Daily Archives: February 18, 2018

There Oughta Be A Law

Another mass shooting has occurred in the United States, and as always the issue of guns has come to the forefront. These days, the bodies aren’t even cold before people start politicizing it. One side wants gun control; another wants to put guns in the hands of teachers and other persons in positions of authority…and still another wants to blame the whole mess on mental illness.

As a citizen who happens to have both a psychiatric disorder and a gun, I strenuously object to the latter. I didn’t leave my Second Amendment rights at the door to my psychiatrist’s office, and neither did the millions of other Americans who have depression, bipolar, and other mental health diagnoses.  While there certainly are mentally ill people who shouldn’t have access to firearms, not every mass murderer is mentally ill, and not every mentally ill person is a potential killer. Far from it. I know I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating: we are ten times more likely to be the victim of a crime than a perpetrator. Just look at the crimes that are committed against the homeless, many of whom suffer from mental health conditions; in one U.S. city, for example,  there is someone who’s going around killing homeless people for no reason. And they call us dangerous?

Part of the problem is that Americans are intellectually lazy and usually want to take the path of least resistance. We are stigmatized in this society, and of course the general public doesn’t want to deal with something it doesn’t understand. It’s all too easy to blame the world’s evils on people who are less able to defend themselves than others. And who really understands mental illness, anyway? Not even doctors and scientists really know what causes the brain to go haywire. No wonder there’s so little interest in funding mental health research…it’s just too complicated.

Me, I have other ideas. If I were in charge of making laws, I would require every state to have mental health clinics in all counties. People often don’t get help when they need it because they live too far away from psychiatrists and hospitals. I would make sure these clinics were fully funded and staffed (I know, I live in a dream world) and they had  income-based sliding scale fees for services, thus increasing access to care. They would also take all insurances, even Medicare and Medicaid, and be available 24/7/365. In addition, I would make sure there were enough nurses to make follow-up calls to patients who have recently been in crisis or needed hospitalization in order to help decrease readmission rates.

But enough about my fantasy. I don’t believe preventing those of us with mental illnesses from exercising our Second Amendment rights is the answer to mass killings. Of course, I’m not sure what the answer is. Maybe—perish the thought—there isn’t one. Personally, I think efforts to ban guns would be better aimed at addressing social stigmas that isolate and marginalize people. How do we become better at including the loner, the rejected, the sick in our society? How do we learn to accept them as fellow humans, not something to be tossed aside like garbage? Has anyone ever considered that there might be fewer shootings if vulnerable people didn’t feel so alienated?

Just a few of my thoughts on this snowy Sunday, with the Olympics on in the background and my family sitting in front of a cozy pellet-stove fire. Life is good, but as recent events remind us, we can’t take anything for granted. Not our lives, not our souls…not even our freedoms.

My Name Is Sludge

Sludgey. That is how I feel today. Like my body is made of lead and any sort of movement is exhausting, painful, and perhaps even dangerous. I loathe these mental spaces where the idea of moving around sets off alarm bells in my head, it’s irrational, idiotic, frustrating. As icing on the suckage cupcake, my anxiety is off the charts and that, too, irks me, because Sundays are supposed to be my peaceful day. Ya know, no mail, usually no calls, just…vegetative time.

Instead the hamster wheel in my skull is churning furiously and needs WD-40 desperately. The churning thoughts and terror replay in an endless loop, making every sound seem overwhelming, every action seem terrifying. My head actually hurts from thinking too much and nothing I do makes it slow down. I am holding the panic at bay, barely, by remindng myself that panicking won’t do a thing to help our situation but…I almost believe it is possible for the human skeleton to try to escape from inside just to escape the barrage of overactive nerve endings threatening to drive me stark raving mad.

Since you can’t really accomplish anything business-ish, ya know, like looking for a different place to live, on Sundays, I figured today would be my freebie day, one day free of freaking out and feeling like a cornered animal. But no, anxiety disorder says NOPE, FAIL. So my heart continues to beat rapidly, my head aches more and more with every passing hour, and I can’t seem to shake it off. Which is the norm, of course, but occasionally a burst of hypomania pops up.

Not today. This is useless, harmful energy of the sludgey variety. I am counting down the hours til bedtime. Just getting my kid bathed and fed and tucked in seems like scaling a mountain sans gear. And I despise feeling this way, this is NOT how I want to feel and I am fighting so damned hard and getting nowhere and that frustration adds to my anxiety which adds to my physical symptoms and if I could make it stop, I would…But that’s the big difference between society’s newfound labeling of ‘behavioral’ health versus mental disorder. Behavior you can change over time, you can choose to act and react differently.

