Constantly Questioning ~ New Question About The Idea Of Being “Disabled”

This is another question that came to mind this morning (too much coffee mixed with Adderall :) ) How much of a person’s disability are either mental disorders or developmental disorders, and how much of it is because society has told a person that they are “disabled”?

This weekend I had the privilege of meeting a young woman who has certain physical challenges, and, I think also some mental challenges. She just graduated from a private school here, and intends to start college this Fall semester with the goal of becoming a 5th grade teacher. She is clearly “disabled” or “challenged,” if you prefer, but she has a strength of will and a determination to become a teacher that I have not seen before in a “disabled” or “challenged” person.

I was thinking of her as I looked into the mirror while drying my hair, and it occurred to me that “disabled” is a social construct, and maybe, not so much a reality. I do not look disabled as all of my challenges come in the form of Affective disorders, Anxiety disorders, and one learning disorder (Adult ADD). I do not have developmental disabilities. I do not have anything that makes me look different than anyone else. If you were to meet me on the street, or in a class, the only way you would  know that I struggle daily with a host of mental problems would be to talk to me at length. Then, I may come across as different or weird due to A) being wired “backwards” (ADD ~ Can mimic a manic phase) and B) I am insatiably curious about everything or C) if I am waiting at a bus stop, I generally have ear plugs in to deter people from talking to me, but it also cuts down on the stimulation I get. I am an introverted personality, and I do not really need the adulation of the crowd. That overwhelms me.MentalIllnessPorscheFlickr

So, does Bipolar Type I with psychotic tendencies, PTSD, Panic disorder with Agoraphobia, ADD, and having an avoidant personality make me disabled? I know to a certain extent that the lability of my emotional state can cause problems with friends, co-workers, bosses, etc. If you don’t like my mood, wait a few minutes, and it will change. I know that PTSD interferes with my life in that I am hyper-vigilant, overly aware of who is near me (I can “feel” a person behind me up to 70 feet even when plugged in), I have recurring nightmares though not so much anymore, I can relive the event that led to the diagnosis in both the third and the first person, and I have fear reactions to people who resemble my attacker (I was 16 and about 3 months). The Panic disorder with Agoraphobia thankfully seems to have abated somewhat, but I still periodically can’t mentally make myself leave my apartment, and if I try, bad things happen. ADD is just added fun to the mania of Bipolar. Mania makes my brain bounce, and the ADD joins in just for fun. So, yes, based on those diagnoses and symptoms make life very challenging, and since I am usually in a “mixed” episode ~ equally manic and depressed at the same time, I frequently get “stuck” as I am the most motivated depressed person, and the most depressed manic person. Nothing gets completely done; does that make me disabled in the workforce? I think so due to the fact I have a hard time accomplishing anything completely and on-time. Agoraphobia is just like icing on the cake as is the avoidant personality problem.

StopPsychiatricProfilingLogoHowever, every time I visit my psychiatrist, I am noted to be “well groomed”, which is opposed to disheveled, I suppose. I have to be really deep down the Rabbit Hole to go out without at least clean hair, and screw the rest. But, I am a girly girl, and I like my nail polish, jewelry and make-up. So, even when I do not feel well, it is very hard to tell unless you know me intimately, or I tell you, or I just break down for no reason. So, we have visited the physiological and the psychological aspects of being “disabled” (another word i dislike). Moving along to the social notions of disability.

Here’s where I get a little bit confused. Yes, I do have markedly impaired social and functioning skills. But, how much have I bought into being told by doctors and other mental health worker’s and society (including family and friends) that I am disabled? How much of my personality has become tied up in what Sociologists call the “sick role”? In other words, am I disabled because I have some very challenging metal problems, or is it because I have these mental issues that society itself has labeled me disabled?  These are questions I just do not have the answers to. When interacting with people especially over a long period of time, they come to the conclusion that I am weird, that my thoughts are not “normal” (whatever that is; although daily thoughts of suicide probably are not normal), that I am somehow different than they are.

