Terrible Questions

“Are you PMSing?” is a terrible question.  You have no shot at getting a good answer.  Here are the two potential outcomes:

  1. She is PMSing, in which case you should put your hands up in surrender and BACK. AWAY. SLOWLY.  You just poked a very angry and irrational bear.  There’s no telling what’s going to happen next.
  2. She is not PMSing, in which case she’s going to be annoyed that her totally rational, legitimate issue with you is being trivialized into a case of hormones.  Now you just made whatever she was angry about even worse.  Congratulations to you.

Most people learn pretty quickly not to ask this.  It’s simply a very stupid question.  Even cave men were probably like, “Shhh…I think my wife might be – you know – but I’m not asking her.  Let’s all go hunt some woolly mammoths.”  They ended up hunting a lot because they were always guessing about their wives’ hormones. This is why woolly mammoths are now extinct.

In the past few months, I’ve discovered a new and equally infuriating question:

“Have you taken your pills today?”

My husband inevitably asks this when I’m doing something weird.  The other day he asked it because I decided to read a book on the roof of our house.  I admit that, to a normal person, that’s probably kind of weird.  BUT what my husband didn’t know is that my dad and I used to have tea parties on the roof when I was a kid (true story), and I always climbed in weird places to read.  I read in trees, I read on the roof, I read everywhere.  It was a beautiful day, we have a safe roof, and I decided to go chill out on it.  Instead of thinking, “Huh, Hazel sure is a strange duck,” he immediately thought, “wow, she’s crazy again.  She probably isn’t taking her pills.”  I own that I’m weird.  I’m fine with that.  Weird and crazy are not the same, and I don’t like it when people get them confused.

Of course I don’t WANT to take my pills.  I don’t know anyone who’s ever been excited to take pills.  I do take them, though.  I’ve said multiple times, “I don’t know if I really need these…I think I’m doing much better…but I guess it doesn’t hurt to take them.  If it’s not hurting anything, I guess I’ll just do it.”

Here’s my issue: the truth of the matter is that it does hurt to take them.  It hurts because I lose a sense of identity when I’m forced into a box labeled “bipolar.”  It’s like a watermark.  You know what a watermark is, right?  It’s the faded picture in the background of a letter that appears on all of a workplace’s stationery?  Here’s an example:


It’s like no matter what type of text is written on the pages of my life, it’s all colored by this new watermark.  I am successful at something?  Well, it must be because of the creativity and exceptional memory that comes with having a dysfunctional brain.  I fail?  Well, I’m mentally ill, so the fact that I’m alive should be enough for me.  No one would expect much from me anyway.  Everything in my life can be explained by, “Well, she has bipolar disorder, you see…”  I don’t want that watermark to color everything.  I want my bad decisions to be bad because I did something stupid.  I want my good decisions to be good because I did something right.  I feel like my entire life is explained away by chemical imbalances that are beyond my control.  I am seen as a puppet.

Sometimes I’m cranky because a person is being an idiot, not because I didn’t take my pills.  Sometimes I’m sad because life is hard, not because I didn’t take my pills.  Sometimes I’m happy because I’m having fun, not because I didn’t take my pills.  Sometimes I don’t got to bed on time because I’m not tired, not because I didn’t take my pills.  Sometimes I’m weird because I have a funky personality, not because I didn’t take my pills.

So yes, it does hurt to take my pills.  It hurts even more when someone tries to distill my behavior (positive or negative) down to the presence or absence of drugs.

Maybe this post is kind of cranky.  Well, for your information, I did take my pills.

Although I suppose I could be PMSing…  You’ll never know, because everyone knows not to ask that.  🙂

5 thoughts on “Terrible Questions

  1. Great post. Regarding the partner thing – my partner called to enquire about a house we were interested in renting, When asked who would live there he said, “just my partner and I.” The woman’s response was “Oh no, you can’t run a business in there.” We had a good laugh over that.

    Regarding the pills, one reason my ex-partner is my ex-partner is because anytime we’d have a discussion or argument and I didn’t agree with him he would tell I must not have taken my meds. I’m getting angry just thinking about it.


    • Haha, that’s really funny about the partner thing! And I’m sorry about your ex, but I did show this comment to my husband and said, “See how annoying that is?? I’m not the only one who finds it obnoxious!” Haha. Thanks for the support.


  2. You alway touch on such important things. One thing I always try to make clear when I’m talking to my patients and their families is that medications don’t automatically make them “happy.” There are good days and bad days, and they are entitled to them just like everyone else. The only thing the medication does is try to keep the bad days from spiraling into a dark place that is hard to escape, or the good days from rocketing to an out of control level. But I’ve never considered how once the diagnosis is made, any (completely normal) mood swing or unique quirk is suddenly suspect, even after someone leaves the hospital.
    Every story you tell really makes me think a little harder about how to make sure my patients can still feel like human beings with dignity.
    Thank you so much for giving a voice to these feelings, Hazel


    • Thanks, Sarah! It means a lot to know that some good can come out of the shit show that has been my life this year, lol. If it can help someone else at all, then maybe it wasn’t all for nothing. Thanks for the encouragement.


  3. I used to enjoy hanging out on the roof, in small crawl spaces, and inside closets. I don’t have a diagnosis for anything, those were just places that I enjoyed being. Nothing wrong with that! 😉


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