The Mystery in the Bedroom

*SPOILER ALERT* There are no sexual encounters for the duration of the post. Not with me, not with a skanky mistress, none at all. You were going to be thinking that once I explained the setup, so it’s better to get it out of the way up front.

Let’s proceed.

As I was walking up the stairs to get ready for bed, I heard classical music coming from our bedroom. Now, you don’t know my husband, but he’s a bluegrass, country, there-should-be-a-dog-or-truck-in-every-song kind of guy. I’ve never heard him listen to classical.

I stopped midway up the stairs and furrowed my eyebrows. What was going on? It was a triumphant, battle sort of classical music, like the William Tell overture. Why was my husband listening to battle-type classical music? I didn’t have the handy spoiler alert that I just gave you, so I wondered if this was some kind of sexual thing. Like, was he going to be in there with a ripped shirt and acting all Braveheart-ish? Was he going to use a Scottish accent? Because I can’t do Braveheart. I just can’t.

Then I realized that my husband would simply never do a thing like that – ever – and so there had to be a more logical explanation. Also, my husband tried a Scottish accent once (in a completely nonsexual setting), and he sounded exactly like the Crocodile Hunter. He even said, “Crikey” if I remember correctly. So. That wasn’t it.

I took another few seconds to try to guess what was going on, and I came up totally empty. I decided to open the door and figure it out.

Turns out it’s a good thing that I didn’t waste any more time guessing, because I never would have guessed this. You won’t either. I bet you five dollars that you can’t guess what was going on in my bedroom.

……have your guess?……..

…….are you sure?…………

……..no changing your guess when you read the next line……

Okay. Here’s what was happening: the dog was on the bed, and my husband was next to her with a CD player that was playing triumphant battle music. I asked what he was doing, and he said, “I’m doing music therapy with Ruby because she needs it.”

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Honest to blog, my first thought in that situation was, “I cannot believe I’m the crazy one in this relationship.”

Apparently – I can’t believe I’m even typing this – our dog needs music therapy so that she will be comfortable around guns and shooting. She’s a hunting dog, so I kind of thought that came with the territory, but alas. This is something she needs in order to work at maximum effectiveness (says my husband).

Here’s how it works: there’s classical music for the first couple of tracks, and then when the dog is totally calmed, the music starts putting quiet gun pops in the background. As the tracks progress, the gunshots get louder and louder until the last track, where it’s just gunshots and no music.

THIS IS A REAL CD. Google it if you don’t believe me. We live in a weird world.

I was so shocked that this is even a product, let alone one that my husband paid for, that I didn’t know what to do. I think I laughed and awkwardly left to go brush my teeth. Or maybe I said, “Wow, cool jams” or something like that. I mean, what was I supposed to say?!

Bet you didn’t guess that’s what was in the bedroom, did you? I’ll keep my five dollars, thank you very much. I’m going to need it to pay for our dog’s therapy.

(!!!!!)

The Well-Trained Dog and the Living Cardinal

How much do you know about grouse hunting?

If your answer is, “What the heck is a grouse?” then you are in the vast majority of humanity.  I was you once.  Then I met my husband.  Now I’m married with a hunting dog and a coop full of training pigeons.  Life comes at you fast.

**Note** In case you care, a grouse is a bird.  It’s about the size of a chicken.  Also, since we get this question a lot, no our pigeons do not die in the course of training.  They’re homing pigeons, so once the dog finds them in a field then we launch them into the air with a pigeon launcher (yes, this is a real thing), and they fly home.  Okay.  Glad we covered the logistics.  On to my story.

Yesterday I tried to get our dog Ruby to come in from the back yard.  I called her, but she wouldn’t come.  I went outside to investigate, and she was on point.  This means she was frozen in place, pointing out a bird for a non-existent hunter to shoot.  I think it was a cardinal or something.  Definitely not a food bird.  I didn’t take a picture, but here’s what our type of dog looks like when she’s on point:

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My husband wasn’t home, and I couldn’t remember what he usually says to make Ruby break point.  I tried a few things:

“At ease!”

“Un-point!”

“You’re free!”

“GREEN LIGHT!”