I guess it is because I am up for medical review of my disability benefits that these questions have popped up. I have not been reviewed in more than 7 years which according to the Social Security Administration is the cycle for people not expected to improve past a certain point, or the duration of the illness is greater than 12 months or can be expected to end in death. Bipolar disorder is one of the deadliest of the “severe” psychiatric disorders probably for it’s high rate of completed suicides. Therefore, I wonder if I am disabled because I have several different types of mental disorders, or because the doctors, the government, and society tells me that I am. Because I am damn good at hiding it :) 

And here’s an interesting story that aired on 60 minutes regarding the Social Security Disability program:

What do you think: truly disabled, or disabled because our society tells people they are?

Well As I Seem To Be Headed Down The Rabbit Hole…..Again

I don’t know if I have posted this before, I may have a long time ago, but as I feel that I am off to tea with the Mad Hatter and The Red Queen has most definitely lost her head, I thought it might be appropriate. So, much for stable madness….I am moving towards the unstable madness. My SSDI is being reviewed, and being the “optimist” that I am, I am certain they are going to take it away. Hence, the deepening depression, and the falling down the Rabbit Hole. Here’s Jefferson Airplane’s take on the matter of tea, oh, and always beware of the Frumious Bandersnatch:



The NMIH Study Is Fascinating

Apparently, the study lasted 7 years and included more than 3,000 people with Bipolar disorder in addition to co-morbid disorders which no other study had ever done. All other studies had focused on Bipolar exclusively which did not give a really good “real” life cross section of people with Bipolar disorder as it commonly occurs with other disorders like PTSD, Panic Disorder, Agoraphobia, etc. 

Even with the amount of research that I have done over the years on Bipolar disorder among others, I am learning quite a bit about treatment outcomes. They had groups who received no psychosocial intervention, groups who received one of four different types of therapy, and all groups were on some form of mood stabilizing medication. The groups with the best outcomes were those who received intensive therapy (3 times per month over a 9 month period) and were on mood stabilizing medications. Which is no real surprise to me, however, for clinicians planning treatment plans for their bipolar patients, this study could be of real help. 

Even if you are currently relatively stable on your treatment plan, this study is really interesting, and there are links to other studies, as well. Since, I want to know all that I can about how to remain symptom “free” (not likely), I would highly recommend reading this for your own edification.

Link ~ Interesting Long Term NMIH Study On Bipolar Disorder

It’s just a link to a study I came across this afternoon, but what I have read of it is very interesting. It is the longest term study on Bipolar Disorder and treatments to date.

Steppenwolf ~ The Pusher

I wish you could stick posts in between each other…..this one really belongs with another post I wrote about my near death experience with substance abuse/self-medication. It also happens to be from one of my favorite movies of all time: “Easy Rider”


Question ~ Why Is It Okay To Be Physically Disabled But Not Mentally?

This has bothered me for a long time. Why is it “okay” to have a physical disability or illness, but if your disability or illness is mental, people react differently? In other words, why is there so much stigma attached to being mentally challenged due to organic illness? People do not have a problem if you have a heart condition, diabetes, asthma, even cancer. But, tell them you suffer from depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, anxiety disorders, PTSD, and people look at you sideways. People who suffer from physical illnesses frequently suffer from depression as well, but that still isn’t looked at the same way as depression on its own.

Mental Illness ~ The Invisible Illness

Mental Illness ~ The Invisible Illness

People suffering from the more severe psychiatric disorders are looked at even more sideways then people with depression. Especially, the schizoid disorders. Is it because people are afraid that others with these more severe diagnoses are behaviorally unstable, and people are afraid of us and what we may do to them? In my experience, most of us just want to be left alone to live our lives as best we can. I mean, what is the difference between using an asthma inhaler to control asthma, and taking a mood stabilizer or other class of psychiatric drug in order to manage a mental issue? The fact is those of us suffering from mental disorder, for the most part, take those medications because we want to manage our illnesses and to increase the quality of our lives.

He, Boyd, was turning to leave.

He, Boyd, was turning to leave.

