First let me disclaim that I do not intend to “hide behind” my illness/symptoms or give myself excuses for my flaws. But I guess I can also give myself the kindness that no human on earth is perfect. And one of my most GLARING flaws is with the social realm.
I fear groups and gatherings… I think a lot of people who have been “diagnosed” can probably relate… At first Chinese New Year and Christmas were Really challenging. I can’t remember the number of years I didn’t go for those gatherings. But then, totally unexpectedly, my extended family has become more accepting. Perhaps they too experience similar, predisposed – biological and nurtured – challenges.
I am SO grateful the first thing they ask is no longer “When is your turn, AH? ” or “WAH you put on/ lost so much weight!” Losing weight can become horribly scary when you are a yo-yo and have gone up and down >15 kg, 4 times in 30 years.
I guess when your locus of control (your self-esteem and need for validation) is based on the outside —-> and you are a Self-Obsessed Control freak (Yes, Hi.)… You are in for what is Essentially Social Suicide.
If self-control is not exercised, and pride is not addressed– One either hides from the world.. Drowning in despair/delusion, or lives in a Constant flux between intense fear and a feeling of an intense injustice.
I am now, Grateful for my mom’s family. I realized we were not so different. And they are nice, without treating me as “different”. My intense fear of going to grandma’s house has eased gradually. Many of them individually also have been and are a source of strength, and support over the years. Though I resented some of it, very wrongly at first.
But since it is Mother’s day, I want to focus on my Mom today. So here’s it is:
From the middle of last year to the start of this year, I really resented my mother. Although acting out of love and anxiety for me, I felt my freedom, autonomy and dignity were taken away.
Let me give you an example. She comes into my room at will, while the door is closed and I am dressing up. I am in the midst of it and she says: “This bra is too tight! Your breasts are spilling out! Wear the black one, LAH…” ok.. sorry TMI BUTrrrreally ARGJHGHGHLKJSDFHsdahf ;kjsdhlkaw]!@#$%# I am 30 and she wants to help me choose my underwear. Srsly???..zzzZZZZZZZZZzzzz
Also, although I have already messaged her that I am coming back after dinner. She starts messaging me at 4 to ask again if I am having dinner, then starts to call me from 8:30pm to ask what time I am coming home. Stella said it rightly, “I hear the irritation in your voice. Remember…”
But my mom. Mom, has been through it. Mom, was the one who came to the hospital every single day during the two weeks I was first hospitalized at the Institute of Mental Health for psychosis symptoms. Mom lost so much weight. She took the bus every day, the one and a half hour journey. I was in a daze those days. But I could remember her neck growing bonier and bonier. Her face looking more and more tired.
Am I so blind that I did not realize that she is the strongest person in this family? Mom knows! She knew it all. She was the one who has been feeding on depression, bipolar, gratitude, optimism, she got did the DBT workbook with be when I was thought to be BPD. Then she went through WRAP with Caregivers Alliance, and made me go for it now.
The most bittersweet memory I have, truly, is a muted one. It was the only depression that I count as a True, Noonday Demon. Not leaving the home, every morning she brought me food and read me the Armour of God.
Surely, I cannot still blame her for loving my brother more when we were children? She had said: “You had your father, I thought it was alright.”
Perhaps, going through the wilderness – this 15 years of wandering… Has helped to make Mother’s Day Happen.
Don’t take the easy surrender when you face “symptoms” or triggers, especially after they or “Illness” has been identified in you.
“You are not your Illness”
Knowing what your “diagnosis” is, is useful in understanding the traits in your character and mood patterns that result in difficulties. However, being diagnosed should not aid you in giving you an easier time than “normal” folks.
Many advocates thus tell you: “you are not your illness”.
Actually, it is pressing to know that:
The “illness is ALL YOU” (even though you are NOT your illness).
What I mean is that you, are a unique Human being. You are a person, a person with a personality. These characteristics, including your traits and moderation of mood, when permutated with certain circumstances, reflect traits of what doctors, psychologists and researchers have identified and studied to enshrine as “Mental Illness”. This has occurred over the history of the development of modern medical and behavioural science.
But a diagnosis is useless – and in fact, can be very harmful as it connotes an identifier or label. Diagnosis feeds disorder and dysfunction by exacerbating the initial difficulty that an individual experiences into disempowerment in the traditional medical setting and within the current medical model. The individual perceives him or herself as having a disease or even as being disabled. I am not “normal”. This cycle is enforced when he or she is not treated “normal” if this information is disclosed to others.
What then can someone do if they are identified as mentally ill?
I would want to know what the traits of my diagnosis and symptoms are supposed to be, to see if they are consistent with the patterns in my behaviour that play out from my personality repertoire in certain circumstances. I need to own the characteristic traits that are correlated to my challenges. Not accepting the identifier of illness, but being aware of the things and areas that set me off allows me to start to make active change. This empowers me to own who I am. I am self-aware. I am proactive.
Beyond that, I also want to be a contributing participant of the bigger community around me. So often, psychology, especially the therapy approaches used, bring us inward. We reflect on our lives, our past relationships, early development. (What went wrong?) It is not wrong to be kind to, respect and explore oneself – However, outside of ourselves is a community and a world of both opportunity and yet a world that is for the most part perishing, (if you hadn’t noticed). People who are diagnosed with mental illness often are shelled up within their peer groups. The fear of stigma or feelings of inadequacy cause us to shy away from society. However, this avoidance only breeds ignorance and misunderstanding.
I am not asking anyone to heal the world. However, to break the suffocating stigma around mental illness, more people have to step out into the small domains around them, and work towards becoming who they want to be. But first, one must recognise that what has been happening is in part, a part of us that is under our control. Only then can we build on our strengths and create a life with vision and purpose.
Let’s leave this wretched self-imposed cage behind, shall we?