Tag Archives: personal

Anger as a Constructive Force

Note: This is kind of an old post, but I think it’s still useful.

I’m sure that many of you have heard variations on the following:

“You’re just too angry. Your anger alienates people/potential allies and might make them afraid to associate with you! They won’t want to be on your side because of your anger.”

This statement, or a variation thereof, is often wielded at feminists, people of color (particularly women of color), radical progressives, non-mainstream members of the LGBTIQA community, disabled and chronically ill folks, atheists, fat acceptance activists, and others in order to get them to capitulate to some weird, unseen social standard that requires that they not offend anyone even as they fight to be heard and taken seriously, as well as for social and political justice.

There is a difference between being angry for its own sake, and turning one’s anger into action. For whatever reason, mainstream Western culture has decided that people who have historically been put down, devalued and mistreated by those in the majority should fight for their rights, but they should “be nice” while they do so. The messages that historically devalued groups have to get across, even if said messages are quite radical, should apparently be palatable even to the people who have the most social currency in mainstream society. What’s radical about that?

Anger makes people fundamentally uncomfortable, and I think that this discomfort often discourages constructive work. When those who need to express their anger, somehow, are not allowed to do so, the anger can become toxic. Instead of a catalyst for change, it becomes a symptom of a missed opportunity.

My own anger is something that I’ve just begun to embrace after years of stuffing it down and having it reappear at other times, often to my own detriment. Certainly, I may be too angry. I may indeed alienate people with some of my words. However, do I really want those who cannot “handle” what I have to say as allies, if I have to add, for example, rainbows and unicorns and puppies to my outlook on the world in order to make my outlook more palatable? No.

Anger, if used in a constructive manner, can be a great creative force. Most of the cartoons that I draw and have drawn start or started as brief doodles about things that make me or have made me angry. When I can create something that has been inspired by my own strong feelings, I feel much better and more able to cope with things such as my illness, and the physical pain and fatigue that come with it. When I take the opposite tack–that is, when I hold my anger in and don’t do anything with it–I feel worse.

[Originally posted at HAM.BLOG on August 7, 2008.]

This is Why We’re Always on about Language

I’m not linking to the original source because the specifics don’t matter. This isn’t about the individual people or the individual documents involved. This is just an example of how the use of ableist language harms disabled people. Sometimes our posts on ableist language are on the abstract side, so here’s something real concrete. The ableist language is “insane” used to mean “this is bad.” The disabled people are me and everyone else who has been abused and has mental illness.

Some context is necessary, though. The first quote is from the comments thread of a post on intimate partner abuse. More specifically it’s about the way people outside the abusive relationship contribute to the abuse. Even staying “neutral” or “not getting involved” contributes to the abuse: when power is unequally shared among people in a relationship, staying neutral is siding with the person with the most power. But much of the time people don’t stop with that much. They actively side with the abuser. (The reasons for this is a subject for another post. Graduate degree dissertations. Books. I’m headed in a different direction right now.)

One of the commenters expressed disgust with the people who’d taken the side of the abuser and ended the comment with:

How insane is that?

Here’s my reply.

It is appalling, frustrating, disappointing. It makes me want to cry every goddamn time I see it because I know my abusers are fine upstanding successful people and I’m fucked up and broken and poor.

It is not insane.

I am insane. I have had delusions and paranoia and hallucinations. There are parts of me I do not talk about ever because I am deeply ashamed of them: what’s wrong with me that this is in me? How can I be this fucked up? I spend every day working on not killing myself because the parts of me that hate me and want me dead never shut up.[1. Unfortunately, none of this is even exaggerated.]

I would like, please, to not have to be the metaphor for abusers and their abettors as well as their victim. I carry enough shame already.

This is why we talk about ableist language. It’s not because we hate fun. It’s not because we have no sense of humor. It’s not because we want to take people’s words away.

It’s because we shouldn’t have to be the metaphors for our own oppressions.

Trust Me

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A couple of weeks ago I asked my PCM for a referral to OB/GYN to replace the IUD that I had to surrender over the summer. She and The Guy and I have been talking for some time about the options and realities of having another child with my condition, and the answer we came up with is that we will wait for a little longer and see if I am still doing well with my current regimen.