Nothing worked.  She moved only her eyeballs to look at me like, “Hello…shoot the bird…”

She’s fifty pounds, so I wasn’t about to go pick up her frozen-in-place body and haul her inside (on second thought, it would have been hilarious if she tried to hold the pose while I was carrying her!).  Suddenly, I had the perfect idea.

I went inside and pulled out our Wild West board game called Bang.  There’s a cap gun in that game that’s really loud.  I walked back outside and tried to call Ruby in again.  She stayed on point (shocker).

I pointed the gun in the general direction of the bird and shot.  BANG!  Ruby was satisfied and immediately ran to me happily like, “Did you get it?  Wasn’t that awesome?!”  Whatever, dog.  I probably gave the poor bird a tiny heart attack.

Now our neighbors probably think we’re the nutter house.  Well, that ship probably sailed long ago.  They’re simply marking this up as one more reason to move:  “Hey, Maude! Crazy chick next door is shooting cardinals!  Did you call on that house over on the other side of town yet?”

IT WAS A CAP GUN, PEOPLE.  NO ANIMALS WERE HARMED IN THE MAKING OF THIS BLOG POST.

Wal-Mart Doors Can’t Tell Me What To Do

I have independence issues.  The fist full sentence I said as a toddler was “I’ll do it myself.”  Seriously.  That’s probably where it all started… *lies down on a therapy couch to discuss these issues*

Having a mental illness (or any serious illness) tends to rob people of independence. If I think a train is about to crash through my wall and I’m running away in panic…yeah, someone’s going to have to help me out with that.  If I’ve got a stubborn brain tumor that keeps growing even though it has way overstayed it’s welcome in my head…I’m going to need help with that too.  Hand over the drugs because I can’t, in fact, shrink it myself.  I’ve tried to Jiminy Cricket or Cinderella this sucker and dream with all my heart that it will go away…but DISNEY LIES.

Anyway, I think because of all of my medical crap and my loose grip on reality, I am always fighting to feel like a normal, respected human.  Maybe I’m even fighting to respect myself.  *puts arm on head dramatically as I lounge on the therapy couch*  The other day, I think I went a little too far.

I was walking out of Wal-Mart.  The sign on the door said “DO NOT EXIT THROUGH THIS DOOR.”  My honest-to-blog thought was, “Eff you, Wal-Mart.  You can’t tell me what to do.  It’s a DOOR.  I’ll go through any door I please!”  It’s not like it was a secret door to an employees only section; it was a clear automatic door leading to outside.  There is no reason why I shouldn’t have been allowed to use that door.  Wal-Mart was just trying to keep me down!  One more reason to hate Wal-Mart!

So I walked through the door.  No sirens went off, and no one stopped me.  I simply walked through, and I was outside.  Then I thought, “HA!  See, Wal-Mart?  You can’t control me!  I WILL DO WHATEVER I WANT!”  I felt jubilant.  I felt triumphant.  Then I felt like a complete weirdo and thought, “Holy wow, I AM crazy.”

Maybe life is about the little things…  I can’t avoid taking pills, I can’t avoid my tumor, but I can stick it to Wal-Mart.  I can be independent and rebellious on tiny things, and if that helps me avoid being rebellious on bigger things, then I say whatever.  Bring on the wrong door.

Bipolar Blackout

There’s a chance I cured cancer and I don’t know it.  On a darker note, I also could have robbed a bank and I don’t know it.  The chance of either is extreeeeeeemely small, but we’ll never know because I have complete memory loss about what happened from early September to the middle of October last fall.

I knew last fall was fuzzy in my memory, but who doesn’t have a hard time remembering things from a year ago?  I told my husband I am excited for this fall, because I was so mentally jacked last fall that I feel like I skipped it.  It’s the best season in Michigan.  I didn’t realize until this week, though, how complete my blackout of that month is.  Now I’m a little freaked out.

This week is professional development week at school.  Professional development week is when teachers sit around in mostly pointless meetings and discuss things about the upcoming school year.  This conversation happened yesterday:

Mr. T:  Should we do the raking leaves field trip again this year?  The one where we take the students to rake leaves for elderly people?

