Bi-Polar Disorder was never a diagnosis that I fully accepted. I am not going to try and deny that I can check off every box on the diagnosis checklist. I can. No doubt. The PTSD one too. That is true. I like to think that the fact that I see the world a bit differently than the average Joe is a good thing. My experiences are different. I bring each one of them with me. I have always considered myself moody. Why wouldn’t I be? I had plenty to be moody about. I have always had a mind prone to daydreams and fantasies. Doesn’t every little girl? A dear departed friend from high school who lovingly referred to me as “Wacky Jackie.” I loved it, I felt it set me apart from everyone, where I should be… Set off to the side like a broken chair. I already felt like I was apart from most of my peers- how many of them were hiding the secrets I held within me? I loved school really, I felt safe there. I could bury myself in homework and forget the turmoil inside. I could focus on what was within that building and forget about everything else. I heard it whispered many times that I was “stuck up”, sometimes even “snobby”. Nothing could have been farther from the truth. My aloof manner stemmed from trying to protect myself. If I placed myself on a higher field I could see and hear everything going on around me and no one attacks from below.
Even then I knew not to get too close to people. I had a few very good friends and that was all I ever needed. No one ever got to know everything. I kept myself at a distance knowing somehow instinctually that were I ever to utter a word or a blip or a wrong cross glance bad things would happen. My child’s mind did not know what exactly would transpire, just that everyone would be mad at me. What child wants that?
Once when I was around 13 or 14, a woman from church asked me to babysit for the evening. She picked me up and drove me to her house. Before she left to go out for the evening she pulled me to the side and came right out and asked,” How long has “HE” (referring to a family member) been touching you?” I was shocked and speechless and horrified. I never said a word to anyone. EVER. How does she know? Tears instantly welled up in my eyes. There were no words. I said indignantly, “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” and pulled away. She reached out and turned my face towards hers and said, “It happened to me, I can see it. You don’t have to talk to me or tell me anything right now, but I want you to know that you can.”
Those words should have comforted me. I was NOT ALONE! I believe that is the way she meant them. They did not comfort me in any way. Instead, they had the effect of magnifying what I already believed. That I was broken and my worst fear had come true. EVERYONE KNEW. EVERYONE COULD SEE IT! The shame I felt always, I wrapped around me like a cloak. I could hide under it. I learned how to look over and through everybody. Looking for signs they could tell or see… I learned how to smile and laugh on the outside without letting it touch me on the inside. I learned to watch every move and all the angles. I learned to put up walls. Walls between me and people, walls between the outer me and the inner. I had cities of walls around me and boxes and boxes in my mind. Boxes filled with one horror or another. Mental boxes, firmly latched. Everything in its place, always. I learned early and well how to watch out for danger. I slept lightly and covered with as many blankets as I thought it would take to keep the monsters out, everything tucked in around me.
This is around the time that I began to create angels and protectors. I began to believe that no matter what happened to me, I would be ok. I could go to anyplace in my mind whenever needed now. I didn’t know the term or what it meant, but disassociation was my best friend. I could leave at any time, go anywhere in my mind, if I felt the least bit uncomfortable. It was easy. It is still way too easy. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough. I began to imagine that there were people outside, maybe living people, maybe not. Out my window at the tree line. Just in the shadows. Sometimes I had a feeling who they were, other times not so much. God was watching me, I knew, but he can’t be EVERYWHERE, ALL the time, so he sent others. This is what I knew. They would keep me from going too far away…Make sure I would get back from wherever I had to go…. I knew these things as real, the way I survived-not as hallucinations of a psychotic mind… I still see them as real. Real protectors sent from God. Who went away when I didn’t need them anymore. That to me is not crazy. It sounds perfectly sane to me. What else would prepubescent girl think?
I’ve spent a good deal of my life fighting. Fighting to be free. In my mind. Fighting for myself, for my kids, against husbands and boyfriends. Fighting the police on occasion. Fighting anyone who thought they knew what was “best” for me. Fighting myself. Fighting for my right to be free to express myself, whether seen as appropriate or not. Fighting to be free of what “the establishment” thinks is right for my mind, what meds I will and will not take and once you get a diagnosis of ANY kind, mental or physical, it begins to define you. It defines how others see you and it can define how you see yourself, if you let it. I feel that diagnosis box around me. I feel the limits it sets on me, even if only in my own mind. Well, not JUST in MY mind, I can see it in the faces of others I interact with, if they know. Today I am taking that box off. I’m going to pick it up off my shoulders and I am going to gently set it on the floor beside me. I am cautiously exploring a newfound peace. In the future I will take the advice of those who love and care for me and ponder it before I make a decision but the decision will be mine. I will care what they think and accept their reasoning. Then I will make the best decision for me.
I heard that God gave us two ears and one mouth for a reason. I’ve been listening a long time. Today I have something to say….