When the problem is the very organ in your body required to behave appropriately so you can do the same…it isn’t a behavior disorder, it is a chemical disorder and calling it otherwise is insulting, misleading, and likely going to cause a lot of suicides because people won’t want to get help now that wonky brain chemicals are considered behavioral health problems.

Am I taking this whole label change too personally? Maybe. Mental illness never really dazzled me but calling all mental health issues behavioral health related- it’s infuriating. And it’s not the least bit helpful except to make me feel like there’s zero hope anything will ever get better because my legitimate chemical imbalances are now viewed by the entire medical establishment as something cured by behavior modification therapy.

I do not have enough middle fingers to express my feelings toward this change of labeling.

I do, however, have enough moxie and desperation to keep posting about our fundraiser even though not a cent has been donated in almost a week. I am fighting for a roof over my kid’s head so I will feel ashamed and prideful later for daring to ask for perfect strangers to help us. But we’re as worthy as any cause and none of this happened through any fault of our own. So click on the pic of our lovely Godsmack lounging in the dollhouse pool and visit the page, pass along the link.

It’s Time For Some Renovations!

During the next week or so, you will be seeing some changes here at Being Lydia. I am working towards my advocacy site; however, I am going to start here before reinventing the wheel. The Reviews and Services pages will get well-needed updates and new pages will be added. I will also be setting up …

The Question I Hate the Most

There are many things you shouldn’t say to a bipolar person: Cheer up. Smile. What have you got to worry about? We all have mood swings. Calm down. You’re overreacting. You don’t look depressed.

Each of these remarks contains a hidden assumption, from simple – you can choose your moods; to dismissive – your anxiety is not as severe (or as important) as mine; to possible gaslighting (see https://wp.me/p4e9Hv-pm, https://wp.me/p4e9Hv-C2, https://wp.me/p4e9Hv-Cu).

I’ve gotten all of those and more. Once I revealed my disorder to a coworker and she’d ask me, “How are you?” with a concerned look several times a day, taking my emotional temperature. But the question I hate most is a simple one.

Are you off your meds?

Let’s unpack this, shall we?

First, the underlying message is that, to the speaker, you are acting in a strange, inappropriate, frightening, incomprehensible, or otherwise “off” manner.

The second assumption is that you must be on medication in order to appear “normal” at times.

Third, that since you do not appear “normal” to the speaker, the only explanation is that you must not be medicated at the moment.

Fourth, that the speaker has the right to give you advice on how medicated you need to be in order to appear “normal.”

And, finally, that “meds” are the answer to all your problems. If you want to fit into society you must be on your guard at all times and medicate until you are acceptable to them.

There is a slightly less offensive version of the question: Have you taken your meds today?

This might be marginally acceptable from a loved one, who knows that you take medication for your disorder and also knows that you are sometimes forgetful.

But really. Most psychotropic medications build up in a person’s system over time and leave the body over a long time as well. Missing a single dose is not likely to have an appreciable effect on a person’s moods or actions.

There are some anti-anxiety medications that have short-term effects, and a bipolar person might have forgotten a dose or two.

But unless the speaker is the bipolar person’s caregiver, official or unofficial, it’s still rather parental and demeaning – suggesting that we aren’t competent to handle something as vital as our own medications.

Of course, sometimes it may be necessary to help a loved one remember to take medication, whether that person is bipolar or not. On a vacation, for instance, when one’s normal routine is disrupted, a gentle reminder may not be amiss. When one has just started treatment and the routine is still unfamiliar. Or if the person actually is a child.

You wouldn’t ask an adult with the flu “Have you taken your antibiotics today?” You wouldn’t say to a blind person “Now, don’t go out without your service dog.” Most people, most of the time, are deemed competent to know their needs and take care of those needs themselves.

But bipolar disorder and other psychiatric conditions, being largely “invisible illnesses,” seem to invite meddling. Everyone else knows what’s best for us, from a different drug to herbal medicine to a walk in the park to prayer.

They know a little bit about the disorders, perhaps, largely through television and celebrities. But they don’t know your particular version of the disorder (bipolar 1 or 2, rapid cycling, dysthymia, hypomania, anxiety, etc.)

So if I snap at you, or seem anxious, or don’t want to go out, don’t assume. I have regular “normal” moods too, even when I’m on medication. Sometimes I get annoyed if my husband has lost his cell phone for the third time this month. Sometimes I feel sad if my picnic is rained out. Not every mood is pathological.

So don’t assume you know what’s going on inside my head. Unless I ask for help, refrain from putting in your oar.

And don’t ask me, “Are you off your meds?” It’s an insult, not a question.

Penny Positive #60

From An Optimist’s Calendar