This morning the last paragraph of yesterday’s post is seeming very self satisfied and sort of pat to me. Seriously, saying what I really mean is so much harder than it looked before I started blogging. So I want to start by saying that I am not a mental health expert. Clearly. I’m very specifically writing about my experiences with an Anxiety Disorder and with a former diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder.
What I was trying to say yesterday was symptoms of mental illness can be the subconscious trying to protect the conscious. My anxiety itself isn’t caused by my subconscious; it is just part of my genetic makeup, much like my mousy brown hair or my blue eyes. The symptoms of my anxiety, like the agoraphobic tendencies, can be my subconscious trying to ease the anxiety that is already there. While I appreciate that my subconscious is trying to help, the reality is it is simply creating more problems. Knowing that the symptoms are caused by my subconscious does not magically make them easily surmountable. They are still very real and very difficult. And being armed with this knowledge does not protect me from a relapse.
The last thing I want to do is present this mental illness thing as a simple puzzle that just needs to be worked out so things can get better. It is real. It isn’t something you can conquer by pulling yourself up by your bootstraps. It took me years to believe that, sometimes I still doubt it and think the root of my problem is that I’m lazy and simply a bad person.
If someone you know is suffering from a mental illness I don’t suggest you ask them what they are getting out of their symptoms. They might punch you in the face. If Z, or another family member, or basically anyone but my shrink asked me that I would have seriously considered hurting myself because it would have made me feel like even less of a person. Back at that time I used to seriously consider hurting myself a lot. When Z and I would fight I would claw at my face and bang my head against hard things. Thankfully I never attempted to end my life, but on so many occasions I just wanted to die. I’m so far from that place now, and I want to live so badly it terrifies me that I could have ever felt that way. When my shrink would ask how I was benefiting from not leaving the house I hated him so much. Z had to get permission from his boss to be late to work twice a week so he could get me on the train and up to New York Columbia Presbyterian Hospital for my appointments. I never would have gone otherwise.
The reality was so very messy. Yesterday I made it sound pretty simple. My doctor asked me tough questions for a while and presto! I was better! Bullshit. It was so bad that my heart was racing as I wrote that last paragraph. It was so bad I didn’t even remember a bunch of that stuff until I really started to think about it because it is all too painful to revisit on a regular basis. I never ever want to go there again. And I will always be terrified that I won’t be able to stop it and will go there. I’m hoping the stuff I learned the first time around will give me the ability to get help before things get that bad. And I think I’m on the right track with that. But the thing is you never know.
Now after all the heavy stuff, how about a quick amusing story? Z had to go to NYC for a fieldtrip with students this Sunday. It was kind of a brutal day. The bus left at 6am and he didn’t get home until after midnight. Usually we schedule our life so we can each shower without worrying about T, but Sunday was one of the rare occasions when I had to watch him and shower simultaneously. T hates being stuck in the bathroom so it isn’t a fun time. I was washing my hair, so I couldn’t see what he was up to for a few minutes. When I looked down he’d thrown all his bath toys into the tub at my feet. Which was fine, a harmless way for him to occupy himself. But I noticed a black blob that didn’t seem to be a toy. I grabbed it and discovered it was one of my clean socks from the pile of clothes I’d brought in to wear that day. I look up at him and he was standing right on the other side of the curtain with my underwear on his head. I laughed for the rest of the shower.
My wonderful guy doing the regular this morning. I’m kind of ashamed of myself when I think about how I fought him about buying a snowblower. You really do need one here in Syracuse.
Cool ice thingy outside the dining room window.
Mr. Man has conquered the boat chair Z built.