Born this Way

If you want to get the ‘personal responsibility uber alles’ people spinning like hot turret lathes, just mention, oh, pick any condition, and say the afflicted person was ‘born that way.’

I’m tired of arguing with those people. Fuck ’em. I know where it comes from because I used to be one of those people. 

The effect is the same as being the marginally bullied kid on the playground who joins in the bullying of some other poor sap because it takes the attention of the bullies off of him. It comes from some pain that wasn’t addressed in childhood that manifests itself in castigating those with similar traits to make themselves feel better. In other words – projection.

Beth Brownsberger Mader writes in her latest post on that it took a good deal of time to realize that much of her difficulty as a person with bipolar, went back to childhood and repeated itself over and over.

She related her problems mastering higher math – a story I could have written. And like her, later on I ‘got it’ when only a decade ago, I couldn’t fathom algebra 2 and trigonometry.

But the payoff paragraph is this:

But having bipolar and “not getting over it” is more than how my brain is built; it’s also how that structuring causes it, over a lifetime, to hold on to wounding events and latent pain. One incident often seems to echo or build on another, then another. Themes repeat over and over again, feeding past hurts, bringing them to the present, and leaving me locked and loaded for the next happenstance.

Themes repeat over and over again.

Feeding past hurts.

Bringing them to the present.

Leaving me locked and loaded for the next happenstance. . . 

You never really accept a diagnosis of bipolar until you’re blessed with the gift of clear hindsight. When you have it, you can look back and see all the times when you did things that seem so illogical now. I call it the ‘looking back with cringing’ effect. I have so many of those moments and incidents, if I had a dollar for each. . .

Of course, the goal is to examine each incident, understand what triggered (there’s another word the ‘personal responsibility’ crowd goes nuts over) the incident and how to prevent it from happening again. 

I got a later in life diagnosis. For many years, the psychologists and the occasional psychiatrist give me various pseudo-diagnoses that I would characterize as ‘major depression, not otherwise specified.’ Part of that is that bipolar is hard to diagnose, especially in children and young adults. Part of it is many mental health professionals wouldn’t see it if it slapped them upside the head. The most obvious diagnosis is the first one, right or wrong, and then prescribe pills.

What I wouldn’t have given for a diagnosis just a few years before I got it. 

Now that it might be too late. 

Mader writes:

“It’s also near impossible to “just get over it” because I have invested years and years in brain and body energy trying to manage life in a different way, learning what triggers are, teaching important folks and loved ones what’s up, making amends from either direction, and dealing with thoughtless people, employers, and bullies judging me and saying, “You ain’t all that.” All this while wearily telling myself I am a good person. It’s exhausting. Heck, I’m exhausted just writing about it, never mind living it. When it comes to “just getting over it,” I try. I cry. I try. I cry. And I’ll keep on trying.”

Yes to all of it. Starting with my father and ending with my employer. 

In response to all of the people that say ‘just get over it’ to a variety of people different than themselves, I would say if we could, we would. What I wouldn’t give not to get the 4 a.m. shakes, the brain fog, the terror of ordinary events, the inability to handle crowds, the mood swings, etc. What I wouldn’t give to wake up refreshed, energized and with a positive outlook on life. 

No one would choose this. I don’t want sympathy, just understanding and a little occasional slack. 

But there’s that word – stigma. I think the stigma in our case is rooted in fear – fear that people like us will act out on subways, cause a public scene, get violent, or, in many cases, take public money away that could, perhaps, be better spent on military hardware. You know, to keep us ‘safe.’

I don’t want anyone’s money. I just want to be able to work as well as I can, unfettered by irrational stigma. I think most people with bipolar and other mental illnesses feel the same way. A little understanding goes a long way. 

There are those that have told me that my illness makes me more empathetic, more understanding, a better listener and confidante. That may be true but it also, more often than not, makes my life what I call ‘Hell’s roller coaster.’ And there have been times, whether in mania, depression or a mixed state where I have not acted well and spend a good time either apologizing or in the funk of self-recrimination.

But seriously. I really was born this way. And I wish I wasn’t.

This entry was posted in bipolar, depression, meds, middle age, mood swings, my father, regret, social anxiety, stigma. Bookmark the permalink.

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