Usually these things take weeks to schedule, but they called the next day, and I had my referral appointment on the second day. No matter what your history in the OB/GYN clinics you have to have counseling in order to get birth control through the MTF (all the ones in which I have been treated anyway), and the idea is that you get to talk to your OB/GYN about all of your birth control options, what you want from your birth control, take his or her advice, and decide on what is best for you. That is the theory, anyhow.

Some people (like me) have an idea ahead of time what they want or what is best for them. I, for example, due to my medical history and ongoing condition, am not able to use a hormonal birth control. Because of that I know that the copper IUD (ParaGuard) is the best option for me. Also because of this, I often read up on ParaGuard and IUD use in women, and try to keep abreast of any information regarding IUD usage, risks involved, etc. The IUD has such a bad reputation from so much misinformation that I feel the need to stay on top of this. Some would say this makes me a big smarty-pants-know-it-all. I say that sometimes a woman can’t trust that her doctor is going to take her word at face falue, and in the off chance that her doctor isn’t as awesome as mine she needs to be prepared. I am privileged to have information available at my fingertips.

I did not realize that my appointment would not be with my usual kick-ass OB/GYN, Dr. K, the same one who saved my fallopian tubes and life this summer and who promised to give me a shiny new IUD whenever I was ready for it. Not panicking when I saw the face of a woman I didn’t know I sat down as she introduced herself as Nurse Midwife V and told me that she had been looking over my file. Great. Maybe she was doing her background reading too, because I really tire of bringing every doctor up to speed constantly on my condition when it is right there on the computer screen for them to see. I don’t have a bunch of degrees and I can keep up with the required reading.

Before I had even the chance to say anything she told me that I was “not a candidate for an IUD” because of my ectopic pregnancy, and that she was not going to refer me for one. When I started to say that I understood that there were some risks she cut me off and told me that my pap was also past due and kept talking. I tried to assert myself past her obsession with people rooting around in my vagina, to let her know that I was aware that there were risks involved with the IUD, but that I knew that not only was what happened to me rare, but that I knew it was rare that it might happen again. But she wasn’t having any of that. She kept right on talking like I wasn’t even there.

I told her that my regular doctor had already said I was fine to have one. She responded by saying that it usually took weeks to get in to see him, as if this was supposed to deter me somehow. I also tried asking if the new ACOG regulations had been implemented yet, thinking this might distract her and get me closer to my goal (also, I am in the lag area none of them know what to do with, being 29, soon to be 30) and all she would say was that my pap was past due. Is it? I don’t know. I had a normal one in late 2008. I am in a mutually monogamous relationship…

When I left I told the front desk that I would no longer allow Nurse Midwife V to treat me. I am currently in the process of filing a formal complaint against her. What shouldn’t have happened here was having everyone from the desk staff to the NCOIC (that’s Non-commissioned officer in charge) tell me how nice Nurse Midwife V is and how everyone likes her so much, and that she is well known for being very good at what she does. That might well be true, great. My experience is that she was condescending and rude, and didn’t help me with my medical needs to my satisfaction. I think that people forget that sometimes, that doctors and nurses are also here to provide a service for us. I have a medical need, and she didn’t meet it. I shouldn’t have to settle for that. No matter how nice and great she is to work with. I also shouldn’t have my experience erased and dismissed by everyone in place to help me when things go wrong for me. That is not good patient advocacy.

I am rather privileged, however, in that I was able to make another appointment, and I saw Dr. K the next day. Had I been someone who had to drive a long way to a clinic, I might not have been able to. Had I had to pay out of pocket for this visit, or if my insurance limited the amount of OB/GYN visits or birth control counselings I was allowed per year, I would not have been able to. Had the travel cost me money I did not have, this would not have been possible. Had I not had the type of job I do where I set my own hours, I might have had to miss work. These are the kinds of things that women face when they come up against providers like Nurse Midwife V, providers who don’t want to listen to women, who won’t talk to women about their own bodies and medical histories. Providers who don’t trust women to be actively involved in their medical processes. Providers who can’t be bothered to involved women in the partnership that should be their own medical care, especially when it comes to their reproductive health. As it was, having to go back a second time was already taxing on my spoons, and stressful, because now I have be on my game. Suddenly I have to come in educated on something that my provider should have known the first time.

