Thursday, March 20, 2014

Compassion, Patience and Love

This post is for people who have a mental health issue, or love or know someone who has one.  People with screwy brain chemicals are more common than you think.  They could be your friends or co-workers or even loved ones.

Hollywood dramatizes issues like bi-polar people -- with Carrie in"Homeland" -- an exaggerated extreme case -- so viewers who forget this is Hollywood can say, "I'm sure glad I'm not crazy like she is."  Then they return to their lives and don't give a second thought to those of us who have been given this challenge in a more realistic, mild form in our lives.  Without Brody.

When I first posted "The Wilderness" and "Better Days" I received a great outpouring of emails filled with stories and sentiments.  Stories about Uncle Tom (who was actually manic) who inherited a million dollars and blew it in Atlantic City within a week.  Or relatives who found it unbearable to live with the pain of their "issue" (depression -- which is not sadness) so they ended their lives or wander aimlessly around airports or dark downtown streets. 

It must seem better to some to end their lives rather than admitting to being depressed, which for some ---  especially teenagers -- is akin to saying "I have leprosy."  So they say "I'm just sad" until it overwhelms them and we read about them in the newspaper.  To me, that is ever so sad, but true ... and so preventable.

People thanked me for reminding them to be more patient or understanding.  Others confessed that they were sorry they were not more loving and compassionate to their friends or loved ones dealing with a different "reality" than others.  Then apparently they forgot and moved on.

I feel blessed because I am "mildly" bi-polar.  And after going through hell with meds for almost two years -- including not being able to eat and losing 35 pounds in a hurry.  Or not being able to read.  Or pick a book out of the library.  Or write an email.  And certainly not being to write creatively, which is my gift in life.  It was a dark time.  Feeling "brain-dead" at times, or having headaches for days on end.

Then I switched meds and by some miracle found the right medication, and thankfully the right dose.  Although that process took 11 months of being patient and realizing that meds alter our brain.  But still having the courage to stick with the choice of learning to deal with an altered brain, since choosing instead to sit in the garage with the door closed and the car running is devastating for the people left behind.  Only desperate people do that.

Then on a chilly November day, I was suddenly able to write.  My fingers could barely keep up with what my mind/spirit wanted to say.  And ever since, I can write.  And I'm not brain dead.  And I can think.  And I'm not only grateful for every single moment of everyday, but am happy.  And STABLE:  not afraid of the dark pit of depression; not afraid of the "bouncing off the ceiling" with ebullience.  How lucky am I, I thought.

But alas ... I learned that the people around me did not all share my happiness.  Some were worried that I would fall off the edge of reality, I guess. And others tried to "help" me by suggesting that I "act more sedate and not so happy ... or Godforbid don't ever get frustrated (like normal people get from time to time).

 One of the more interesting bi-products of being bi-polar is that your brain processes very fast.  So if you're already intelligent and knowledgeable about many things and articulate ... all those "attributes" operate faster than "normal" people.  The discovery of this by-product was much more than simply a surprise.

It was fun for awhile, actually.  Being able to speak about politics again after 2 years of silence.  Being interested in everything.  Caring deeply about inequities around me and using my gift of writing and persistence to change things.

Within 2 weeks of the return of my gift of writing, which brought ME pure joy ... IT ... started.  And ... IT ... was the people in my life who "loved" me trying to "HELP ME BE MORE NORMAL"    As if I had a magic switch so I could better conform to THEIR view of what "NORMAL" looks like.  Sometimes that included telling people "Don't listen to her; she isn't herself; or she is manic and crazy.

I'm not sure how they convinced themselves that was helpful.  But, who understands everyone, you know?  The amazing part is that some people actually believed it.  And some of those people are trained professionals in their respective fields ... and they believed it instead of believing me. 

Talk about being shocked!  Will I forgive those people?  I suspect not. But life goes on anyway, doesn't it?  I mean, there's no BIG UMPIRE in real life who sees these things and calls FOUL! 

People don't understand that folks like me who are bi-polar and on the right medication and the right dose are just fine.  All we need is the compassion, the patience, the love and the understanding that loved ones and friends pledged when I "came back."

We cannot control the speed of our brain any more than we could have dragged ourselves out of the black muck of depression.  We try.  But ... the brain has a "mind" of its own apparently and continues to process information lickety split.

