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Monthly Archives: March 2012

It has come to my attention that I’ve been living in the glorious delusion that everyone understands mental illness—its causes, symptoms, repercussions, etc. I guess I’ve assumed that its prevalence in society meant that everyone knows someone with a mental illness and they’ve taken the time to talk to said afflicted people and maybe even done some research to further their understanding.

I don’t say this often: I was wrong.

People are shockingly ignorant when it comes to mental illness. I’ve talked to many people who fancy themselves experts on the “bullshit excuses” used by folks suffering from various afflictions. These people obviously don’t know that I suffer from a few myself and I generally avoid throwing myself on that sword. I just quietly let them continue their diatribe until they find something less offensive to talk about.

It’s not only that people are misinformed (and oblivious to their misinformation); it’s that they legitimately can’t wrap their brains around it. I can’t blame them for that aspect of it. It’s exceedingly difficult to explain to someone what it feels like to have depression or bipolar disorder or borderline personality disorder or schizophrenia or attention deficit disorder. They’re difficult concepts to grasp when you’ve never experienced them yourself or seen them wreak havoc on a friend or relative.

I accept that some people will never know what it feels like and I would never wish that on anyone. If you are blessed enough to have a properly functioning brain I’m quite happy for you. You’re lucky and you deserve to enjoy being normal. However, you need to be conscious of your words when talking about mental illness—especially when discussing it with someone who’s affected.

I’ve experienced all of the below ridiculousness and would like to help you avoid offending/hurting those close to you who are affected:

1) First and foremost it’s not bullshit. It’s a physical, chemical thing that is awry in my brain. It’s not a cry for attention or a reason to act like an asshole without consequences. Believe me when I tell you my actions have consequences, even when they’re actions I want no part of. The hell of being a rational person who is mostly functional is realizing the damage I do when I have an episode. My mental issues are certainly not an excuse to behave badly, but they are an explanation that I would hope could lead to some basic human compassion/understanding when I do act out.

2) Don’t ask if I’ve been diagnosed by a professional. I have. Treating me like I’m a hypochondriac who self-diagnosed on WebMD makes me feel like shit.

2a) Don’t second-guess my doctor’s diagnosis—I don’t. If you disagree (and don’t have a medical degree), you should just keep it to yourself. I have spent countless hours with a variety of doctors hammering out my diagnosis in order to tailor a treatment plan specific to my needs. I’ve been to multiple doctors and tried on different diagnoses until my (current) doctor and I found the right one.

3) Do not, under any circumstances, tell me to “shake it off,” “snap out of it,” or “get over it.” That. Does. Not. Help. As previously addressed, mental illness is a chemical thing. Parts of it are rooted in childhood trauma, abuse, and neglect. It’s very real and it’s something that requires intervention beyond “snapping out” of it.

3a) Don’t belittle me by offering advice like “take St. John’s Wort” or “get more exercise.” While those things are peachy for very mild depression, they aren’t going to mitigate larger issues. I’m not going to get into my specific afflictions, but I will tell you they cannot be cured by an herb and a jog.

3b) Don’t ask me if I’ve taken my meds (or tell me I need to up my dosage) when you don’t like something I have to say. I may have mental illnesses but I’m still allowed to have dissenting viewpoints and opinions. Don’t call me crazy in an attempt to silence me.

I get that people see me as a relatively functional person—and I am. Most of the time. I try very hard to behave like a normal person but it’s not something I can do 100 percent of the time. I have episodes and I have bad days and sometimes I have full-blown meltdowns. I appreciate that you want me to be normal and that to you, I seem mostly normal. And I thank you for that gracious view of me. But I have some things below the surface that I would like for you to not deny/ignore because they make you uncomfortable. I’m sorry that I have to be your crazy friend—but I am your crazy friend.

I struggle every day. I struggle to pull out the best version of myself that I can. I struggle to accept the way things are—to accept that I can’t spend my life wishing I were normal or being pissed off that other people get to be normal. I don’t always come out on top of those struggles. Sometimes what I put other people through breaks my fucking heart. I’ve ruined more friendships than I can count. I flounder in everyday social situations. I’m prone to bouts of paranoia. These are the crosses I bear.

At the end of the day I try to make the best of the less-than-ideal hand I’ve been dealt. I like to think that I win more hands than I lose, but my opinion is pretty subjective.

For as long as I’ve been drinking I’ve been drinking until I cry. I can’t really explain how or why it happens, but once every six months or so I drink to the point of complete emotional instability. I’m sure it says all kinds of things about my psychological well-being (or lack thereof) and my various mental afflictions. Whatever, that’s not why we’re here. If I had the vacation/sick time to go to therapy once a week—I would. That’s not an option for me if I want to remain employed full time so I get to just deal with my “quirks” (read: symptoms) on my own. Unfortunately for me that means it’s a total crap-shoot when I drink.

Most of the time I can handle myself and act like a normal person. I may get a little boisterous and a little inappropriate (I’m always loud so that doesn’t really need to be listed here) but I’m mostly under wraps.

If I continue to drink I get obnoxious. I’m handsy and super inappropriate. If I’m in this phase it’s only a matter of time before I progress to one of two stages (or both, if we’re all really lucky)…

Stage one: Balls-to-the-wall anger. Typically I’ll start picking up on what I think are subtle digs at me (hello, paranoia; welcome to the party) and stew for a little bit until someone says or does something that sets me off. And boom goes the dynamite. Then I storm off and pout until someone tracks me down and I either yell it out with whoever will listen or I progress to…

Stage two: Uncontrollable sobbing. We’re talking serious, level-five meltdown crying. It’s never about just one thing, either. Whoever the unfortunate soul is who tries to console me will suffer the onslaught of whatever verbal diarrhea spews forth from my mouth until they can’t deal with me anymore or I run out of things to say.