Thanks to meloukhia’s indominatable Google-fu I took in the information I was looking for, backing up what I had already said, that an ectopic pregnancy did not preclude me from having an IUD (or, that a previous ectopic pregnancy was not a contraindication for an IUD). Dr. K was impressed that I was so prepared. He told me that he had heard that information, but he himself had been so busy that he hadn’t had time to read any of the journals for himself. He told The Guy (who went with me this time, because they like to banter back and forth in Korean) that I should come in from time to time to keep him updated on current women’s health, and said he wished more people came to him so informed. He said that whomever told me that I couldn’t have an IUD was wrong. I was prepared, but I shouldn’t have had to come in as if I was fighting a war.

Two weeks later I have my IUD.

Nurse Midwife V didn’t care to ask why, after having one IUD failure (as rare as they are, b/c they are pretty much the most effective form of reversible birth control out there, with a fail rate of less than one percent), I would want another IUD. She didn’t bother to find out anything else in my medical history that might affect my decision to make that very personal choice about birth control, like that I am on medication that might have contraindications with hormonal birth control, or that previous specialists had determined that hormonal birth control is a migraine trigger for me. She simply asserted her own opinion (as wrong as it turned out to be) and called it a day. But all of that information is in my medical record if she cared to look. The same record she said she reviewed when she made her initial judgment.

And now, I can’t trust her.

Originally posted at random babble…

A Saturday sketch

(Cross-posted at three rivers fog.)

I noticed something was wrong in the earliest hours of the morning, when my husband had disappeared from bed but I did not hear anything going on in the bathroom and could not see him anywhere.

Around 8, he got up to go to the bathroom and I lifted myself out of bed to use it after him. When he emerged, he was very clearly not well and said, in a seriously distressed tone, “I just had the most awful night” and stumbled around me back to bed.

It’s not emotional, he clarified as he curled up awkwardly on his side of the mattress, it’s just physical. He had problems feeling seriously sick to his stomach, which never culminated in anything, just churned on and on without relief, and had serious sharp pains in several places — shoulder, lower back, knees — and a generalized all-over ache that left him feeling miserable, unable to find a single comfortable (nay, just non-miserable) position no matter where he stood, sat or lay.

“This is how I imagine you feel every day,” he moaned, as he tossed his body into a different awkward position in an attempt to find some relief.

He needed the still, quiet, restful sleep so badly, but hurt too much to stay lying in place in bed for more than a few moments, and the pain was too distracting to be able to actually fall asleep — and precisely because of this, he was in no condition to be anywhere else but in bed sleeping. A familiar situation for me.

A few minutes later, already in his thirtieth position attempting to achieve some state of rest in bed, he pushed over to where I sat on my side of the bed and asked, “How do you do this every single day?”

Staring at my nightstand drawer, I smiled a bit and replied, “A lot of medicine. And you to help me.”

Only you know your own experience

A few days ago, I had a conversation with a medical professional that went something like this:

MP: So you’ve been feeling tired?
Chally: Yes, not as tired as I have been, but still pretty tired. I’ve been waking up at 5am[1. As I’m writing this, my body has happily decided to switch to 7-7.30am. Which is both good and ?!?!]. Not this weekend though.
MP: Why? Are you depressed?
C: No, I’m not. I’m not sure why that keeps happening.
MP: You don’t seem like you’re depressed. So do you have recurring thoughts when you wake up?
C: No. I just wake up, then I log on to the computer and check my emails to see what came in overnight. Do you think it could be the sunlight waking me up?
MP: No, the sun isn’t up that early. Do you have to check your emails?
C: No, I just do. I don’t want to leave the room and wake the household, so I just stay there and check my emails.
MP: So is it a compulsion?
C: No, I don’t have to check my emails, I just do it because I want to and that’s what’s there to do. It’s not a compulsion.
MP: Do you wash your hands a lot? Do you have lots of recurring thoughts?
C: No. I don’t have any symptoms of OCD.

