Sunday, May 5, 2013

Yo Stigma...

  Good morning! That’s right, I didn’t drop off the face of the Earth, just the face of the interwebs for a few days. But guess what? I’m baaaaack!
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  Actually, I spent the last few days wrestling some of my demons to the ground and making the little bastards cry, “UNCLE!” Then…well, I guess I needed to make some peace with my past. Or if not peace, then at least call a truce.
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  To be honest, I wasn’t even sure I was going to share this part of the cluster-muck that is my life with you, but then…what the hairy-monkey HAVEN’T I shared? Besides, May is, among a TON of other things, Mental Health Awareness Month.
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  Last week I received the wonderful (that’s a sarcastic wonderful, by the way) results of the fun (more sarcasm) tests I took to determine what exactly they’re working with, mental illness wise. Remember…the last time I was evaluated was 19 years ago. And MY! How things have changed!

AWESOMELY enough, my Therapist was excited
about using my art to help her understand how I'm feeling.
This one was meant to explain how the panic affects me.
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  I’ll give you the short-form of it all. I now carry a diagnosis of Panic Disorder with moderate Agoraphobia. Also Dysthymia with Borderline traits. As it turns out, I’m NOT Bipolar after all.
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  I finally have a name to give to the nasty critter wreaking havoc in my life, which is usually the big thing they need in all the exorcism movies before they can cast the mud-sucker out, right? Its name? Panic Disorder. Moderate Agoraphobia. (Which I never in a million years would have thought to call it!)
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  My Therapist and I have settled on a course of medication to control the symptoms enough that I can learn new ways of dealing with it. (My goal is to eventually ditch the meds when I have learned how to bend the carpet-muncher to my will.) And yes, I’m both scared (DUH!) and excited to get on with this adventure.
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  As for the rest of the diagnosis, in the last few days I have had some LONG talks with friends who have known me for-ev-er, a friend who assured me that “labels” are necessary evils so they can determine how to approach treatment, and a friend who urged me to question this diagnosis the way I would a medical one…fully armed with knowledge and full of questions.
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  After I went back and checked my notes (because I make them about everything) the one fact that differentiated Bipolar and Borderline for my Therapist was the frequency of my mood swings. Yes, there are days it’s like the old PMS joke, “Next mood swing, five minutes!”
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  Of COURSE I have been all over the internets, scouring for information. Which I was distinctly NOT digging. So I decided to make myself feel a bit better I’d click on the whole “Celebreties Who Suffer From The Same Illness” link. Actually, I clicked on three different ones and you know what? I got the same mother-knuckling answer…”There are no celebrities who have stepped forward to admit to a diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder probably owing to the stigma that surrounds this diagnosis.”
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  First I got even more bummed out. Then I slept a while. Then The Girl weaseled out of me what was eating at me. And then? She LAUGHED!!!
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“Mom, are we supposed to be surprised? We’ve all known forever that you’re crazy. It’s not like anything is any different because it’s called something else.” (This is one of the MANY reasons my family ROCKS! They always know just what to say to make me feel better…or at least get me laughing.)
My first experiment with chalk...
Many of us, whether physically or mentally ill,
do our best to shield our families from the full extent of our pain...
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  Just as a side note, I found it monstrously odd that one word…one simple little word, would take me almost a week to wrap my head around and somehow alter the way I view myself. I mean, I’ve spent more than ¾’s of my life figuring out how to work around it and collecting tools to deal with it, no matter what it’s called.
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  I momentarily considered never bringing the Borderline thing up, seeing as I've yet to find anything positive or pleasant written about it. Which is EXACTLY WHY I decided to write about it. Because a very, very dear friend was amazing enough to point out (again, since I’m kinda hard-headed that way) that I have no reason to be ashamed of something that isn’t my fault…I’m simply hardwired a little different.
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  So, in honor of Mental Health Awareness Month and to honor my new diagnosis, I’d like to say…
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Dear Stigma,
  Bite my catfish-belly-white ass, you soul-sucking, pointless piece of shame!
Sincerely,
Chris

PS In  honor of Mental Health Month, the always amazing Chato B Stewart, winner of the WEGO Hilarious Health Activist 2013 Award, is doing a Cartoon-A-Thon of Mental Health Heros, one a day for the entire month! It is TOTALLY worth taking the time to check them out.