I am especially sensitive to the issue because of my own background. For years, I walked around being an untreated bi-polar with…well, let’s just say that the local community can provide a laundry list of other possible mental health issues that I might be suffering from—the most serious of which is that I have a tendency towards serial ax murdering. At least one person in my family also needed treatment—my dear mother was probably also bipolar with tendencies of serial ax murdering.
“Do you suffer from Bordenitis? Do you frequently sharpen hatchets? Do you get a crazed look in your eyes when you can’t handle the stupidity of other people anymore? Ask your health care professional about Anti-Liz. Side-effects can include, but are not limited to, overwhelming urge to eat the entire pan of brownies…”
I am happier while on meds. And I like to think that I am a nicer person when medicated…but I could be completely wrong about that one—even on meds, I have my intense moments. If nothing else, I am less prone to random ax murderings. Unfortunately, my meds are still not exactly right, due to the glacier speed that some health care systems operate (it took over an year from the time my regular doctor decided that maybe I should be on some meds to the issuing of the first prescription—the wheels of mental health care move extremely slow).
The fact that I am a better person on meds surprised me. During high school, my grades tanked. I went from being an A and B student to being a D and F student in the space of just a couple of months. What happened was that my father lost everything (car, house, etc.) in a business failure, and we were forced to move from Denver to Brush, Colorado. And my dear mother lost her mind.
Now, my mom was always a little crazy. But over the years, it got steadily worse. The loss of her house did not help any. The move to Brush corresponded to the start of what can only be politely described as child abuse. It is amazing how quick your grades can drop when you are forced to put babysitting your siblings above your homework, when violence is bestowed for any disobedience, and you are constantly called stupid and retarded for your failing grades.
The school district was concerned about my sudden drop in grades. They were worried that I might have suffered brain damage somehow. They had me tested. And I was not allowed to know what they were testing me for, nor were I told the results of the tests.
This lack of information on my end allowed my mother to con me into believing that the test results showed that I was completely and utterly insane. My mother told me that the only thing keeping me out of the nuthouse was her—therefore, I had to doubly please her. This is part was how she managed to turn turned me against the social worker that the school district assigned to deal with me.
One day, frustrated with my sudden hostility, the social worker asked me why I did not trust her, and I exploded, exclaiming how my mother told me that I was doomed to be locked away in a padded cell. At this point, the social worker told me the truth about what the tests revealed—they were IQ tests, and I was not crazy or retarded; I was gifted. But this threat that my mom used poisoned my attitude—from that point on, I refused to seek out any mental health care.
Over the years, I will admit that I grew steadily more unstable. Honestly, I am lucky that I have never actually knifed someone in a fit of uncontrollable rage. What finally broke my resistance to seeking out treatment was that another aspect of my mental illness almost killed me.
There is no one that knows me for longer than an hour, who does not know that I have self-destructive tendencies. But most do not catch onto the fact that my self-destructive tendencies include thoughts of suicide. A few years ago, I came awful close to taking my own life. Regular readers of this newsletter will remember a period a few years ago where my column did not appear for several months—well, I was under the influence of such a dark cloud that I was incapable of writing and was just one bad hour away from ending it all.
It is not something that I like to admit. And even today, I have those moments where this overwhelming cloud of darkness descends upon me, and I once again consider just stepping out of this body. I do my best to conceal this from my friends and loved ones.
So why am I talking about it today? Well, just ten days ago, my mother-in-law committed suicide. In her case, it was because of a tar ball of health issues, including chronic pain and lack of sleep (her doctor took away her sleeping pills over an year ago). She decided to end it all because she could just not handle the pain anymore. And as one might imagine that event has unleashed echoes of my own mental health issues.
I still wrestle with mental illness. And I know that I am not alone. I sincerely hope that someday that we as a society properly address the mental health care crisis that rots unseen in our society. And I hope that I live long enough to see it happen. Blessed be.
|I am so counting this newsletter column towards my NovelRama word count.|