Where I live, it seems the police have declared open season on the mentally ill. We have one incident recently that may have made the national news (I do not know), but it certainly burned up people’s ears here. The man in question was an unmedicated (as many are) homeless schizophrenic who decided to camp out for the night in the foothills of the mountains east of the city. I, as are many people who live here, am unclear on how the police entered the situation. There are a fair number of “high-end” neighborhoods in the foothills, so it could have been someone who lives up there who saw the man in his ragged clothing, and freaked out and called police. I do not know. What is known is extraordinarily sad. There was some type of confrontation (the police are claiming he had drawn a knife on them; they have Glocks and Sig Sauers, what is a knife going to do? You have to get really close to use a knife), but the lapel cameras show there is some type of interchange between the man and the 9 or 10 police including SWAT members. The next thing the lapel cameras show is the man turning around and starting to walk away. That is the moment the police opened fire. When he was leaving the situation. The autopsy came back that the man who had done nothing wrong but be schizophrenic and camping outside (as was probably usual) in the wrong place had been shot in the back and the back of both arms. He was killed instantly. The public outcry was deafening. And this is merely one example of our police department shooting and killing someone with a mental disturbance. And, from what I can tell, they fire when people are leaving the situation, or are trying to get away from them, or my personal favorite, talking on a cell phone which our esteemed police department took to be a weapon, and killed a kid talking to his mother on his cell phone. I do not remember what his diagnosis was, but his mother got to hear the police kill her son. These things do not happen to people who are physically ill or disabled. 

I have a friend who is currently medically disabled who made an interesting comment to me the other day. He said that it is easier to get state assistance if you have a mental diagnosis than a medical one. He suffers from chronic, and I do mean chronic, depression, but he is unwilling to be diagnosed in order to get benefits he has earned through working because of the recent attitude of not only our police department, but society in general’s outlook on the mentally ill. I have news for people. Most of the mass shootings were not committed by people with lifelong mental problems, but people who are suffering situational mental difficulty or have a very strong belief in an antisocial ideology. It isn’t the Bipolar’s in manic episodes, it isn’t the schizophrenics of the world, and it isn’t the chronic depressives that are doing these things. It is people who have recently experienced a stressor like job loss, divorce, separation, etc. who also tend to hold to an antisocial ideology. It is the stressor that is key. I mean, honestly, I was depressed in high school, and yes, I did have fantasies of blowing up my school, but I, like many people like I was, didn’t do it because it was the wrong thing to do. 

Timothy McVeigh was not mentally ill, but he did hold anti-government ideologies

Timothy McVeigh was not mentally ill, but he did hold anti-government ideologies

I think, and this is just my opinion, that one of the main reasons that people do have a fear of the mentally disordered is because when one of these mass shootings, or other violent act (the blowing up of the Federal Building in Oklahoma City, for example),the media will instantly latch onto any, no matter how slight, inference of mental illness in the party committing the crime. Through this slight inference, many people come to believe that a person with say Bipolar disorder is a ticking time bomb and is likely to go off at the least provocation. Not true of most of us. We are just trying to get along as the homeless, the disenfranchised and the poor of our society. There are times when I wish that all I had to worry about was my blood pressure (not to make light; just to make a point). I would be less likely to be arrested or killed if I were medically ill.

Very Short Rant And, In My Mind, Completely Justified

Since when is it okay to use your wedding photos with the ex-wife photo-shopped out on an online dating site, or two or three. I mean, who the fuck does that kind of shit!

It All Started At Birth ~ Rehab

It got a little painful writing my life’s story and the events that led me to become a very serious substance abuser.  I was trying to mask the feelings I had after being assaulted by my “boyfriend” at the age of barely 16. I did not know at the time that I had developed PTSD, and was verging on having what had been Chronic Depression become full blown Bipolar disorder. I just know that I felt dead inside while at the same time experiencing psychological pain that even years later seemed to much to bear. So, for about six years, I was a “what have you got” type of drug abuser until settling on morphine, cocaine, meth, and crack as the way to deal with my experience. However, all “good” things must come to an end. Sometimes an end that nearly kills you..drugs3

