Friday, August 03, 2012

Gone Mental

I've been debating about writing this post for... oh... 6 months or so. I'm still debating, even as I write this.

What follows is a sort of personal musing on a recent health issue. If you aren't interested in that kind of thing, maybe you would like to go look at this. Or this.

Ok. SO.

You see that my last post was in February? That's because I had a complete nervous breakdown in early February, and it's something I'm still recovering from now.

Nervous breakdown isn't the medical term, of course. What happened is that I had a traumatic incident happen at work, which, as far as I can tell, ripped the scab off my barely-held-together mental health. I fell apart. I spent some time in a psychiatric hospital, and more time in an intensive outpatient program. I'm now taking five different psychiatric medications, I got a service dog, and I'm still not able to consistently work.

My friends and family really stepped up during that crucial time, and I am incredibly grateful to each and every person who drove me somewhere, or came over when I didn't want to be alone, or watched movies with me, or talked to me like nothing was wrong.

I have since been given a diagnosis, which is a funny thing. I remember that when I came out as queer, there was a sort of historical revision that happened. I can remember watching Wonderwoman cartoons as a kid and being particularly interested in her. I always had intense friendships with girls. A sign of innate attraction to women? Possibly.... or possibly just normal kid stuff.

It took me a while to accept a diagnosis. I didn't want to be labeled. I didn't want to be saddled with something that would persist in my medical charts and make my doctors doubt me in the future. Owning the diagnosis felt like falling into a big vat of it'll-never-be-the-same.

It will never be the same, though, whether I identify with my diagnosis or not. Something changed in my mind. So instead I've been thinking in terms of symptoms, and that has helped me see that my diagnosis as an accurate representation of the symptoms I'm experiencing, and that grouping those symptoms under a label helps my providers treat them.

So this diagnosis, which I do believe is accurate, is making me look hard at my past behavior for clues. Was this memory a sign? That difficulty that I've always had? Is this something that developed, or something that was there all along?

All of which is really besides the point, I have to remind myself. Here and now is all that I can worry about: managing my symptoms, asking for help when I need it, and remembering that *now* is not forever.

As always, I turned to books for greater understanding of what's going on in my mind, and in others'. I have found great wisdom and strength in books lately, particularly these:

An Unquiet Mind by Kay Redfield Jamison (amazon)
The Center Cannot Not Hold by Elyn R. Saks (amazon)
This is How by Augusten Burroughs (amazon)
Hello Cruel World by Kate Bornstein (amazon)
Lit by Mary Karr (amazon)
And, of course, everything by Dorothy Allison, ever.

1 comment:

Ducky said...

Bravo, woman. Another thing I see in common between coming to terms with a diagnosis and with one's homosexuality is that it only seems weird and new for a time. Both become part of one's regular life, not just a punctuated time. And, they provide handles - things we can reach for to stabilize and understand what and where we are when things get tough for some other reason. That sounds kind of odd, in terms of a diagnosis, but it works, if you look at symptoms in this or that situation, and realize that stabilizing has become stable; something that will always come around if you do the same old things that have made it come around before. You rock, Jen. You always did.