Some people wanted me to be more heavily drugged; or maybe have electro-shock therapy.  Get me back to laying around and not causing any trouble.  Making it so I no longer got frustrated at the constant barrage of advice from everyone who is now an "expert in mental health."

And my supposedly trained LMHC even suggested that I switch drugs now -- in the middle of a personal crisis -- when I'm feeling wonderful.  Switching drugs can be terrifying.  And the one suggested has a nasty little side-effect of sometimes causing a rash that kills you in a couple of days. 

And I paid for advice like that!  I paid cash, because Medicare doesn't cover LMHCs.  Perhaps that's a good thing.  That way they can't screw up too many older people. 

Some people got nasty, and yelled at me for leaving messages that were filled with frustration.  Some just gave up on me and cut me out of their lives.  And all those "friends" who were so happy I was back?  That happiness didn't last long because they didn't understand this new version of ME.  Why didn't I filter things better?  Why didn't I exhibit more patience?

Then I did something unforgivable once.  I hung up the phone on a "friend" who was diagnosing my condition.  And that person was not happy.  And then that person took something from me that I miss every day.  Have I ever gotten an apology from that person?  NO! 

How do people live with themselves after demonstrating such impatience with someone who is "different"?  I don't know.  And apparently no apology is even necessary.  After all "she is the crazy" one."  I mean, I admit:  I HUNG UP THE PHONE, which is apparently the 11th Commandment that Sister Lucy never mentioned in Catechism. 

It appears as if no re-thinking of the actions was done.  And maybe, when dealing with Manic People (which I am not, by the way) you get a pass on even caring about the hurt and loss that resulted.  Perhaps we are counted as "three fifths of normal people" like black people (i.e. slaves) were counted when the Constitution was written.  The exact wording of that little gem in the history of our Constitution is included below.

The Three-Fifths Compromise is found in Article 1, Section 2, Paragraph 3 of the United States Constitution which reads:
Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons. 

Even people who have a mental health issue -- whom we established are only worth three-fifths of "normal" people -- go through personal crises in their lives.  And then things become even more difficult than they were before.  So the "crazy" ones escapes the reality of what's happening ... and play music and use social media as ways of tuning out the screams of reality.

Only Eeyore (or readers of "Winnie the Pooh") truly understands.


And all those loving, understanding, compassionate friends who were "happy" I was back forgot that yes, I'm back, but I take a mind-altering medication which is powerful.  More powerful than my will power no matter how hard I try.  So they get annoyed and write me "helpful" reminders.

Thanks folks for all the love the caring and patience and understanding.

I'm not sure, of course, but perhaps that's why your friends or family members stop taking their meds.  And occasionally they wind up on the railroad track or on drugs or wandering around train stations or living with the bums on First Avenue.  Because when they reached out for your help, you didn't have time to be extra patient or understanding or loving.

Some of you have believed in me and loved me no matter what I say or do.  As one of my friends put it, "I will always love you, Dorothy, if you are up, down or sideways."  For my friends who are like that:  Thank you!  You can't even imagine how much that kind of love means to me.


And for the rest of you ... what goes around comes around.  God help you if something like this happens to you or a loved one.

These little snippits of  true stories will be in my memoires.  But this issue of betrayal from "friends and loved ones" has just become such a BIG deal recently.  So I decided to speak from the heart -- once more -- and hope somebody somewhere is listening. 

And maybe, as a result, just one of you "normal" people will reach out with patience, love and compassion to some lost soul in your life who is suffering and wandering around feeling that no one understands them or cares that they even exist. 

This lovely note was posted by my grand daughter, a brave 14-year-old who is wise beyond her years.

Maybe one day cach of you can actually save a life with compassion, love and patience.  Because isn't that the whole point of what we're all doing here?


  1. Thought of you while we were in Coos Bay for the Jazz Festival; Bandon is just down the coast.

    Normal people? I've never met one of those. We're all a little nuts in one or another fold of gray matter. Don't be bothered by your fold :-)

  2. Dear Dorothy, I don't know what I am, but I do know that it has never been normal. You have given me so much to think about. Please thank your granddaughter for her words, as well. Jane