, it appears to be common, because the victim on this show was depressed and had cancer. (I do promise that I watch more than crime shows, but How I Met Your Mother just makes me laugh- not write blog posts.)  More and more people are telling me that they also struggle with depression or Bipolar Disorder or anxiety or any number of things. It appears that I am not the only one who may feel this way when society and media make us wonder at the credibility of people who have mental disorders/problems/complications/whatnot. We are also lucky, in the States, to live in a society where legally this cannot be held against us.

But often it is held against us, in a non-legal, but certainly not any less hurtful way. There's a community of people like me, who live with labels on charts and giant manila file folders of previously tried medications. Another community close-by of people who perhaps haven't discovered by doctor their label, but know something isn't right. Then a circle around us of people who love and live with or know those that have those files or labels. And then there are those who hear "Depression" or "Bipolar Disorder" and don't really feel anything. Maybe not because they don't care- perhaps because they don't know anyone. And there are people who don't care.

We are judged and labeled constantly. Often, as I have come to realize, without knowing it. While I know that judgement happens, it's much more difficult when it comes to your face. As someone who has had this for a long time, I've become well aware of the stigma that drags in my wake. I've gotten older and bolder and often I simply refuse to deal with that. I blaze forth and know that this happens and that there are people out there who think that I'm making this up, or that it's not really a big deal, or that I'm over medicated- whatever. That's often what I think- you know, whatever. So what. Who cares about them? Because sometimes that's the only way to cope with the stigma: to ignore it. But someone says something judgmental, belittles your existence in some way, and it becomes harder to ignore. And depending on where you are in your own head- you can choose to give a stigma to that person or not. You can lash out and become totally convinced that no one knows what you feel, that not a soul has ever gone through what you are going through now, and that no way, no how will anyone ever understand. I've done that before. For a while I became so convinced that no one was ever going to understand me that I purposefully shut people out. I shut almost everyone out. The friends and family who stuck by me then are the ones whom I truly love. Katherine Mansfield said, "I always felt that the great high privilege, relief, and comfort of friendship was that one had to explain nothing." That is so true of my best friends and family. Sometimes, when you move past giving a stigma to everyone and begin to share your pain, you do feel like you have to explain. Because to me, explanation is a form of apology. To me, writing some things in this blog, to some people, say, "I'm sorry that I act funny and can't fully function all the time. This is why."

"Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art... It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things that gives value to survival." -C.S. Lewis

Interestingly enough, that's when I get apologies in return. I got one yesterday. I was diagnosed as Bipolar in December of 2008 at the end of my second semester of my sophomore year of college. My grandmother died of cancer two months before. 2008 was probably one of the worst years of my life. To be diagnosed as Bipolar you have to be "under observation" by a psychiatrist for a year. The ups and the downs were hyper intense. When Namie (grandmother) died, I could barely handle myself. When I got the diagnosis all I could do was wish she was there. One of my biggest obstacles in those early years was myself. I am stubborn to the core. I put things on my plate, too many things, and then had to learn the hard way when I was forced to give them up. There were many responsibilities and jobs I had taken on in college that I shouldn't have. Some had endings I had no way of knowing about. Bipolar Disorder often lies in wait, like a crocodile, and then pops out, snarling, when you least want it too. I had to quit a lot of things when I was pushed to the edge. Those things often left other people with more work. I didn't want to. I so didn't want to leave. To quit. Whatever it was that bothered you.

My way of apologizing, these writings and ramblings, for things I did intentionally or unintentionally for my health has given way to apologies in reply. To all of them I say, you are forgiven. For whatever you think you did wrong, what you did wrong, for what you said or thought that has done me harm, you are forgiven. So I will continue to write my long-winded apology, my epic plea for understanding, my ode to Bipolar Disorder, my online journal, my love for God and prayers to him, so that you may get out of it what you will. If you seek community, find it here. If you seek understanding, may I hope to give you some. If you look for love, I will love you for who you are. If you search for faith, may you come to believe that God is good even if your circumstances are not.

**Though I may write only about Depression and Bipolar Disorder and anxiety, I do recognize that there are many, many, many more mental health conditions far and beyond what I write about. I write about those three things because they are what I have experienced. I strive to educate people about what I know. I try not to impose my thoughts on the ones I know less about. For more information about the disorders I write about and those that I don't, please visit The National Institute for Mental Health at http://www.nimh.nih.gov/

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