It’s Not a Relapse – I’m Leveling Up

Bad news.

I mean, good news?

Well, NEWS.

I’m going back to therapy.

I haven’t been in over a year, and I was irrationally proud of that. Like, “Look at me! I’ve been successfully handling life all by myself for a YEAR! Look, Ma! No hands!” (As I then hide in the corner and hork down a handful of pharmaceuticals).

I’ve been struggling lately, so I decided to go back. I was initially frustrated with the decision and told Andy that it feels like a relapse. “I’ve been off therapy for a year,” I said. “It seems a shame to break my record.” Like therapy is some illicit drug that I went to rehab for and am now one-year clean.

“You’re not relapsing,” Andy said. “You’re leveling up.”

Say what?

He went on to explain that when I first went to therapy, I was extremely suicidal and was literally trying to survive. This time around, when I’m not suicidal, I can work on Level 2 therapy problems, which focus on how to deal with life now that I’m committed to living it.

Look at me! I’m at Level 2! That sounds way better than “relapse.”

Super Mario Brothers is the only video game I’ve ever played, but I think level 2 is the one underground with the blue turtles, right? Yep – this one:

level1-smb1d

I get fireballs, y’all. Who’s gonna hate on Level 2?? I’m a brick-smashing, coin collecting badass.

So I contacted my dealer (oops, I mean therapist) and asked if she would see me again. She said yes. Phewf! So at least I’m not going to have to start over with someone new.

Bring it on, Level 2!

George Washington and Baby Steps

If you’re reading this right now, you’re alive.

Well, unless literate ghosts are real. What if someone really famous is reading this over my shoulder right now, like George Washington or Tupac?! I hope it’s George. He knows a lot about revolutions. We need a revolution in the way society treats mental health. We’re headed there, we’re baby-stepping, but it’s time for that baby to learn how to run.

As I was saying, if you’re reading this then you’re (probably) alive. For some people, that’s the biggest accomplishment they’ll make today. Staying alive is a lot harder for some people than it is for others. For those of you staying alive today, I salute you (no offense, George).

I recently had a talk about mental illness with my sister (she’s a junior in college majoring in neuroscience). She mentioned that every time she gets to choose a research project, she tries to do something dealing with bipolar disorder. Unfortunately, she said, cutting edge research in mental illness is overwhelmingly on anxiety and depression, and diseases such as bipolar disorder and schizophrenia get put on the back burner.

She’s thinking about going to grad school to do research on less common mental illnesses. She also wants to help break stigma when it comes to those. “Everyone wants to break stigma for anxiety and depression,” she said, “because it’s so common now. But you’re bipolar? Well, you’re not just crazy. You’re super crazy. People are still going to be freaked out about you.”

Ah, the things she says. Thanks a lot, baby sister.

Behind the somewhat offensive explanation, she has a point. It’s great that people want to break stigmas for mental illness so that more people will go get the help they need, but how often to we hear testimonies normalizing schizophrenia? Multiple personality disorder? Bipolar disorder? They feel few and far between compared to the ocean of people posting to social media about “This is what it’s like to live with my anxiety disorder.”

It’s true that our diseases are rarer (more rare? rarer?), but I want to be invited to the party! I want my illness to be seen as acceptable too! I want people to research wtf is going on in my brain so that they can fix it!

I’m not sure how to make that happen.

I don’t want people to make jokes about bipolar disorder. I don’t want people to be freaked out by me when they learn I have it. I want to feel like I’m okay as a person even though I have this illness (because if you’re under the delusion that all illnesses are socially acceptable, you’re wrong). We need a revolution (George! Are you reading?! Go haunt some people about this).

I’m encouraged by what I’ve seen in the normalization of certain mental health issues, but we still have a long way to go. You, reader, are in this blog community because you need support and/or because you’re supporting the rest of us. Thanks for that – it’s one step in the right direction.

Mental Health Elitist

Sometimes I fear that I’m a mental health elitist.  I fully comprehend that this is a bitchy kind of person to be, so I’m working on it.  I wonder if any of y’all struggle with this, though?  Can I get a “me too”?

I noticed my elitism when my future sister-in-law posted something to facebook about high-functioning anxiety.  It was a video about how hard it is to live with this condition and how we should all feel bad for her because she has it.  The video said things such as, “high functioning anxiety means worrying about if people like you or not” and “it’s staying busy and struggling with perfectionism.”  To me this simply sounds like being a human.

What really got me is when the video said, “it’s silent panic attacks while you’re calm and smiling.”

Ummmm….  I’m no psychiatrist, so I am in no position to say that’s not legit.  HOWEVER – I am finding it very difficult to dig up sympathy for this girl for her silent panic attacks.  She says we should all feel bad for her for having this terrible disorder, but I wan’t to say, “Hi, yeah.  It’s me, Hazel, over here posting jokes and cat videos.  Sorry to interrupt your pity party, but I was wondering: have you ever had a panic attack where you asked someone to call 911 because you thought you were dying right that second?  Have you ever hyperventilated until you puked?  If you’ve ever experienced the sheer terror that comes with a true panic attack, then I’m sorry – you were not CALM AND SMILING.”

But that’s me being elitist, because maybe there are silent panic attacks.  If there are, I’m sure they suck.  I simply have a hard time feeling bad for her because, straight up?  I feel like I’m a lot worse off than her when it comes to mental health, and I’m annoyed with people when they want sympathy from me about it.  It’s like someone with strep throat going up to someone with throat cancer and being all, “Yeah, these throat problems…they really suck, amirite?”  Yes, they do…but you’re annoying and please go away.

I have friends with mental illnesses who can’t keep jobs…who can’t get out of bed in the morning…who have been hospitalized multiple times…who take on every day as a challenge to keep living.  I have so much respect for them and for the mountains they climb every single day, and I hate to see it cheapened by people who post to social media about needing sympathy for things that seem so-not-an-issue compared to what these people face.

I really have to get better about this.  Any sort of mental problems are awful, and I should feel compassion on anyone struggling.  I know this.  We’re all on the same team here, we’re just varying degrees of invested.  It’s like sports fans – some bought tickets off Criagslist the night before the game, and some have season passes, painted their faces, and decorated their houses in the team colors.  Despite how deep into fandom we are, we’re all on the same team. RAH RAH! WE HATE MENTAL ILLNESS! RAH! *cheerleader cartwheel*

Mental illness, no matter the severity, always sucks.  There are people who have it better than me, and there are people who have it worse. It’s not my job to decide if they deserve my sympathy or not.  Sometimes it’s tough to feel bad for someone when I would trade brain function with them in a second, but I need to do it anyway.  If they need help and compassion, it is not my job to hand out judgement.

Anyone else ever struggled with this?