For your consideration: My bachelorette party was in Vegas (because my maid of honor was awesome) and I had an episode that weekend. I drank more than I ever have in my life because people want to buy drinks for the bride-to-be. So I put away more booze than ever and blacked out for a portion of the evening. During said blackout I am told I knocked a mirror off the wall and began to rifle through everyone’s suitcases before stumbling into the bathroom. This is where I start to remember what was going on… and it’s a mess.

Once in the bathroom I couldn’t find the light switch. I was *frantically* fondling the wall—just sliding my hand up and down the wall next to the doorframe with no success. I had to pee so badly that at one point I legitimately thought I had started to pee on the floor. Scared that I was having an accident and oddly obsessed with someone walking in on me, I held the door closed with one hand and hopped up on the sink… in the dark. Not long after I’d relieved myself there was a soft knock at the door. I opened it and one of the girls who was staying in my room was there, looking confused. Realizing I had just drunkenly peed in the sink I began to weep.

I sat on the edge of the bathtub, crying in embarrassment. The girl tried her best to console me and I actually requested to call my husband* before thinking better of it.

And that’s my most awesome example of drunk crying.

By now I realize I sound like a complete alcoholic to you but I swear—this is not my regular life. I’ve noticed it only happens when I’m in a large group of people. I can’t quite figure out what that says about me (it can’t be an attention thing because I always leave everyone so I can fume/cry by myself). Maybe I just get overwhelmed by all the people. I generally don’t do well in crowds sober so it would make sense that all those people would exacerbate whatever my issue is.

All of this has led me to an odd realization: When girls get really drunk they’re prone to crying and melodrama; when boys get really drunk they’re prone to violence and stupidity. Is one better than the other? I mean, would you rather endure emotional stress or physical damage? I guess it’s personal and it varies from person to person. But it’s something to consider when hosting a party.

* I have to say I’m blessed to have a husband who accepts my crazy and loves me anyway. He is more than willing to hug me until I stop crying and let me pour my drunk little heart out to him for as long as I need to. He’s a keeper.

The other day I was having a lunch discussion with my workladyfriends when the topic turned to women’s magazines. I pointed out that ladymags never have new or useful information in them (not a revolutionary observation, I know). It’s always weight-loss advice like “Eat less and exercise more!” and romance advice like “Give him the best blowjob of his life!”

Is this what we’ve been reduced to? Are these the things we’re interested in nowadays?

First of all, we all know how to lose weight: those of us who don’t lose the weight simply don’t abide by those two simple rules. (Hi, I’m Rampaige and I have no self-control. I could lose weight but I don’t want to put in the work.) Second, in reading a variety of sex articles I’ve come to the conclusion that I’ve done or currently do nearly everything on those little tip sheets they’re always publishing. Which begs the question: Am I a slut or are the women who read ladymags just prudes? I mean, really, do regular women not do basic things like doggie style and morning sex? Is that a thing with some women? Things like that seem to make a regular appearance on many “hot sex tips” lists. I’m legitimately concerned for the sex lives of others.

In addition to weight-loss and sex advice, throw in:

* some useless garbage about how to “have it all and do it all” (hint, you need a nanny and a chef and a personal assistant),

* an article about “[insert garment name] for every shape (between 0 and 12, natch),”

* and a shit-ton of ads with impossibly thin models (but you should love your body the way it is!) hocking products you don’t want or need but will buy anyway,

aaand you have every issue of every ladymag ever.

I don’t know what I expect because magazines like Bitch and Ms. aren’t in checkout lanes at the grocery store providing an alternative to this dreck. Cosmo and Martha Stewart Living and Good Housekeeping tell us how to be what society wants us to be: thin, pretty, domesticated, man-pleasing mommy-wives. Of course, it’s just a pleasant side effect that while we’re busily striving to meet these impossible standards we can’t possibly run companies or hold public offices or start an uprising. No, we’re far too busy trying to whittle our waistlines and perfect our oral sex technique. And while some women cast off those lookist, ageist, sexist, pronatalist shackles and run for office or start a company, even they are subjected to the same criticisms we’re all brought up to fear: not being attractive enough, dressing poorly, being too emotional, being a bitch, etc.

And really, would your average woman choose Ms. over Cosmo? Not likely. Most of us are so deeply entrenched in this bullshit that we opt for Cosmo thinking “Maybe if I just lose those last five pounds and master giving blowjobs, I can be content knowing I’m a good woman.” But contentment never comes. There’s always a new diet, a new tongue technique to make us feel inadequate and give us a reason to buy next month’s issue. (Do I sound like a feminist conspiracy theorist yet?)

We can’t win. We’re either too butch or too femme. Too cold or too sensitive. Too smart or too ditzy. Too homely or too pretty. Too stylish or too plain. Too aggressive or too passive. Too career minded or too family oriented. Too slutty or too prudish.

What the fuck are we supposed to do? I don’t even know. What I do know is I have taken it upon myself to not give a shit about what people think of me. I do what I want. I straddle the line between all of the above dichotomies. I may not be a good woman by everyone else’s standards, but I’m good enough for me.