That last moved the conversation on quickly.

I’m telling you this story so you know something very important. Medical professionals are people, with their own biases and experiences. Sometimes they will make mistakes and the wrong judgments. They will try to fit you into convenient boxes, tell you things about yourself that just aren’t true. Your trust isn’t always well placed when placed in authority. Remember that doctors aren’t the sole arbiters of experience. At the end of the day, only you know what’s going on for you; your experience of what you’re going through is valid.

Question Time: Personal Care Items

Question Time is a series in which we open up the floor to you, commenters. We invite you to share as you feel comfortable.

Do you use any personal care items–“frivolous” things included–as part of your self-care? If so, what do you use? How have these items helped you with your condition(s)? Please feel free to include links/information and whatnot if you think other commenters and/or contributors may be interested.

Quoted: Karl Michalak, “Face Value” (excerpt)

Everything healed up
but in a very strange way
Years later
when it was very obvious
that something was very wrong with my face
said one or more of the following:

It’s the Lord’s will.
Just learn to live with it.
It’s all in your imagination.
Don’t be so self-centered.
Shut up and do your homework.
Other people are worse off than you.

[Full text available in the 2004 anthology Queer Crips: Disabled Gay Men and Their Stories, edited by Bob Guter and John R. Kilacky.]

Disabled & Sick: We’ll Manage

Don has Marfan’s syndrome. It’s a genetic condition that he was born with. It’s the cause of his height (he’s 6’10” tall, 2.09m), his overall build, the way his fingers are shaped. It’s also the cause of his intense chronic pain, his wheelchair use, and his risky heart condition. It’s a spectrum condition – some people don’t have the chronic pain, but do have serious issues with their eyes. Some people don’t know they have Marfan’s until they have an aortic aneurysm and drop dead at 22 with no warning. Don grew up thinking he wouldn’t make it to 25, and his 30th birthday is next month.

Don also has Cancer. His cardiac specialist noticed the lump in his thyroid last year, before his serious ear-related surgery [1. I like to joke about his having too many holes in his head, but it turns out the problems with his mastoid were so bad that he could have died from a brain infection. Don’s health is never having to say you’re exaggerating.], and the whole thing’s been weaving its complicated way through Nova Scotia’s health care system ever since. He had surgery to remove his thyroid in September, with a doctor who assured us not only that there should be no problems with his surgery [2. Don can no longer speak above a whisper.], but that he should fully recover in a week or two.

Don still hasn’t recovered from surgery.

My mental jury is still out on whether or not Cancer is a disability. I think Susan Wendall makes a pretty good argument for it, by talking about how people with Cancer go through both social stigma and a lot of pain of treatment, but I admit to not knowing anyone with Cancer who’s described it as a disability, and I’m big on self-identifying. In this case, though, I’m going with Cancer = sick, because it’s allegedly cured. Everything’s fine now.

Except for the bit where none of the doctors along the way have known how to deal with Don’s disability at all. It’s like they somehow missed “Disability 101” in Doctor School.

We had the doctor who decided to start bending Don’s fingers back with no warning, discussion, or permission, apparently just to see how far they’d bend back. How this is relevant to a thyroid consultation, I don’t know, but Show & Tell Marfan’s Syndrome is pretty shite behaviour when one’s waiting for a Cancer diagnosis. Similar stunts have happened so often – bringing in additional students so they get a chance to “see a classic Marfan’s Patient”, like he’s a specimen in a zoo, or having Don’s classic Marfan’s features pointed out and discussed at length, as though he’s not right there.

The technician who did Don’s chest x-ray (to make sure there were no clots of Cancer in his lungs) baby talked to him, we can only assume because of the wheelchair, since we haven’t been able to get anyone to actually acknowledge that happened, let alone that it was a problem.