Me: That sounds like fun…but we didn’t do that last year.  You must be remembering a different year.

Mr. T: Ummm…we definitely did that last year.

Me: No, I would remember that.

Mrs. S: Hazel, you were a driver for the field trip.

Me: No I wasn’t!  *laughs nervously* No way.  You’re messing with me.  We didn’t do that field trip.

*everyone on staff looks at me like I’m crazy (which, you know, I am…BUT THEY DON’T KNOW THAT)*

Me: No way. *stops laughing, looks around nervously* Wait, really?  Are you serious?

All staff: YES.

Me: Huh.  I don’t remember that.

*everyone looks at me like I’m crazy again*

I cannot believe I forgot a field trip.  I tried really hard to remember, but I have literally no recollection of this.  Ask any teacher about the work that goes into a field trip, and they’ll tell you that there’s no way they could forget one, especially not one from last year.

That was a little creepy, so I decided to consult my lesson plan book and see if I at least have note of this field trip somewhere.  I keep very detailed lesson plans, so if we had a field trip, it would have been in my book.  I grabbed my lesson plan book from last year, turned to last fall, and guess what I found?

BLANK. PAGES.

I could hardly believe my eyes.  I had weeks between mid September and mid October where the entire week was blank.  I teach six classes five days a week.  That’s thirty little white squares staring at me with invisible question marks.  What did I do?  What did I teach?  Why aren’t there any plans?  Why can’t I remember anything from last fall?

The couple weeks in that period that did have things written had haphazard, half-baked lesson plan ideas written in only a few of the squares.  I have no clue what I taught.  It was so eerie…I never leave lesson plans blank.  I didn’t know I did that.  I don’t remember.

I know that last September was the deepest depression of my life, ending with a suicide attempt at the end of the month and a subsequent emergency psychiatric evaluation that resulted in a bipolar diagnosis.  I guess it’s logical that I wasn’t on my A-game at school, but I didn’t know I had done nothing.  I didn’t know I would forget field trips that I apparently chaperoned.  I tried to remember other things from this period: what was my first day of school like?  Can I remember the leaves changing?  Did I go to any football games?

I can’t remember any of it.

Isn’t that super creepy?  What if I did something awesome or awful?  I have no idea.  Has this ever happened to any of you, readers?  Do you have an explanation?  It’s like people who get drunk and can’t remember the night before, but I got crazy and can’t remember an entire month.  I suppose, in the grand scheme of life, losing a month isn’t that bad.  It’s not like a remember anything about my first thirty-six months.  I haven’t lost any sleep over that.  I hear it was a lot of bottles and diapers.

This one’s weird.  I haven’t had anything like this happen before.  I told Andy I was planning to blog about this, and he said, “Are you sure you want to write about that?”  I asked why I shouldn’t.  He said, “People who read that might think you’re…you know…a bit insane.”  They say that if the shoe fits, wear it.  Call me Cinderella to the glass slipper of madness.

If you’ve been reading this blog at all, you already know I’m a total nutter.  This one post isn’t going to make things better or worse.  Like Andy, you have the choice to stay or to leave.  He chose to stay.  I hope you do too.  Then again, if you choose to desert me…no big deal.  I might not even remember it.

If You Send Me One of These Cards, I Will Punch You

I got diagnosed with bipolar disorder almost a year ago, and I can’t believe I haven’t received one single card consoling me about this.

Oh wait, yes I can, because greeting cards about mental illness are SUPER WEIRD.

I should have known this was a thing.  I really, really should have known.  Card companies make cards for everything!  I could probably find a “Congratulations to Your Twin Girls on Third Grade Graduation” if I wanted to.  But mental illness??  There’s a line somewhere, and this is over it. It would be like having a “Sympathy – Humorous” section in a card store.  It doesn’t belong.