I quit doing all drugs (pills, morphine, cocaine, crack, meth) cold turkey. I did not know then that quitting benzodiazepines without stepping down in dosage over a period of time was incredibly dangerous and stupid. But, I would exactly call my behavior at the time intelligent, so it stands to reason that I would not know this little tidbit of information. So, I quit cold turkey; just stopped taking all the medications and street drugs. About five days later, I woke up to go to work, and I was hallucinating. I did not connect it with my brain basically short circuiting due to lack of the benzos that I took by the handful. After about two or three hours, I was feeling sort of okay, but not really. I had stopped hallucinating but the world around me was surreal. Cellophane flowers towering over my head type of surreal. I made it through the workday. I do not have any clue how, but I did it. Around 5:00 pm, I started feeling very weird again, and very, very sleepy. I was at the front desk, and I rested my head on my arms and closed my eyes. I became immediately unconscious. I remember something about that scared the living hell out of me; maybe it was the fact that my eyes were literally jiggling like being in REM sleep but much faster. I came to in a matter of seconds, and went home where my roommates had cleaned the apartment of all drugs. I do not remember going into a Grand Mal seizure. All I remember is washing my face to go to bed, and closing my eyes to wash the soap off my face. I woke up on the floor completely covered in water, and not knowing how I had gotten there or why I was all wet. I had been very fortunate in that I had a friend with me at the time, and he had seen me go into the seizure. I hit my head pretty hard on a small table that was in the bathroom, and my friend was calling my mother to let her know he was going to take me to the hospital. I refused still not really realizing what was happening.

I went to my mother’s house instead where she tried fervently to get me to go to the emergency room. I refused until I closed my eyes again and the jiggling returned. By now, I was starting to become scared so I agreed to go to the ER. Because I had hit my head pretty hard on the way down at my apartment, the ER doctors ordered a CAT scan. In the tube, I once again closed my eyes. I was exhausted. The jiggling returned immediately. I tried so hard to keep my eyes open. I was put into the observation ward just off the ER, and within minutes was unconscious and having another seizure. The last thing I can recall from that night was a bunch of faceless people standing around me asking if it would be okay to put Valium in my IV. I remember thinking why did I have an IV, and answering that yes, putting Valium in the IV was fine. I was out for the rest of the next 6 hours, and awoke very groggy (I have no idea how much Valium the doctors gave me), but feeling somewhat better. I found a nurse that hung my IV on a rolling stand and wheeled me out to the ambulance bay to smoke. Very cool nurse. I fell back asleep when I got back to my bed, and awoke to find my primary care doctor and mother standing over me. My doctor was saying something about going to a rehabilitation center that had a bed for me, and were awaiting my arrival should I choose to go. I chose to go.

.DespairThis was, perhaps, one of the scariest and most insane places I have ever been mentally. I had not been sober in about 4 years. Literally not a day had gone by that I was not completely high on something since I was 16, and I was now getting ready to turn 20. I do not think that I would ever like to be in that “headspace” again. I had to write the fearless and soul-searing moral inventory of myself, who I was, who I had been, who I had started out as. I had to write every nasty thing I had ever done to another human being while in the throes of my substance abuse. I even shocked myself, though I should not have been shocked. I have always been a kind of gun without a safety. The first 2 months of sobriety found me depressed, scared, unsure of everything, and begging to get high again. If I fought with my mother with whom I was living, all I could think was that just a little morphine would fix everything. All I wanted were my pills and my needles. I thought I had gone insane. But, nope, not insane, just sober and looking at the world and my place in it with an uncloudy mind and clear eyes. I made it through about 9 months of the rehab’s therapy groups until I was reassigned to one that was full of drinkers trying to get clean. I wasn’t a big drinker. I was a druggie, a junkie. I couldn’t understand their dislike of me until one night a man said to me “Well, at least what I did was legal…” Then, I figured it out. What I had done was against the law and, therefore abhorrent, but somehow being an alcoholic was okay because drinking was legal. So, I asked him how many times he drove home drunk, and how many people had he managed not to kill while driving drunk. He shut up, and I left rehab. I did relapse a couple of years later, but that is a whole different post. This was painful enough  remembering all the things I did and said specifically to hurt people so they could feel the way I did. I lost a lot of friends and I lost myself in the process.

A Bit Of Melancholy On A Sunday Afternoon ~ Fire and Rain

This has always been one of my favorite James Taylor songs, and with the learning of a very good and long-time friend’s serious illness, I have been a bit melancholy as of late.


