Only professionals can diagnose our mental health problems to tell us “what’s really wrong,” but at least we have the Internet—that endlessness of data and distraction which will give me enough options I can at least resonate with. Whether that’s a thinkpiece on some personal drama, or a long-winded Facebook status from a friend, or the countless clinical psychology portals that will suggest their mildly fascinating terms, these permutations populate the empty space in my mind that says, “Maybe this one,” because the psychiatrist is too expensive, anyway.
I can understand and measure my illness when I resonate with certain words: A few weeks ago, I scrolled through the Wikipedia pages on “dysthymia” and “learned helplessness” and almost immediately appropriated them to my narrative—rightly so. This is the power struggle I have with words describing at me than just describing me. I stopped taking my medication two years back over how it defined me: type up a Google search of “lamosyn” and it’ll just say anti-epileptic. It’s not like anyone considers the sick patient a professional of their own suffering.
“You mentioned this bad behavior was because of your mood disorder and other related mental problems,” wrote the Verbal Reprimand. So I had to retreat to the blog I hadn’t revisited in months now to write down what this diminishing made me feel: the over-simplification, the irrationality that certain words could encapsulate how lopsided I was because I had a normal day, like I chose to be unbearable by necessity. I had a normal day then. But nobody seems to talk about how the routinary, the familiar, even the good days can have the opposite effect on your mind.
That’s why I classify in the mood disorder category rather than the depression category, my shrink says. And now, all I can do is grin and bear it. Suck up my unprofessionalism and thank the people who decided, yes, you can keep your job. Here’s the formal notice so you can never, ever do it again. Even though I meant the things I said to our HR officer—I’m happy this is not being excused, I’m working on myself, I’m saying all this because I’d prepared an itemized list in my head so you can treat my emptiness with respect—I look back on that bleak conversation and wonder if I really cared. Was I being authentic enough? angry enough? I don’t make the rules, I just describe at people so they can stop talking to me about it.
Today: I want to remind people they don’t even know who I am and overly-assert this fact. Pull out something from under the rug and say I was right. That’s how I really feel. Should I be impressed? I don’t wish to quell the obnoxious arrogance which I’ve made a part of who I really am.
Side note: This post is rarely edited and intended to be that way.