Here’s the link (please don’t buy these) and a few of the best (worst?) ones. http://hopestreetcards.com.au/collections/all

hope-street-cards-mental-health-card-depression-these-things-solo_1024x1024hope-street-cards-mental-health-card-bipolar-mood-change-front_1024x1024hope-street-cards-mental-health-card-general-sick-brain_1024x1024hope-street-cards-mental-health-card-depression-existing-solo_1024x1024

If I got a mental illness card, I would probably open it and then look really confused.  I would look around to see if someone was secretly filming me (I frequently do this during “Is this really happening?” moments).  Then I would read the card and think, “Thanks a lot, you.  I was having a really good day.  Now I had to be reminded of my crazy, and also I have to absorb your sympathy at my plight.  I don’t want sympathy; I want to be treated like a normal human.”  Here are people who are allowed to treat me like a crazy person:

  1. My psychiatrist
  2. My husband, only when I’m being literally delusional.  And it will still make me mad.

You’re not on that list?  Then don’t buy me these freaky cards!  Even if you’re on that list, I don’t want the freaky cards!  I mean, WHY WERE THESE EVEN INVENTED?!

What’s next?  Hallmark might capitalize on it!  First they invented Valentine’s Day…then Sweetest Day…next we’ll have “Crazy Person Day.”  You can celebrate by watching Psycho and sending greeting cards to your favorite nutters.  Maybe on Crazy Person Day, you can have your copay waived for inpatient psychiatric treatments!  Can I request that this holiday also include candy like Halloween does?  Now there’s a good holiday, but what a shame that people aren’t allowed to celebrate as non-reproductive adults.  I may or may not have considered having a child to capitalize on trick-or-treating once again.  If we can just tack that on to our new Crazy Person holiday, then I can skip the inconvenience of labor.  I might even be okay with the people who made these strange cards.  Until then…I know I’m not normal.  If I’m not going to get candy out of the deal, please treat me like you’d treat anyone else.  If you’re a nice person, though, maybe you’d just give everyone candy.  My favorite is Sour Patch Kids.

Did You Know I’m a Sex Maniac Stalker? Me Neither.

My grandma recently retired from her job as a secretary at a doctor’s office.  Every once in a while, she still tells me about her patients.  Over breakfast today, we were discussing the book Fast Girl by Suzy Favor Hamilton (the protagonist in this book has bipolar disorder).  My grandma took this opportunity to impart upon me the following information:  “We had a few patients who suffered from manic depression.  That’s another term for bipolar, you know.  Manic depression.”

Yes, Grandma.  I’m familiar with the term.

“Dr. Keith told me to watch out for those manic depressives.  They’re complete sex maniacs.  They just have sex with everyone.  And my brother, he knew a woman with manic depression, and she stalked him.  Like, really stalked him.  It was so creepy.”

Okay, that felt a little like a stab wound…

“Insane asylums really need to make them a higher priority.  I mean, they’re out there wandering the streets untreated.  Who knows what they can do?  They need to be in a home for the mentally impaired.”

Knife twisted.  Thanks Grandma.

After this monologue, I figured that would be a very inopportune moment to reveal that I am one of these scary “manic depressives.”  What if she kicked me out?  I have nowhere to go until my plane leaves on Sunday.  The thing about grandparents is that it’s very difficult to change their minds on things.  Still, on behalf of myself and everyone else in the mental health community, I felt like I had to say something.

“Grandma, I seriously doubt that everyone with bipolar disorder is a sex maniac stalker.  Actually, I’m positive there are people who aren’t.”

“Yes, of course you’re right,” she said.  “But you just have to be careful.  You never know.  Actually, some of them are very smart.  Did you know that many very gifted artists and writers have been manic depressives?”

Again, I’m quite familiar with the concept.  I’ve only spent infinity hours researching this topic…but I don’t say that.

“Yes, Grandma.  I’ve heard that.  It’s great that they’re so creative…many of the best artists of all time have been mentally ill.”

She looks a little pensive.  “I wonder why all the greats are insane?  What’s different about them?  Hmmm…  Well, their brain unlocks different levels of creativity, I guess.”

Yes, let’s please focus on that instead of the fact that they’re all stalkers.  We talked a little longer in this new vein of less offensive conversation, but honestly I was ready to hop off of that before she started asking uncomfortable questions.  You never know with grandmas…she started our time together this week by asking if I’m planning to get pregnant soon, and just today she said, “Hmmm…I don’t think you need plastic surgery yet, but you will when you’re older.”  Grandparents say the weirdest things.  I didn’t want her to ask about my mental health, because I am the worst liar ever (just ask my husband).

