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The Toybox

people for the conservation of limited amounts of indignation


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there is no way i'd talk about this without a couple of glasses of champagne
children of dune - leto 1
seperis
The mental illness cute/real contrast/compare post got me thinking about the other side of that. In general, media has two modes when depicting mental illness: cute and fucking tragic (and Monk, which is kind of both). There's a real lack of 'mundane reality' aka 'living with mental illness is actually pretty fucking boring'. Yeah, there's the drama, but most of it is basically you and your best buddy, 'coping mechanisms'.



So I rarely bring this up, but when I was diagnosed with ADHD, the psychologist who examined me gave me several tests. I love standardized tests, but psychological tests always make me feel vaguely guilty; like personality tests, they're ridiculously easy to manipulate to get the result you want, due to being so subjective, but that also makes them incredibly hard to answer honestly. For me, anyway.

When I do them for fun--I do that--I can get psychopath or really freakishly empathetic person deliberately (again, the questions aren't subtle) or by trying to work out the math on how I feel in this situation as given and what 'usually' means. It's literally a question of mood; get me in the wrong one, the only thing I feel sad about is a dead puppy in the street. (If they'd add that question, it might help, btw.) So any given test for me is a goddamn minefield if I'm not just fucking around; then it's all best guess because I do not want to have anyone look serious and take out the goddamn PCL-R and start thinking on my qualifications for a Cluster B.

(Note: I really am not a psychopath. Or anything Cluster B, with or without the preface "malignant". I'm just saying...tests are dumb. Which is what someone with "malignant" as a prefix would say, so we're moving on.)

This is why when my diagnosis was major depression, ADHD, and OCD, all I could think was I should have manipulated those questions after all, because I didn't have OCD. I had no desire to flip lights or touch random objects x number of times or ritual behavior or pretty much anything I knew about OCD. Intrusive thoughts and those weird circular thoughts that kept me up at night for months and were responsible for a surprising amount of research around the actual subject were, as far as I knew, normal things everyone dealt with.

I might have gotten around to rethinking that but methylphenidate as it turned out was the magic pill. It took me no time at all to work out exactly when to take it and to redirect whenever this shit started, problem solved. Sure, my cool-downs and right before bed could be iffy, but whatever, it wasn't hard to stay awake until I was so tired I fell asleep before my brain had a chance to realize I wasn't distracted and could give it my full attention. Which is why it's been ten years, and it's only in the last year it occurred to me that for something I didn't have, I did have something not unlike a ritual for dealing with my specific thought patterns and I spent a lot of time doing it.

I also can't talk about it. I can write around it, there are giant elongated spirals of words that have curled around it and through it, but I keep a careful remove. Here's why I don't talk about it: I don't know exactly how, but there is absolutely no doubt whatsoever that if I talk about it, this thing--this thing that keeps me up at night and can terrify me to the point of screaming or panicking if I'm not careful--will happen to me. If I am ever not scared of it, it will happen. If I ever stop--even for a minute--worrying about it (ignoring it or drugging it away doesn't count, I don't know why), it will happen.

(Note: see above, an example of self-directed negative classical conditioning. Works gangbusters, in case you were curious.)

Logic, as you might be aware, didn't help, and sometimes made it worse, because there were too many possibilities and logic stated if I considered all of them as one unit and did odds, the possibility did indeed rise. So fuck logic; I switched tactics. I started to mentally prepare solutions to each possibility it gave me.

In preparation, I have thought out dozens of ways to get out each possibility (all variations on a theme), and when I get them solved, I relax and go to sleep. The ones I'm most worried now about are incredibly esoteric and actually sometimes almost impossible (I'm not sure enough about the 'almost' to discard them) which I've come to assume that since I was solving all the concrete ones my brain could throw at me, my brain leveled the fuck up.

I checked and the diagnostic criteria for OCD dozens of times, and as yet, I can't work out how I don't qualify. I keep thinking about that psychologist, who talked to me before and after those tests, and I can't remember what I told him. I remember telling him about how I'd buy bottles of ephedrine--when it was still legal--and go through two to six at a sitting (not to mention the coffee and 5 Hours) because the first time I used (abused?) stimulants, I'd learned it made everything so quiet and clear and I could redirect my mind where it was supposed to go and suddenly everything wasn't so fucking hard. I told him vaguely--I thought--about the thoughts and dealing with them, but they were kind of an aside. I know he asked me more about it, but I don't remember; at the time, I didn't want to talk about it, and if there's one thing I'm very good at it, it's making sure people only pay attention to what I want them to. Let's stop pretending here; I'm manipulative, I do it a lot, and it doesn't bother me at all. Super useful for a writer, not so much to be a good person, but that part, I don't think about.

The tumblr post, it was true, but it didn't cover one important part: how fucking boring mental illness is. We've all experienced the drama parts, but that's a small part; the rest is living with it. I get why no one really brings it up; the things we do are sometimes so breathtakingly stupid and worse, we're very much aware of it.

Sometimes, just to get up in the morning, I have to make a mental stepped list of what I have to accomplish with end point: "going out the door". I get to that, I'm fine, but getting there is a fucking trip. Sometimes, I spend startling amounts of time creating elaborately nonsensical escape plans for it, the thing that will happen if I talk about it, before I can sleep. In my teens, I was a cutter; if I had any confidence it'd still work, I'd be happily sterilizing a boxcutter regularly but major depression isn't that consistent so no. I have CBT-approved breathing exercises for when anxiety tries to level up and dozens of redirects. Sometimes, I recite to myself the litany of what my brain is doing, sometimes I work on some positive classical conditioning, but results are iffy if motivators don't include fear and there aren't a lot of positives as powerful as that one.

On the other hand--on the other hand, all of that, and I still do it. For I have climbed mountains and forded rivers, crossed barren plains, and when I couldn't do those, I found a shovel and dug a tunnel beneath it all. For this is my will: this is my life and I will not be denied passage wherever it may go. I'll do it for love, for curiosity, for hope, for meaning, but when all else is empty, I'll do it for sheer spite, for that well just may be infinite.

2018 is dead; 2019 has begun. So far so good.



I forgot: this is the result of my second resolution, along with pork pie: I will actually talk about mental illness. I will also remember to laugh more about it.

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