When he went in for the ultrasound on his neck… Oh, gosh, where do I begin? With the wheelchair inaccessible waiting room (you can wait in the hall!), or the refusal to allow Don’s wheelchair to even be in the room when he was being examined? As though able-bodied people are asked all the time to leave their only means of getting away behind. Plus, you know, the refusal to believe either of us that it’s common for people to play Show & Tell Marfan’s Syndrome.

And then there’s Doctor Fail. Oh, Doctor Fail, I hate you so much. The fast recovery time you assured us would happen, even when we both emphasized how long it took Don to recover from surgery previously, because he has a chronic pain condition. The bit where you prescribed far too low a dosage of thyroid replacement medication for someone of Don’s size, to the point where his energy levels dipped so badly he couldn’t handle reading fanfic because the plots were too complicated for him to follow, and he couldn’t get out of bed at all. [3. The radiologist increased his dosage to five times the amount. That was weeks ago. He’s still recovering.] Or, hey, the bit where you insisted that all mailed-out appointments needed to be confirmed by phone – despite knowing that Don can’t talk on the phone anymore because of the damage your surgery did to his vocal cords.

The latest round of fail is the radiation therapy he needs in post-Cancer treatment. I don’t even know how to describe the level of care he will need for this. They will need him to come right back off the thyroid meds. They need him to not be within 6 feet of anyone for any length of time. They need him to shower every single day, and then clean the shower out immediately. They need every plate he touches to be washed immediately, and all of his clothing washed immediately after taking it off.

When Don tried to point out that this is not something he can do, even when his thyroid meds are working just fine [4. Don has a homecare worker because normal showering and the like isn’t something he can currently do without aid], the response was a very cheerful “Oh, you’ll manage!”

Y’all, we are not managing. I can’t tell you in words how much we are not managing.

If we were a household of two able-bodied people, these would still be problems, but they wouldn’t be as overwhelming and dangerous as they are. If we were both two people who didn’t have mental health conditions [5. Don has Chronic Depression/Unipolar Disorder something-or-other, and I have a diagnosed mental health condition that I chose to never speak of on the internet because even the comments here at FWD include people who have merrily informed one and all that women with my mental health condition are bad.] this might be a bit less dire than it is. But as it stands, this has become a very very serious problem, and one that the medical people we are dealing with seem completely unable to address at any level, or any point.

The latest, today, was the psychiatrist telling Don to just wait things out and see if the anti-depressant that hasn’t been working for months suddenly kicks in, so the suicidal thoughts and horrible guilt at “what a burden” he is (he’s not!) both go away. Like magic, I guess. Because it’s normal, I guess, to be depressed, disabled, and Cancerous, so we shouldn’t treat it.

Our family has been in a pretty bad state for months now, because of so many people along the way, including us, assuming we’ll manage, somehow.

The support services designed for families ‘dealing with Cancer’ are not designed to include families like ours. Don can’t leave the house much, because it’s winter, and uncleared snow can be a problem. I’ve been so swamped that I’ve been out of the house for 18 hours a day at least four days a week. Support groups and services don’t seem to consider ‘wheelchair’, ‘mental health condition’, ‘complicated family situation’.

And so, here we are. I don’t think this is some tiny crack we’ve managed to slip through, but a big gaping chasm that has a bridge that’s passable only if you’re “general population”.

I honestly don’t know what we’re going to do. I guess we’ll manage.


Asking for help is something I have never been good at. It’s rather like standing in front of a car hurdling toward you, intending to push it in the opposite direction. It requires an enormous amount of resistance. And I’m almost certain to come away with some sort of injury.

Lying in bed the other night, I had a realization. I seem to have two modes of being: at rest, sitting or leaning or lying in one place, unmoving, still; or in motion, pushing, moving, rushing, doing, working, over-working. And it is very, very difficult for me to move from one state to another. It is not as easy as just get up and go or sit down and stop. It would be expected, with my disabilities, that I would have trouble getting up from a state of rest to start doing, but wouldn’t you think it would be easy to just stop myself from doing and rest?

