Sometimes I don’t write for a while. For a long while. Sometimes I have to take a break from what I do, unannounced, and without warning. This isn’t because of some horrible calamity in my close friends and family, isn’t because I live with a chronic autoimmune disorder, and it isn’t even because of the upheaval of moving house. Generally, it’s because I struggle with improperly managed mental illness.
I work hard to maintain an appearance of high-functioning manageability. I’ve developed elaborate mechanisms to present an outward appearance of “normalcy”, to a point that I’m both proud and terrified of it. It’s been said of me that my crazy fits in the overhead compartments- a compliment that is unintentionally double-edged. The problem with being able to put up these sorts of façades on an everyday basis is that I have to keep them up constantly, which takes an immense amount of energy. Letting them down becomes harder and harder, as I do it less and less, and the effort required means once they’re down- it’ll be a while before I’m able to get them back into place. It is in that interim that I am at my most vulnerable.
Why don’t I just “go get help“? Oh yes- help. Celebrity spokespeople about mental illness just love to tell you all about how getting help was a pivotal moment in their lives. How it’s OK to have a mental illness, just- go get help. Well that’s just fine and dandy, person with money and time, but it doesn’t exactly work that way. For those of us who are poor, “help” isn’t that easy. Options are slim. I, personally, have been attempting to get back into some manner of regular therapy for a few years now. I’d been going to the local queer counselling centre, who had a sliding scale and where I knew my lifestyle choices wouldn’t be pathologised, but I kept getting re-assinged new counsellors every few months as they finished their degrees and moved on with their lives. This meant I had just enough time to start to open up to them before I was thrown back to start again- do not pass GO, do not collect $200.
I started working with DSHS aka welfare to try and get help. Then the sequester happened, and state budget cuts, and the funding for helping me find help disappeared. I reached out to the therapy centres which specialise in my illnesses- bipolar, depression, anxiety, PTSD, and compulsive disorders. I’ve been on their “3 month long” waiting list for 6 months now. They also don’t offer a sliding scale for their fees. A lot of private practices don’t offer sliding scales, and those that do have so many people trying to become new patients that waitlists range from months to years. Trying to get into an intensive programme or go in-patient is just as hard. Even if you “play the game” as it were and exaggerate your symptoms, they still aren’t guaranteed to take you. Beds are few, resources are limited, and even suicidal/homicidal ideation doesn’t make you a shoo-in anymore. Your best bet, if it applies to you, is to get in via an addiction recovery programme. Folks with what’s known as “dual diagnosis” have a far better chance of getting treatment, as substance abuse programmes get more funding and support, and are a lot more prolific. They often provide mental health support or can fast-track people into the therapy they need in the hopes of helping prevent relapse. If there’s ever been a time in my life that I’ve regretted managing to beat my addictions on my own, it’s been now.
So where this leaves me is going to local community health centres or clinics, and getting the bare-minimum of care. I generally have to go in knowing what meds I need, and hope that they clinic will renew my prescriptions. A lot of low-income friendly healthcare offices won’t fill or write scripts for many of the medications used to treat mental illness, due to their controlled substance axis ratings and perceived street value. I say perceived street value because while I understand that technically Xanax has a street value, my dosage of 0.125mg 2x/day is so low that I’d have to sell a few months worth at a time to get any sort of profit. A lot of clinic doctors aren’t familiar with some of the off-label uses of various medications currently being used to treat bipolar or resistant depression, nor those used to manage the side-effects from the primary medications. This leaves me short some medications that I should be on, using less effective medications than I could be using, and paying a lot more for them than I ought to be due to being uninsured.
So sometimes I just can’t focus. Other times I’m lucky if I can get myself out of bed and go to work. There are weeks when I forget to bathe, and days where I forget to eat (or go to the bathroom). There are times, like what I’ve been dealing with lately, where my moods are cycling so rapidly that I’m experiencing a different dominant mood every 15 minutes or less. My insomnia gets worse and worse, despite double-doses of Ambien I still find myself awake until dawn and then waking at 8 or 9am whether I want to or not. I have periods where I lie face-down on the floor, unable to get up, because I’m sobbing so hard and I do not know why. My instincts trend towards passive-agression and self-sabotage. I rationalise actions which will make me more and more miserable, because then at least I would have a reason to feel like this. It’s difficult to feel sexy at times like these, let alone be objective and present during jerk-off sessions. Partnered sex becomes a something I crave and fear at the same time, uncertain of where my emotions will take me. I try not to make major decisions, I pull inward, and I start looking for hugs and forehead kisses more than blowjobs and spankings.
And so, there are times when I don’t write much. There are times where even my tumblr goes silent, and my twitter becomes more conversational, less sexy, and more emo. Photos of my cat become more abundant, and I use her reliance on me as a grounding tool to keep me present and from making rash decisions. Sometimes I over–compensate with porn. I don’t mean to disappear, and I think about writing a post very much like this one but up until now I haven’t. I fear the cultural stigma against being batshit crazy. I worry that I’ll be perceived as whiny, or as attention seeking. I’ve decided that I’m just going to put this out there, finally, because I’m currently battling this harder than I have in a very long time, and while I’m trying to force myself back into writing I don’t know where things will take me. I know I’m not alone in this but it’s something that at least for me specifically, only I can really do anything about.
- As so many mentally ill individuals are, often as a result of our mental illness impeding our ability to be employed like a “normal” member of society [↩]
- Which is the only way I’ve known of anyone to successfully get into treatment in any sort of timely manner [↩]
- Which is a term I use for myself, and rather prefer over “mental illness” or somesuch, but that’s probably because I like bats and I’m self deprecating as fuck [↩]