I texted my husband after this exchange, and he said, “Don’t let her get you riled up…you know who you are.”  And really, he’s right.  I do.  For a world where people are bent on “finding themselves” and “discovering their true identities,” the fact that I know who I am is actually a pretty big accomplishment.  Perhaps “who I am” is a bit insane, but hey, at least life will never be boring.

My Nalgene is Where I Hide My Crazy

Tomorrow I’m leaving for a camping trip in the Adirondack Mountains with a bunch of fellow teachers that I have never met (it’s kind of a long story…the teachers are not the important part).  The important part of this story is that none of them will know about all the drugs I take because I found a super-ninja-pill-disguiser that will allow me to masquerade as a normal, healthy adult.  CHECK IT OUT!

Look.  This is a normal, run-of-the-mill Nalgene water bottle, right?  It shows I’m a little hard core and like to stay hydrated.  That’s it.  Nothing to see here – move along people.

IMAG5468

You’re probably sitting there at your computer thinking, “Wow, what a boring water bottle.  Who writes about water bottles?  I’m clicking on a different post.”  But wait!  Watch this witchery!  Out of nowhere, BAM – there’s a false cap!  It has four pill compartments hiding in what looks like an otherwise normal lid.

IMAG5470

*thunderous applause, gasps, and how-did-she-do-thats*

It’s like they hired Houdini to work for Nalgene, and he made my pills disappear.  I’m so happy.

Now I’ll have my pills with me wherever I go.  This means no missing doses, no worrying about having a panic attack while I’m in the woods (or anywhere!), and no trying to hide away from people while fumbling with incriminating orange bottles.  There will be no more awkward questions!  If someone sees my false top (which, HA, would be ridiculous because it’s VIRTUALLY INVISIBLE), I can just say, “Oh, I keep vitamins and stuff in there.”  I’ll put one vitamin in so that it’s not a lie.  They don’t need to know that “and stuff” means “the cocktail of drugs that keeps my head from exploding all over this frickin forest.”

It’s like I’m crazy, but I’m secretly crazy.  I’m very excited about this water bottle.  It’s so amazing that I feel I should make a speech in honor of this marvelous invention.  I know!   Let’s toast to it.  Are you holding a beverage?  Find a beverage.  Please hold it up to your screen in a toasting fashion.  I’m holding up my water bottle to you, dear reader.  Let’s toast to secrets being kept for as long as we want them kept secrets, and to places (like the mountains) that make life infinitely more worth living.

*long drink*

PURPLE HAIR

A few weeks ago I posted THIS post about why I was planning to dye my hair purple, and why it was all my therapist’s fault.

Some of you said you wanted a picture of the final product, so here it is!

hair

I’m really happy with it.  My father-in-law hates it (which surprised no one).  My husband loves it (yay!).  Everyone else has been varying shades of in the middle.  It’s a really fun twist for summer, and it’s allowed me to feel a new level of confidence: “Yes, I know this is crazy, but I’m kind of crazy.  I’m rolling with it, and I LIKE IT.  I don’t care if you do or not.”

I haven’t felt that way a lot in my life.  It feels good.  Maybe I’ll never go back to blonde.

Ha ha.  That was a fun thought for a second.  My school would freak.  Oh, well.  September is a long way away.  Purple stays for summer; confidence hopefully stays after the summer ends.  🙂

Teeter-totters (and Other Terrifying Situations)

First grade can be hard.  There are spelling lists, letters that you somehow have to make into words, numbers that add together to make other numbers, and then also one of the trickiest situations of all: teeter-totters.

I remember my favorite game on teeter-totters:  I would sit right on the fulcrum (a word I did not learn until much later), and I would work really hard to balance.  Inevitably, the teeter-totter would start to lean one way or the other, and I would have to readjust to try to get the board to balance in a perfectly straight line.  When I finally got the board to balance, then the tricky part really began:  DO. NOT. MOVE.  The slightest movement would tip the teeter-totter, and then my moment of perfect balance would be over.  I didn’t move.  I yelled at my friends not to touch the teeter-totter.  I yelled at butterflies not to fly too close and throw off my balance with the wind of their wings.  Basically, I needed the world to stop for a minute because I FINALLY GOT THAT FRICKIN THING TO BALANCE.

