Developing a Diagnosis Dictionary

Last week I wrote about how SMD mad I was about being classified as something.  Ticked off by someone else who would doom me to no WOman’s mental illness land and I would cry uncontrollably, deteriorate significantly, and require care in a padded room for eternity as is the life of I dunno, severely sick anything.  And for a long time, I got cross about that.  I got to cross that my future, my life, my children’s lives, were determined by less than a 15-minute consultation where someone says oh, I dunno, your brain is going to die soon.  Because that’s how it feels.  Either it’s going to die, or you are going to need a brain transplant (don’t know or think this is recommended).  But as last week’s blog pointed out, after you’ve been ticked as loony, over the hill, whatever, well there aren’t really excellent places to go, other than the candy dispenser at the psych hospital or my personal favorite – the smoking balcony at 2 am in the morning – to keep the nurses on their toes.

So I’ve decided to do something different – and I hope that you will help me.  I want to re-write the dictionary that makes us people with mental illness what we are.  The list of symptoms and synonyms that are used to prescribe and prognosis – what is “wrong” with us.  Heck, I am even prepared to write a more politically correct set of stereotypes, so at least we can be nicknamed more appropriately.  Yes.  It’s like my own mother says I have multiple personality disorder when I don’t.  Gees.  Don’t get the stigma confused!   If you are going to insult me, please use the correctly developed, politically appropriate names people with mental illness allow.

No, I haven’t taken my meds for the longest time – but I want a different set of criteria, analysis and engagement to inform the meds I can and should take, different therapies that work, and the truth about the stuff that doesn’t work.  About the pretty things and the ugly things that families that people with mental illness don’t know about and need to be prepared for.  For example, I always tell my littlest daughter to have a bubble around her heart – and I say this because I’m known to be irritable and snap quickly, even when I really don’t mean to.  Especially not with her.  But it happens, and although I say sorry, perhaps by describing our dictionary more clearly,   by preparing them and us, through the heart-est won experience, we and ours can be ready to face the world with the reality we seek to bring about.   And while that littlest daughter and I love unicorns the most that is not the reality I’m talking about.

For example, I think my first listing would be Ashtma Inducing Anxiety.  This is the kind where you feel your chest close, and you hyperventilate, and you feel like your stomach is a washing machine twisting your guts clothing inside out,  and you may squidge out a nervous fart or two as you calm / a cough yourself down.  Yes, similar indeed.  I am serious, and I am dedicated to building a new future for people with mental illness. I am not a disorder, I am not a description, I am not the only diagnosis and getting it wrong could result really, in another kind of dead, neither you or I want to see.  Help me.  Be part of those who support us as opposed to those who don’t.  I am 4M’s Bipolar Mom.

Photo Credit: Romain Vignes

Severely Mis-Diagnosed

Today I learnt for the first time in my entire life that I have a Severe Mental Disorder. SMD for short.  SMD for those in the know.  Because it usually isn’t the person with the mental illness that ticks the SMD box.  No.  It’s um, talk to you like a five year old, ascribed by someone else ticks the box.  You see, I found out that I had a SMD because I was looking at ways in which mental illness is assessed and or “discovered” (I personally prefer experience, since it is so, so, so much that.  Experience.   Bucket loads of emotional experience many of us would prefer to be without).

My conclusion is that people with mental illness are assessed to be: a) you can go home but we gonna send you a supportive text now and then, b) stay in the ward until your lithium kicks in (and you are less likely to harm yourself or others, or all of the above) and my personal favourite: c) do not pass begin, do not collect your money, go straight to and stay in psychiatric jail. And I the most get stuck on the somebody else classifies you as A, B or C and will / won’t wreck the rest of your entire life.  Someone else says SMD – and all of a sudden you feel like you have a non-sexually transmitted life-threatening infection and your mind herpes is sticking out for everyone to see.  Yes, they SMD’d me and initially, I needed to bake and cook the entire contents of my fridge, and not work, and feel stressed about that, and everything else I may have forgotten because well severe.   But I have something to say.  And I hope the SMD box tickers hear me loud and clear.

When you ask me to tick a list of questions about how well I am functioning when I’m actually not, it’s unsurprising that “washing” and “toothbrushing” are totally trumped (excuse the pun) by sloth like motion, chain smoking and living my best, depressed life.  During said life, I practice food network hopping, extended sleep therapy until one of my children reminds me that they haven’t eaten and well, severe and hungry should never be in the same sentence.  I also have to tell you that you have no diagnosis or symptomatic description of the bravery it takes to get up each day, the severe weight of your bones, blood and limbs it seems that you drag yourself through to make a living for your family.  For walking through oceans of anxiety, but still appearing to wear some slips off me swimsuit that doesn’t exist.  No.  Don’t you dare tick my SMD box.  Because I am Seriously Mad about this Disorder you’ve given me.

Because me like many others in our Continent live with their SMD’s.  They don’t want to, but know no alternative, no reach to care, no reach to medicine, no reach to counselling.  They’re – we are – often mis-treated in far flung communities where even the littlest bit of extra is seen as severe.  Chained even.  Because in my experience, when others decide who or what you are, how disabled or not you are – you either end up believing it yourself (worst) or they continue to SMD you – no matter what (not nice either).  Instead today my friends, I say stand up.  Stand up and be proud of who you are – and never allow a clinical assessment to define how good or bad your life is.  I’ll be SMD’d if I do.  Be part of those who support us as opposed to those who don’t.  I am 4 M’s Bipolar Mom.