Should you be ashamed of your mental illness? This chart should give you an answer.
One week ago today, I was in the process of working an 11-hour day. The next day, I played basketball in my driveway. The day after that, I went to church that morning and attended a Super Bowl party that evening.
Since that time, I have worked a day-and-a-half. I found out I have the beginnings of arthritis and bone spurs in my lower back and been to the chiropractor twice. I’ve also visited my family doctor twice, had two strep tests and one flu test (none of which came back positive), and received a new prescription today, bringing my total for the week to three.
I have no plans for this weekend, save for lying around the house, resting, sleeping, and, hopefully, healing up enough that I can return to work Monday.
I mean, last week, I was a picture of health. I was running around everywhere, picking up portable tables (which sort of got me into some of the back trouble I mentioned earlier), playing guitar, blogging every day, eating whatever I wanted (to an extent), going wherever I wanted to go. I worked a full day yesterday, came home, and spent an hour in the bathroom sitting in front of a space heater to get warm.
What a difference a week makes.
I’m going to get over whatever this sickness is, and my back is going to improve. I don’t mean that to sound arrogant; I just know that sicknesses go away, and my back has been messed up like this before and gotten better. What all this has reminded me, though, is how quickly life can change. In this case, the changes have been purely physical. In other instances, though, they can be mental. And heartbreaking.
One of the stories that broke while I’ve been laid up this week was the one concerning Randy Quaid. As I watched him bizarrely rant against Rupert Murdoch and Warner Bros., sporting that long white beard but still speaking like the Cousin Eddie I remember, I thought of all the people I’ve known who have done things I never expected them to. I don’t just mean they were mean when I didn’t expect them to be or they had some type of moral failure; I mean they went freaking nuts.
They changed. One day they were normal; the next thing I knew, they weren’t.
Life and health are precious things. They have to be guarded and protected. Mental health is no different, though. Just as whatever sickness I had developed in my body and my back trouble accumulated over time, falling from healthy thought into mental illness or struggle is not something that just happens in an instant, no matter how sudden it may seem to us. Just as I couldn’t see any of the physical problems I’ve experienced this week coming, however, we rarely see mental difficulties setting upon us. One day, we’re just there, and then we have to figure out how to get back.
I’ve never become ill and not believed I would get better, but the day will eventually come when that happens. It’s not today, though. I have lived under the impression I would be depressed forever, and that is faulty thinking I have to battle every day. One day I was healthy; next day I wasn’t. I will be again, though. Whether you have suddenly awakened to the fact you are depressed or anxious or addicted, you can be okay again.
One day you were well. I want you to be well again.
Mark 5:1-20 English Standard Version (ESV)
5 They came to the other side of the sea, to the country of the Gerasenes. 2 And when Jesus had stepped out of the boat, immediately there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit. 3 He lived among the tombs. And no one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain, 4 for he had often been bound with shackles and chains, but he wrenched the chains apart, and he broke the shackles in pieces. No one had the strength to subdue him. 5 Night and day among the tombs and on the mountains he was always crying out and cutting himself with stones. 6 And when he saw Jesus from afar, he ran and fell down before him. 7 And crying out with a loud voice, he said, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I adjure you by God, do not torment me.” 8 For he was saying to him, “Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!” 9 And Jesus asked him, “What is your name?” He replied, “My name isLegion, for we are many.” 10 And he begged him earnestly not to send them out of the country. 11 Now a great herd of pigs was feeding there on the hillside,12 and they begged him, saying, “Send us to the pigs; let us enter them.” 13 So he gave them permission. And the unclean spirits came out and entered the pigs; and the herd, numbering about two thousand, rushed down the steep bank into the sea and drowned in the sea.
14 The herdsmen fled and told it in the city and in the country. And people came to see what it was that had happened. 15 And they came to Jesus and saw the demon-possessed man, the one who had had the legion, sitting there,clothed and in his right mind, and they were afraid. 16 And those who had seen it described to them what had happened to the demon-possessed man and to the pigs. 17 And they began to beg Jesus to depart from their region. 18 As he was getting into the boat, the man who had been possessed with demons begged him that he might be with him. 19 And he did not permit him but said to him, “Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” 20 And he went away and began to proclaim in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him, and everyone marveled.
I don’t know why I thought this would work.
It was a pipe dream. I’m too old. I don’t have enough time. I don’t have enough money. I should have done more research into the financial side of things. I shouldn’t have told anyone I was even thinking about it. There’s no way I can win.
Some of you may remember a little over a month ago when I wrote about my decision to return to college to pursue a degree in psychology. You may also remember how shortly after I wrote about how I was freaking out a little over how I was going to pay for classes. After sizing up the situation, it would seem to make more sense for me to begin classes in the Spring 2015 semester than in the Fall 2014 session. Finances would be better, more time to plan a schedule, etc., etc.
For starters, I signed up for the Fall semester. I had eyes on it, so that’s what I planned to do. Then I had to open my big mouth and tell people I was going back in the Fall, so now I have to explain why that’s not happening. That explanation includes my not being aware of financial aid options for post-baccalaureate students, so I have to basically say I didn’t know what the heck I was doing. Worst of all, though, is the feeling that this is just another one of those big plans I had that will never work out.
My chances of being able to begin in the Spring semester are actually looking quite good, however. As with anything in life, though, some measure of doubt still exists, and I hate that. It makes me want to stop talking about it altogether, but, well, since I had to mention it here…
Earlier this month, I ruminated on the dangers of self-diagnosis and the mental disorder known as Borderline Personality Disorder. I mentioned finding a book on the subject titled “I Hate You – Don’t Leave Me,” by Jerold J. Kreisman and Hal Straus, at the local library. I finally got brave enough to check it out a couple of weeks ago and concluded after reading just a couple of chapters that I did not suffer from this particular disorder. Particular aspects of it, however, seemed to fit me to a T. Here’s a brief passage on how those who suffer from BPD assess risks:
Unwilling to play the hand that is dealt her, the borderline keeps folding every time, losing the ante, waiting to be dealt four aces. If she cannot be assured of winning, she won’t play out her the hand. Improvement comes when she learns to accept the hand for what it is, and recognize that, skillfully played, she can still win.
I find myself guilty right now of wanting those four aces. I keep thinking of all these reasons that if this doesn’t work out perfectly, it won’t work out at all, when, in reality, an amended plan (or possibly something altogether different) might work just as well. It’s change, though, and change just doesn’t feel right sometimes. It feels like failing.
I am regrouping, but you might not see me mention much about college for a while. I may not be able to pull together the perfect hand, but I think I’ll at least wait for a winning one before I say much more. It’s just so hard to talk about winning sometimes, though, when you feel as if you’re losing.