That’s how my life feels at the moment.  I’ve spent months trying to get my life into balance, and I finally feel good about where I am.  The problem is summer break.  I think I’m the only teacher in the history of humanity that is scared of summer break.  I don’t want to mess up all of my routines.  I don’t want hours of spare time to sit around and think.  Thinking is not usually my friend.

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Perhaps it will all be fine.  Maybe I’ll be able to make some new routines and still keep to my general sleep and exercise schedule.  Historically, though, summers look completely different and quite unpredictable week by week.  Summers, generally, are tricky for me.  It’s like the fat kid from my first grade class is running towards my balanced teeter-totter, planning to jump on it, and I want to say, “GET AWAY FROM HERE, FAT KID!”  But the fat kid keeps running.  Now I’m going to have to readjust the whole thing to consider the fat kid factor.  Which begs the question – can I even balance with the fat kid, or is he just going to muck everything up?!

One of my friends described having bipolar disorder like being on a trampoline.  People who have a normal range of emotions are jumping on one of those cute little exercise trampolines used in eighties exercise videos.  They jump not too high, not too low.  People with bipolar disorder are jumping on one of those crazy high-bouncing trampolines that require you to have a harness and be strapped in with bungee ropes because you’re about to scrape the clouds when you jump.  It sends us incredibly high, but also so incredibly low.  I don’t want to be on that trampoline.  It’s like this year finally allowed me the opportunity to buy one of those cutie small trampolines, and now I’m hugging it close and saying, “Don’t put me back on the big trampoline!  I like this one!  I look good in neon colors, leggings, and puffy headbands!  Let me stay in the eighties exercise video!”

Life has a way of not letting people stay in one place very long.  The only constant we can expect is change, but change doesn’t have to be scary.

Except, obviously, THAT IT IS SCARY.  I’ve faced a lot scarier things than summer break, though.  I can handle a few changes of routine without bouncing off the trampoline.  I think.

Bring it on, fat kid.  I’m gonna rock my leggings and balance this thing called summer.

Blame it on the…Bipolar Disorder?

I am a teacher, and this makes me an expert in excuses.  I’ve heard everything from the mundane (“I ran out of time”) to the cliche (“my dog ate it”) to the bizarre (“my baby brother pooped on it”).  The more years I teach, the more excuses I hear.  They all have one thing in common:

I hate them.

I recognize that sometimes there are logical explanations why things don’t get done, but I’m still annoyed when a student uses an explanation, no matter how legitimate, as a  flippant excuse.  It’s one thing to say, “We were out until eleven for a family event, so I skipped all of my homework.  Whatever,”  and it’s completely different to say, “I’m sorry, I didn’t get last night’s homework done because we were out late.  I had my mom e-mail you as is requested in your homework policy, and I’m only requesting a one-day extension.  I’ll have it done as soon as possible.”

Recently, I stumbled upon THIS article from bphope.com (a generally great resource for people with bipolar disorder) about loving someone with bipolar disorder.  I did not like the article.  I don’t know that I can say I disagree with it, exactly, but I know I don’t like it.  This quote from the article represents the crux of my issue with it:

“Bipolar disorder is a medical condition that manifests in behaviors that look like personal choices. It’s hard for partners to understand this as the symptoms feel so personal. When a person with bipolar spends a child’s college fund, makes horrible accusations, cuts down all of the trees in the back yard, refuses to listen to reason, and comes close to destroying a relationship, it’s hard to step back and think, This is an illness, but it needs to happen.”

It’s worth mentioning that the author of the article is a leading expert on bipolar disorder.  She’s written multiple books and many, many articles about it, she’s worked with Oprah, and basically she is a lot smarter than me about this stuff.  I can’t totally discount what she’s saying.

HOWEVER.