But it’s not. I find it very, very difficult to stop moving, working, doing when I am already doing it. Very difficult. In fact, I actually have to work at stopping working. It’s like once the do switch is on in my brain, turning it off is about as easy as pushing that hurdling car. I get to a point where I don’t even notice that I am doing; my consciousness turns off and I am pushing forward on autopilot, working from habit, memorized routines, just going and going — and my awareness has been switched off, perhaps as a way to avoid feeling the pain?, but that means I don’t know when it’s time to stop. I don’t know when I’ve reached the critical point, when I’ve done too much, when I cannot do any more — often, I don’t know until my body just stops doing and I am confused inside it, trying to make it move and being denied, and it takes time for my consciousness to boot back up, to kick on and make me realize oh — I need to stop.

It has come to a point where I’ve learned that I need to stop before it feels like I need to stop, because my body and brain simply do not have the ability to sound the alarm for me. Even when my body can’t keep going anymore, no matter how much I push it, it still doesn’t feel like I can’t keep going anymore.

So I’ve been teaching myself, over the years, to force an override at a certain point — not based on what I’m feeling at the moment, but based on predetermined amounts of time/work that I believe is what I can handle on the balance. It’s hard, because I’m so stuck in that inertia of doing that I often don’t even remember to keep track of the amount of time/work that has passed, so I might forget for some time after I’ve reached that point, and then try to abort belatedly.

Either way, even when I’m “being good” and recognizing when that predetermined point has come, the act of overriding my natural inertia — my natural tendency to keep moving — is not as easy as flipping a switch. I actually have to go through a process of convincing myself that yes, it is time to stop, and yes, I really should stop, no, I should not keep going, and yes, it is okay to stop, really, it’s okay, and yes, I need it — and so on (and on, and on, and on). And then even if I am convinced, I have to try to push in the opposite direction of my body pushing to go and do. And pushing your body to stop pushing is about as technically-impossible as it sounds.

Now, convincing myself just that I should stop doing is a difficult enough thing to do. But add in a sense of pride… and a sense of guilt… and suddenly convincing myself that I should do (or stop doing) something doesn’t seem like such a hard thing in comparison.


I am one of two clerks working on our program at my office. Last week, for three days, my partner clerk was not there — it was just me running the show. And I happen to think that I am knowledgeable and capable enough to do a pretty good job of it. The problem is that we are severely short-staffed — the two of us in our corner of the building are already balancing a workload that should require four or five clerks. So when one of the two is gone, well, things move from chaos to crisis, so to speak.

I have an amazing supervisor. I absolutely adore her. And she was keeping an eye out for me. She kept coming back and asking if there was anything she could help with.

And for that first day, I kept saying no. And I thought it was legitimate! One of the main assignments is something she is not supposed to do at all, and another couple are things that I just thought would be more complicated to have someone else do than to do myself. So I said no.

And then my husband poked a little bit of fun at me — he works at the same office — saying that my supervisor had been talking with him (casually) and mentioned that she kept trying to offer help, and I kept refusing. And they shared a laugh, and he said yeah, that sounds like her. She’s not very good about asking for help when she needs it.

And I needed it. I just couldn’t convince myself inside that I needed it, that it would help, that it would be OK to ask, and so forth. I was already so overwhelmed and using so much energy, and I watched that car hurtling toward me and knew I did not have the strength required to push it the other way. Not on top of everything else I was doing. I did not have the capacity to make myself ask.

Because I’m not supposed to ask for help. That means admitting I can’t do my job. It means admitting my disability does make me less capable than other people. It means admitting my disability does exist and does affect me. And I’m not supposed to ask for help, because other people can’t spend their time and energy doing something for my sake. It’s not fair to them. I don’t deserve that, to have anyone other than me devote a single second to me. Other people would deserve that, but I am not deserving. If I ask for help, I am telling that person “I am worthless. Useless. I can’t do anything right.”

Asking for help means sending the message to the people around me that I am actually not as good a worker (as good a person) as I keep insisting to them that I am. That actually, I am inept and incapable. That I can’t do anything right, that I do mess things up.

Asking for help is asking for special treatment. Asking for help is asking other people to pretend like I deserve the same consideration as everyone else, and deserve to be considered just as capable as everyone else, while also demanding that they treat me differently, do special things for me that no one else gets to have done. Everyone else has to stand on their own, and here I am demanding that all these people prop me up and say that it’s just the same as that person over there standing on their own.

