I love the above image. Back in the late 1990s, I went to school for one semester for graphic design but dropped out. I didn't know it at the time, but I had untreated type 2 bipolar disorder, OCD, and borderline personality disorder, three exciting co-morbid conditions which happen to feed each other in ways that are just, shall we say, really special. I wouldn't be properly diagnosed until 2004.
When I think of how many years were wasted mired in shame and stigma because I had no idea in this Universe what was going on with me, I thought I was just an attention-seeking fuckup, it makes me very angry. Granted, some of the tools available to me now simply didn't exist when I was younger. E-commerce was in its infancy in the 1990s. There were no smartphones.
Hell, even GPS was still in its infancy. (I still have my TomTom Go.) The job I have today could not have existed in the 1990s. Back when dinosaurs and Ronald Reagan roamed the Earth in 1984, I delivered pizzas. Even the TomTom Go was as yet unheard of. How the hell my dyslexic ass didn't get lost more often, I'll never know. When I think of trying to do my job without Waze, it gives me that feeling of waking up with a start after a terrible dream and praising whatever powers there might be that the dream isn't real.
So, I didn't initially come here to talk to you about type 2 bipolar disorder, but now that I've thought about it, I want to talk about it. This is how people tend to think of bipolar disorder, and it's a reasonably accurate depiction of type 1 bipolar disorder.
The post that the image comes from is worth reading.
The late Patty Duke had type 1 bipolar disorder. She is a personal heroine of mine. Her book, Call Me Anna, helped me understand better the things that I had gone through and to help me forgive myself for some of the truly awful decisions I made while hypomanic.
Being diagnosed with type 2 bipolar disorder helped me understand why I had seen some features of bipolar disorder in myself but was convinced that I didn't have it because I'd never experienced a full mania. I tended to go from crushingly depressed to positive and overly functional. I never flew off to Vegas and got married to a guy I barely knew or anything of that nature, although I did convince myself several times that the Universe wanted me to be with guys who raised red flags like nobody's business and who, unsurprisingly, turned out to be horrible and abusive.
When I was hypomanic, I would take on second jobs and be the world's greatest employee that everyone loved until everything came crashing down and everyone ended up thinking I was the world's biggest flake and fuckup. I would be mired in depression which felt like being at the bottom of a dark pit that there was no way out of.
When I would finally, miraculously, find myself pulled out of that pit, I would admonish myself that from now on I would be positive and productive and would never go back THERE again. When I inevitably went back there again, I would shame and berate myself for being a worthless fuckup.
Click to enlarge.
This is a fairly standard bipolar disorder screening questionnaire. It tends to miss people with type 2 bipolar disorder.
Was there ever a period of time when I wasn't myself? No. I was always myself, although I often didn't like it very much.
The late Peter Steele of Type O Negative, who had type 1 bipolar disorder, describes reflecting on occasions following a manic episode where he felt that there was something he could have learned from the time in question if only he could remember it. I never experienced anything like that.
I've never presented as talking extremely fast or seeming particularly hyper. I've never slept well anyway, so the "sleeping less than usual" criteria didn't send up any red flags. The late Julia Lennon described having periods where she wouldn't sleep for a week at a time, and doctors didn't know what was wrong with her. She was institutionalized on several occasions.
I did get involved in ill-advised relationships with abusive guys, but I never flew off to Vegas to do so. I took on multiple jobs and then crashed, often losing all of my jobs. When I was good, I was very very good, and when I was bad I was nonfunctional.
I speak openly about my mental health struggles because I would be very happy if no-one else ever had to fight the way I've had to fight. I've been told that I should keep my psych problems hidden because people would avoid me if they knew I was one of THEM. I was told I would never find a job if people knew I'd been to a therapist.
I was also told that I was "just being dramatic," that I needed to "stop seeking attention," that I was "just being lazy," and that I brought all my problems on myself with my "negative thinking." I can tell you that none of these criticisms did a damn thing to help me improve my life or to do anything except hide my problems and hate myself because I was never able to develop any decent coping skills for dealing with them until I was in my middle years. At this point, I'm still cleaning up the messes made by attempting to hide my problems, such as a storage unit full of stuff and a mountain of debt.
We've come a long way when it comes to mental illness in Western society, but we haven't come far enough. There is still a tendency to see people with mental issues as less intelligent or less capable or as loose cannons just waiting to explode and harm others. The truth is, people who live with mental illness are more likely to be victims of violence than to perpetrate violence.
There is a tendency to see jobs such as mine as "lesser" and to believe that the working poor, unemployed, and homeless "deserve" to not have basic amenities or a living wage. This needs to end. Everybody deserves the basic amenities, whether or not they are capable of working a "normal" job or at all.
I heard the term "lazy" so many times that I ended up with a terrible complex about taking breaks or doing things that are purely enjoyable and will never turn a profit. I once read a statement from a counselor which said that the term "lazy" should be replaced with "demotivated," because asking a person why they are so lazy shuts down the conversation and thus any chance of helping the person, whereas asking them why they are feeling demotivated leaves the conversation open and may help create a plan for helping them.
Exploitative shows like "Hoarders" should not exist. Like, at all. Capitalizing on people's illness for entertainment is twisted and barbaric. Hoarding is a subtype of obsessive-compulsive disorder. It is the symptom of malfunction in a certain area of the brain. It is not "laziness." Dealing with hoarding tendencies is exhausting, time-consuming, and life-destroying. People with hoarding tendencies need help from a compassionate professional, not a bunch of lookie-loos seeking schadenfreude at another's expense.
My son is helping me deal with the lifetime of hoarding without help contained in my storage units and the closets and spare rooms of the mobile home that I hope to have in a condition where I can think about selling it by the end of next year. With his help, the storage unit, which is about the size of a one-car garage, is 1/3 of the way clear at this point, and we are hoping to have it entirely clear by June of 2019.
My late father attempted to "help with cleaning," but his help really only traumatized me and made me feel more ashamed, which didn't lead to me keeping up with the process. My son is understanding when I tell him that I can't deal with a certain item at the moment and we'll need to put it aside. We move on to the next thing. He also suggests creating scrapbooks and art from my vast collection of images from magazines, unlike my father, who told me that "anything that lands on the floor needs to be thrown in the garbage."
My father had piles of papers and magazines all over his house. He had OCD with hoarding tendencies too, but he came from an era when one locked their mental health issues in an attic and never spoke of them. This helped nothing, which is why I have come out of the attic and am speaking openly about my struggles.
For years I refused to make New Year's resolutions because I had learned to equate them with "new you in 52" crap, which really benefits no-one but the billion-dollar diet industry. I refuse to have or promote weight loss as a "health goal."
I spent 33 years in yo-yo dieting hell trying to hate myself thin. There is no way I'm going to endorse that behavior. I'm going batshit at this point with all the blogs in my sidebar promoting "get paid to lose weight" garbage. You'll never see me promoting these things because dieting inevitably fails for everyone but statistical unicorns.
Diets don't work. Health at Every Size works. If you want to start exercising, increase the amount you're exercising, or eat fewer processed foods, great, but do it for overall health, not for weight loss.
We'll all be a "new you in 52" anyway. We'll have new experiences behind us, and many of our cells will have been replaced by new ones. Don't buy into the "new you in 52" crap. It only leads to frustration. Instead, pursue things that will lead to a more authentic you.
Your authentic you has nothing to do with a number on the scale or even the amount of money in your bank account. It is the you who is true to themselves, which has nothing to do with looks or status at all.
Best wishes in the coming year,