Sunday, May 13, 2012
I'm losing my marbles.
There are lots of people who feel like using specific words to talk about mental health will help reduce stigma and increase the dignity of those losing their marbles. I'm not really one of them - sheesh, if we're going to talk about something so personal as one's (in)ability to determine reality from fantasy, I think the best way we can express ourselves is the best way we can express ourselves.
So there it is. I'm somewhere on the path of going bonkers. I want to say at the beginning, because that's how it appears to me - that this is something that just began. But my doc says that's impossible. My doc says people don't suddenly start thinking about killing themselves and that if I reached that point (I did.), I had to have been unwell for a while. (Then again, the same doc told me during my first visit that I wouldn't benefit from therapy until after I'd been medicated for a while...and then encouraged me to date. Ha! So, her credibility as a tour guide of this new terrain is...under suspicion.)
My mother is bonkers. It took me a long time to stop being angry with her for being a lousy mother. And then one day I realize something powerful: my mother, more than anything in the world, wanted to be the perfect mother. She wanted to raise the bar for motherhood in a way that would go down in history. She was desperate to have a close relationship with a daughter. In other words, I really wasn't the only victim of my childhood - she killed her own dreams and mine simultaneously. And that made me realize she wasn't just a mean, rotten, horrible person...but sick. Now, as an adult looking back, it's clear as day to me - healthy people just do not behave the way she does.
But my mother thinks she's fine. She either cannot remember things she's done (ohhhh cognitive dissonance, you rascal you!) or perceives herself in all these situations as a hapless victim, and if anything is out of the ordinary, it's the people/circumstances she has been faced with.
So here I am remembering going into the nurses office as a child for a hearing test. Do you remember those? You'd put on the earphones and the nurse would instruct you to raise your hand as soon as you heard anything. If you heard a tone in your right ear, you'd raise your right hand. If you heard a tone in your left ear, you'd raise your left hand.
My ability to perceive my illness is so poor, I didn't raise my hand until I found myself obsessing with how thin the skin covering the veins on my wrists was. I'm told that the other signs were fairly obvious, but I feel like I'm just sitting there with my headphones on wondering why the nurse doesn't begin the test already. And then I think of my mother, how horribly she has hurt everyone in her life, and how she doesn't perceive that she has a problem.....and suddenly, I'm afraid of the dark. Terrified of what internal monsters are lurking where i can't see them.
I am horrified to think that, in a tragic twist of the cliche, I am becoming my mother.
Determined not to let this happen, I must take on faith that I have some unknown host of symptoms, and that given my age, these could be increasing in number and severity. Imagine trying to lose weight if you couldn't weigh yourself or see your own body. It seems utterly ludicrous, and couldn't possible be worth it...except for the alternatives. If I fail, the likely outcomes are that I ultimately kill myself and/or I abuse and subsequently alienate everyone I love. (I'll let you contemplate which of those would be worse)
If I succeed, I get to have a life with joy and meaning.
I don't know how long it will take. I don't know if it's even possible. I'm sure that the specifics for my plan to do something about the status of my marbles are hair-brained, risky, and going to take a lot of sustained effort.
Indeed, step one is going to sound terrible. Step one is going to get me a whole host of cautionary comments in response to this post. But I need to start prepping myself for it: I'm going to stop taking my meds. Psychiatric meds are, ironically, a bit crazy. They create a dependency. Among the side effects of ceasing their use? Depression. Brilliant! So I'm going to feel like ass. I need to be ready for that. And I need to be ready to do something if feeling lousy crosses into the danger zone...or if it just doesn't go away.
I have lots of tools at my disposal that I'm hoping will help to bring me closer to healthy. It's hard to say how I wlll judge their efficacy given that I really don't perceive my own problems (short of suicidal ideation). But my the biggest gun in my arsenal - the one I'm really counting on to win this war - is mental re-training. I believe there are physical, chemical results of mental habits - a sort of reinforcing cycle. I want to use visualization, music, meditation, exercise, religion, reminder alarms (time for a happy thought break!) and the good-old-fashion list (of positive thoughts) to change these habits.
I'm both scared and hopeful - It's going to be an adventure. I'll keep you posted - I'm sure there will be highs, lows, and tons of mixed metaphors along the way.