Every single time I need help, I have to fight these thoughts. Even if I don’t actually think them consciously. Every single time I need help I have to take time and energy to refute all of these thoughts to myself. I have to take time and energy to prove all those thoughts wrong. And that takes quite a lot of energy.

So I don’t ask. Even when I need it. Even when I know I need it. And even when I know, intellectually, consciously, that it is OK to ask for help, and that I should ask for help. I still don’t ask.

Because by the time I’m needing help, I’m already at my limits. I certainly don’t have any energy left to deal with that hurtling car.

(Cross-posted at three rivers fog.)


I don’t have a “real” mental health condition, I’m just weak, and other bad self-talk

One of the hardest things for me in dealing with my mental health condition is my very strong theory that everyone else is having exactly the same problems that I am, but they’re just 8 million times better at dealing with them, and hiding them from everyone else. And thus, I don’t talk about my mental health, much, because everyone else is obviously coping with the same thing, and I’m just a big whiner who can’t cope and fails at everything and is useless and should just run away and everyone will be better and– stop.

For extra special bonus points, my mental health condition will also remind me that if I just try hard enough, if I just do more things, I will prove that I’m coping Just Fine and everyone will love me and why would anyone want to talk to someone who isn’t doing all this extra stuff and if I just could cope the way everyone else did I wouldn’t have these problems and I would just be good enough and not have to do all these things and– stop.

It’s a fun game my brain chemistry plays with me and part of the reason it’s so successful is because of how mental health conditions are portrayed in popular culture.

I don’t talk about how my brain is working this week (this month, this semester) because I’m afraid. I’ve already experienced backlash related to my mental health condition online, and I fear “coming out” to my professors, my classmates, or the people on any of the six committees I’m on this semester because suddenly I’ll be weak. I’ll be the scary girl who might snap. Maybe they’ll ask about my experiences being detained by hospital authorities for “my own good”. Maybe they’ll start to doubt the validity of my research, or dismiss my opinions, or stop telling me about meetings, or start talking about me behind my back, whispering and then they’ll be making fun of me all the time and it will be just like high school and I am not sure I can cope with that again and I don’t want to go to the hospital and I don’t want to go to the doctor and tell them I’m not coping because they’ll lock me away and– stop.

It took me a decade of this constant self-talk before someone told me it wasn’t “normal”, and that I could get help to deal with it. And despite having gotten effective help in the past, despite increasingly being able to keep myself focused and on task and not falling apart all over the place, I’m still deathly afraid of talking to people about mental health concerns. I’m still afraid, today, right now, to go to my doctor’s appointment because doesn’t everyone have their heart pounding in their ears during class? Isn’t everyone convinced their profs all hate them? Doesn’t everyone think that if they just stretch themselves a little thinner, they’ll be good enough?

The only reason I resisted getting help for so long, when I could have been getting help as soon as I started having these symptoms, was because Mental Illness has a huge social stigma attached to it. People like me, who “just” have such bad self-talk that they harm themselves in ways that aren’t easily noticed (six committees? plus the writing for the paper? Plus the FWD/Forward blog duties? Not to mention trying to finish the MA in a year? With a husband who’s recovering from cancer surgery and has a disability? And trying to make sure everyone eats healthy, and trying to keep the housework up? Self, what are you doing? Besides doing it all wrong, of course.) can end up not seeking help because I’m not crazy, I’m just stupid and lazy. We’re lead to believe “real” mental health conditions are like t.v. version of schizophrenia and movie versions of OCD.

I had a great ending planned to this, that would invite people to talk about how pop cultural portrayals of mental health concerns affected them. I also wanted to write about how I don’t want to put a stigma on schizophrenia and OCD, but on the way these conditions are portrayed in the media, but if I keep writing, it’s going to be another way to not go to the doctor and get a needed prescription for anti-anxiety medication. Last year I didn’t go to the doctor until I thought I was having a heart attack and could barely breath.

But it’s all in my head, right? People like me, we’re just weak.