I have to start this post much like I start every post: I am mentally ill. I start my posts this way not to brag or to celebrate the idea of my own personal torment but because it is a salient point in all my trial and tribulations that I try to so elegantly compose for my readers’ understanding. The bottom line, which can’t be avoided, is that I have a disease that makes my life enormously more complicated but also allows me to have a pseudo-profession of writing books and posts about a disease that most people have no ability to understand. My mental illness has turned into a sensational way to tell my own stories.
There are many things that can’t be avoided when one talks about mental illness. You can never truly get around topics such as other people’s perceptions, the ups and downs that while completely normal to the sufferer, seemingly greek to others. You can’t ever forget the notion that there are medications, side effects, disbelief, fear, anger, therapists, doctors, media and any number of other environmental factors that control and often destroy the person with the mental illness. I have said it before, if you think living with a mental illness is in any way (and I mean any) easy or enviable, may I offer you a great deal on some beachfront property in Colorado.
I don’t like being mentally ill. I don’t like the side effects from all the medications I take. I don’t like watching my daughter’s eyes darken when she realizes that once again her mother can’t accomplish what I promised I would. If you think for one moment that these mental diseases are only suffered by the one who has the disease, again that beachfront property is available. I don’t like not being the mother that my children need. I hate not being the partner that my husband deserves. I don’t like being the one person everyone has to wonder if I can even land in a place of grace that will allow me to do all the things my friends and family truly think I should be able to do. I don’t like the notion that my differences determine my friendships, my relationships, even the lives of those closest to me. I don’t like being the green martian that no one really believes exists.
The second part of this list is directly related to the first past of the list. I hate to be the mentally ill person who has to explain to those I love, who should at least try to understand me in some small way, that I can’t do something perfectly normal. I sometimes can’t do what the world wants me to. I can’t get up, I can’t leave the house and sometimes I can’t even get to the place my children are because it is not even a possible consideration. I genuinely would like to know if anyone with mental illness looks around and says, “yeah” I have this horrible existence. Do other people with a mental illness see the bright light in a disease that has not only touched every aspect of my life, but destroyed a good portion of it?
I imagine that if I wasn’t mentally ill, I could probably hold down a job. Then maybe we wouldn’t be in such debt. I imagine if I wasn’t mentally ill, I could probably give to my children all the magical experiences that this world has to offer (even if my daughter only goes to museums for the gift shops). I imagine if I wasn’t mentally ill I wouldn’t need to go to doctors for increasingly annoying symptoms directly related to the medicines they gave me; that would also save some money. I imagine if I wasn’t mentally ill the idea of living wouldn’t be a question of survival but rather a question of desire to do it. Can I go to the movies, or an amusement park, or even a small road trip without destroying everyone else’s budding memories? Will it ever be possible for me to take a call about some future plans and not have to wonder if I will be even able to walk that day much less get the most out of the sheer amount of money being spent? Will I ever stop crushing my children’s possibilities because of my own mental imbalance? I do recognize that it is probably only that supreme being that is so hard to believe in who will ultimately be able to explain any of this life to me. And it is a long and horrific life that I deserve to have explained; not because I am entitled but rather because I tried and failed so many times because of a thing that I can’t touch nor control. Someday someone is going to have to explain me to me.
This morning I received a phone call from my sister. Giving that my sister only calls when she has something that she wants me to consider, seeing her name on that caller idea can be a rather awkward pause. On one hand I do want to see and speak with my sister, despite that fact that like most in my life she doesn’t have desire to know who and what I am; and on the other hand there is dread because I know that whatever she needs from me will tax me and possibly destroy the incredible progress I have made these last couple of months. So even as I answered that phone, I knew that my walls weren’t going to come crashing down, they were going to burn.
Two years ago, my family and I went on a cruise. I think it was great fun for my sister and her family, my mother and her sisters, and even my children and husband. For me, it was sheer, incredible hell that I literally tremble at the idea of repeating. Yet there was my sister on that other line, from so far away, asking for me to step on another boat for another ride. Not asking if I could do it, but rather if I thought the prospect of the trip would be a good idea for everyone. She never mentioned the sheer misery I experienced on that previous cruise because she never paid enough attention to notice if I was having a good time. She was, so that really was all that mattered. It wasn’t just me she didn’t care to see but the whole rest of the world. But that is who she is and probably why it is okay with me that she lives two days (in a car) away.
On my last trip on a large and overfilled cruise, I spent every day and every night sick from motion-sickness. I didn’t eat because I simply couldn’t. And because I knew it was a possibility the doctors had given me something to try and counter-act the sickness; and all that medicine did was make it so much more difficult. I was made fun of on that trip. Eyes were rolled because of me on that trip. And while my husband did his damnest to try and keep me in alcohol, it never seemed to stick. On land, one drink and I am proclaimed drunk; on a boat, it takes so many drinks that the mind boggles. I attribute this to the medication I was giving and wonder often if I could get more of that medicine for a “girls-night” out. The cruise was horrible, including the one time I got off the boat and cut my foot practically feet from the docks, but the six weeks after the cruise was worse. It took that long for me to recover, to get my equilibrium to a point that I could survive. My daughter was and is not pleased that she had to spend six weeks with a mother who couldn’t move off the proverbial couch. I don’t think she will ever forgive me for that little moment in time.
I don’t want to go on another cruise. I don’t want to feel sick for six weeks straight. I sincerely question if there is even a drug out there that might help to make the week somewhat bearable. I don’t want to dampen my children’s fun on this cruise because despite the fact that my own mother and sister have no idea who I am, they do. They know it won’t be easy for me, and that will hurt them. Despite their ages they are compassionate and loving children. And while I can often fake my symptoms and my problems from the rest of my family, including my doctors and my husband, I can’t seem to act well enough that my children remain in the dark. I have no idea if this is because of the time they spent inside me or simply a product of being around me far more than anyone else; they can’t be fooled. They know when I am acting, and while they can find it in themselves to appreciate my attempt, they know. They know that I am only attempting to hide; and yes, they always keep my secrets.
I often wonder what part of this disease is the hardest. I often wonder when it will be my turn to be heard and felt. I often wonder when it is someone that I love (other than my children) will have the audacity to see me and not so much wish me well, but honestly try and deliver to me a solution that won’t destroy the absolute need I have to be loved for who I am. When is it that someone out there will hear me screaming and feel compelled to give a damn? These aren’t things I want from my children; they deserve more than anything to be children.
But is there someone who could love me in a way that shows me that I am not mentally ill; or at least not only mentally ill? Is there a precious person who can hold my hand and actually make me believe for one moment that I am okay? Is there a person who could give me more than anger on my behalf; no matter how noble the idea of a white knight might be? Is there a person who can give me more than a moment’s hug that is supposed to represent all the good in the world? Is there a person who can take away this disease for even a moment and let me be all that I dream I could be. Even knowing I will never have my dreams come true, is there someone out there who could show me a glimpse of what I will always miss?