Depressive Episode ~ A “Life Choice”

I have been stuck in blue funk mode for about a month now. After about three weeks of just feeling awful about myself, the world, and my non-productive role in it, I finally broke down and called my psychiatrist to refill my anti-depressants. One has to be very careful administering anti-depressants to Bipolar people; they have been known to kick that person right into the manic phase of the illness. Although, at this point, I am willing to put up with a mixed episode. At least I will have achieved a balanced madness instead of this one-sided version of madness. Blue and Purple Cellophane Trees

I get very irritable and fatalistic when in the depressive phase of this lovely “life choice” as my Father put it in an email recently. I start to think no one really wants me around, and I start to wonder about what death would be like. However, due to a promise I made 6 years ago to the Universe and all it contains, I cannot actually go through with it. Being a Buddhist, I think that would be a really bad cause that would have Karmic retributions in this life and the next. I cannot believe that my Father called having Bipolar and having your brain swimming in toxic chemicals a “life choice.” Oh that just irritates the living crap out of me. It’s like when people say being homosexual is a “life choice.” How is a chemical imbalance in my brain a “life choice?” I most certainly did not wake up one day about 20 years ago, and say “I think I am going to have Bipolar disorder, and experiment with many psychoactive drugs.” A “life choice.” Hmmpphh. That tells me he doesn’t know the first thing about mental illness. 

And then yesterday, my mother calls, and the gist of the conversation is that I only contact him when I need money. That is so objectively and subjectively not true. I have spent 14 years of my life trying to penetrate his narcissistic shell. That’s about a 1/3 of my life that I have been trying to reach out to him, and let him know how I am doing, what I am doing, and whatnot. Nowhere in these letters have I mentioned financial help. Granted, he did pay for insurance so I would not have a coverage gap, but he stopped that, and I did not plead with him to start again. He was reimbursing for Medicare part B, but he stopped, and once again, I did not go begging for him to continue. No, far from it, I just sucked it up and lived on $126 dollars less per month. So, I sent him an email telling him how much it hurt for him to say that when everything I have written to him recently has expressed appreciation and gratitude which are apparently emotions he doesn’t understand. Neither is humility. And, of course, I mentioned that Mom had told me about his comment. Now my Mother is all chappy because apparently she now feels he won’t talk openly with her anymore. So, I fucked up yet one more time. I just really felt he needed to know that his comment hurt to the bone. So, I schooled him in what it is like to be Bipolar with PTSD, et al. Why does my mother attack me when I am down? That has been her M.O. my whole life. Attack when one least expects it, and not only that, attack one’s character. I mean, after all, I “chose” to be poor and mentally ill.

This state of existence is not what I had in my life plan when I was growing up. I had it very clearly laid out: undergraduate school, and from there my Master’s and PhD. That was my plan. To find a subject that I felt fulfilled me personally, and brought a comfortable income. But, no, that is not how it turned out. I have no idea what these drugs are doing to my cognitive abilities. I know the PTSD rears it’s really ugly head when I am under too much stress. I just do not know if at this point, I would be able to do the research necessary to write a thesis. I do not know if I can hold down a job. If my past history is a measuring stick, the answer would be no. But my parents fail to see this about me. My Father thinks I use him for money when in fact, I have not asked for financial help until now to take care of my teeth, but I am hitting my Mother as well. He is so focused on the fact that he has retire at some point that he can’t see that he makes in a day what I live on for a month. If anything, he is the one who is caught up on money. Every correspondence I receive from him mentions retirement and funding that retirement. He is the President of a fucking University. His salary is a matter of public record. In the 6 years, he has been president they have paid him 2.2 million dollars. That does not sound like hardship to me. But every email. every letter mentions retirement and money. I am not bringing it up. I do not want his money. I want something far more precious: his love and understanding and time. You cannot buy that.

Water RoseMan, I forgot how irritable I can get when I am in a depressive cycle. I am just waiting for the anti-depressant to start working. That’s all I really want right now is to get out of this overly sensitive, irritable, angry, and sad mood. I do not think it is too much to ask. But, maybe it is.  I am not even looking forward to my birthday. It’s just another day. I have had 43 of these, and I do not see any reason to celebrate my life because my life sucks. Okay, enough of the pity party. 

Well,, my birthday came and went without pomp or circumstance. although a very odd thing happened. Upon checking the mail on my birthday, I was surprised to find a parcel/package locker key. Being a perpetually curious person, I wondered what it could be for since I had not ordered anything, I opened the locker, and there was this rather large box, with a return address that was very familiar. It was a birthday gift from my Father! I was in shock for at least an hour, maybe more. My Father has not sent much in the way of cards for Christmas or birthdays for going on 8 years or so, and the same goes for gifts. I am still in shock and awe at the gift……and it has been about 3 weeks. Now I am baffled because the rules have changed. I suppose baffled is better than depressed.


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