I can’t stand the “blame it on the bipolar disorder” approach.  Like its close cousin “blame it on the alcohol,” it absolves the offender of any culpability.   At least if someone blames an action on being too drunk, they have to admit that they made the choice to get drunk.  They could decide not to get drunk again, and logically those resulting stupid decisions would not happen.  Blaming things on bipolar disorder is even more frustrating, because it feels like the person is saying, “my brain made me do it!  It’s not my fault at all! Also, you never know when it might happen again!”

I had a talk with a student a few weeks ago who was having a lot of trouble behaving in class.  Her default response was, “Well, I have ADD.  This makes my brain work differently, so I can’t behave.  You don’t understand what it’s like when your brain makes things hard.”

REALLY?!  YOU’RE RIGHT.  IT MUST BE EXTREMELY DIFFICULT TO HAVE A BRAIN THAT DOESN’T WORK CORRECTLY.  Obviously she had no way of knowing the brain battle I fight on a daily basis, but her words still cut.  I took a deep breath and said, “That must be very hard for you.  I’m sorry that you have to deal with that.  The thing is, ADD might make things more difficult for you than they are for other people, and that might be  totally unfair, but you have to work with us teachers to find some strategies that can help you overcome those difficulties.  You can’t just decide that you’re never going to do what you’re supposed to.  The behaviors are still unacceptable, even if there is a logical reason why you struggle with those things.”

Once I said that to her, I realized that I feel the same way about bipolar disorder.  The crazy behaviors that come with manic and depressive episodes, no matter how common or how explainable, are still not okay.  I don’t agree that you can spend your child’s college fund and your husband should just say, “Well, it’s an illness.”  I don’t agree that you should cheat on your spouse and then say, “No big deal.  My brain made me do it.”  You don’t get to plead “not guilty by reason of insanity.”

But here’s the kicker, ladies and gentlemen – in a court of law, “not guilty by reason of insanity” is a legitimate defense.  Whether I like it or not, sometimes people DO lose their decision-making capabilities so much that they don’t have control over their actions, and sometimes other people have to accept that as a valid explanation for behavior.

I think perhaps one of the reasons why I hate that so much is because it’s terrifying to think I could be out of control again.  I finally feel stable on my current cocktail of medications paired with my sleep and exercise routine, and the thought of a relapse is scary.  I like to think that, with proper preparation and accountability, I could keep from making some of the mistakes I’ve made before – some potentially deadly mistakes.  Unfortunately, the looming probability of a relapse hangs over my current success like an ominous shadow.

Additionally, setting aside for a moment whether or not I could do something dumb and “blame it on the bipolar disorder,” I have to live with whatever fallout comes of my decisions.  There are consequences regardless of whether or not the actions were chosen while fully competent or half sloshed on brain chemicals.  The guilt is real.  The shame is real.  And the bottom line is, maybe I would rather live with a sense of guilt and shame than a sense of helplessness.  Maybe that’s why I’m so hesitant to blame anything on my disorder.  I’d rather take all of the blame, because then I have all the control.

I’m aware that the truth lies somewhere in the middle.  There needs to be a sense of understanding that people with this illness face unique challenges, but the people with the challenges don’t get to stop fighting.  They don’t get to explain away  their behavior as fine because it’s “not their fault.”  They don’t get to run their tornado of crazy through the lives of their loved ones and then just say, “Oops. Don’t mind me.”  It doesn’t work like that.

Andy’s never had an issue with forgiveness (one of his best qualities, I think).  Regarding this issue, he says, “Why does it matter what percent of a bad decision was your fault and what percent should be explained by an illness?  Either way, I forgive you when things happen, we move on, and it’s about time that you figure out a way to forgive yourself.”  I know he’s right, but it still bothers me.  I want to know how much I’ve had control over in my life and how much was honestly “not guilty by reason of insanity.”  Except you know what?  Maybe I don’t want to know.  The answer could be scary.

I guess I don’t have a good conclusion to this post because there’s not a conclusive take-away in my mind regarding this topic.  I’m still so confused.  I would love to hear your opinion if you’ve found a way to marry the dichotomy of taking responsibility while still acknowledging that this illness does not allow for complete control.  My brain can’t mesh these two facts.

Then again, let’s be real.  My brain can’t do a lot of things.  Why are we relying on my brain here?  Comments, please.  Help me figure this one out!

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