The Social Construction of the DSM.

In the magical birth year of classical television series “I Love Lucy”, the DSM-I materialized into existence with 145 pages and 106 disorders.

Based off the Medical 203 (The Armed Forces Nomenclature), this 1951 piece of psychological literature featured short paragraphs describing disorders so psychologists and psychiatrists could look up at their patients dancing across the floor, look down at their trusty Bible, compare their patient’s behavior to their book’s description, and experience that “light-bulb” feeling.

In the medical 203, experiences later labeled as disorders were considered reactions to life, to combat, to habits learned in life from friends, family, social status and environment. The medical 203, you see, included LIFE as a source of altered mental state. What a radical view, right? LIFE and VARIETY being the cause of people’s experiences. So fucking radical I almost spit my juice across my computer screen.

The DSM-I followed those footsteps closely, with the guidance of APA president and first psychiatrist-In-Chief at John Hopkins University, Adolf Meyer. He believed, at first, chemistry and physiology could explain these mental experiences, but after findings in his own research and a glance into reality, he termed what we know as disorders today, as “Reactions”. He saw that emotional states were responses to experiences in life, and life in itself.

The DSM two, in the year of Martin Luther King Jr’s assassination, contained only 136 pages stuffed full of 182 disorders. There’s a rumor in the mental health community that the DSM evolved from “reaction” to “disorder” because of science–everything is always because of advancements in science, right? They found biological proof of mental disorders, right? They were mapping neurotransmitters and the dopamine hypothesis and the amygdala and the frontal cortex and inserted fancy terms and publicized research papers and they were experts after all . . . right?

The reason the terminology and the view associated with mental “reactions” was transformed stems not from science but from a really, really weak attempt at neutrality: Robert Spitzer and Paul Wilson stated they wished the DSM to stray from adhering to any “specific theories” when labeling disorders. Neurosis entered the scene, the term “disorder” reigned prevalent, and in the year 2017 we have the DSM-5, with over 300 disorders and a creative budget of 25 million dollars.

25 million dollars to write a book that’s been re-written four other times to basically say the same shit.

Why is ANY of this important? So I can ramble and make people read my rambles? That’s part of it.

The rest of my reasoning is far more valid. When Spitzer and Wilson reasoned the term “reaction” unworthy against “disorder” and descriptions of “neurosis”, what did they think they weren’t adhering to? The idea that people were struggling in life and therefore reacted to it? The idea that life itself might actually be a bit traumatic? The idea that there is a variety of human brains and human perceptions that could at any time differ from theirs? How is that a significant and scientific reason to dismember a mental health system that intertwined social, environmental, and biological factors? How is exiting the social and environmental portion of this not favoring AND adhering to a biological theory? 

So much for neutrality. 

Gender is a spectrum. This is 2017: Gender and Sex are not the same, Transvestite is not an appropriate term, and non-binary is a thing. We won’t go into the slander of the DSM-2 on sexuality, but we will talk about the transformation of how homosexuality and gender dysphoria was seen in those days versus today.

Because really the only thing that changed was the words. The natural variation of human sexuality and the development of sexuality in fetal stages has never changed: there have always been people who favored intimacy with the same sex over the opposite sex, and fetuses always went through the development process of splitting up hormones and growing certain organs.

Over time, the words changed and in the world of sociology, this classifies things like Gender, masculinity, and femininity as social constructions: no one is born a girl who likes barbies and no one is born a boy who likes toy trucks. At one point in history little boys wore dresses and blue was the color for girls: the ideas and standards we create and burden people with change as society transforms and time passes.

Over the last fifty years or so, How many names have changed in the DSM? How many descriptors have changed in the DSM? See where I’m going with this?

Who’s a good little social construction? Hmm? Who’s a good itty, bitty social construction! You, DSM! That’s right! Good boy!

A bold claim I don’t feel I need to defend, the reasoning defends itself. Abnormal and normal are social constructions: we deem what is “acceptable” behavior, what isn’t, and both categories change as time passes, as new generations gain empowerment, as older generations adapt. If the definition of eccentric behaviors, odd behaviors, bizarre behaviors are based on what is acceptable and not, they too change over time, and they too become social constructions.

Take paranoia around the government for example: all the people who were sent to a psychiatrist and called crazy because they felt some agency was reading their emails–well, in 2017 with the NSA in full-force, who’s crazy now?

This is not to invalidate our experiences or our mental states, only the way they’re being described.

What does it mean for these disorders to be social constructions? Am I saying they don’t exist and should therefore be dragged to the gallows and hanged for my mental health blasphemy?

Short answer: No.

Blunt answer: I could give two shits what someone’s disorder label is, just as I could give two shits if someone is gay, lesbian, bi, transgender, and all the other PC names I don’t know. I don’t even give a shit about my own disorder labels. I only care for someone’s experience, because that’s the only reliable thing in all of this. The APA isn’t reliable, the DSM isn’t reliable, medicine isn’t reliable; Medicine is susceptible to human error (and greed), the APA consists of elite, mostly white, cis-gender, non-crazy males, (meaning no representation for the majority of the world) and the DSM is a product of both of those.

But someone’s experience? That’s raw, that’s real, however unreal it may seem. I’ve never seen someone tell more of a truth about themselves and life than when their mental state is so vulnerable they have no choice in the matter–it becomes too much pressure to NOT share. And as morbid as that sounds, it’s also rather beautiful as these states allow us access to a portion of ourselves the hustle and bustle of modern life steals from us. We think deeper and we feel deeper. Sometimes we’re stuck so far inside ourselves we have no other option than to learn to love ourselves. Not many people have that opportunity.

Disorder (as of today) implies something is wrong, defective, shoddy. In another 100 years, it may mean something different. And when that time comes in 3017, when disorder holds a positive connotation, people’s experiences will still be raw, and real, and it still won’t matter how the term is perceived. Crazy, right?

 

 

Why I Let Go Of Labels

Has a label ever really done anything but sit as ink on a piece of paper?

Another good reason: “Scientists SURPRISED to find no two neurons are genetically a like”. 

Really? That was a surprise to you? Dude. IQ of 35 in these researchers.

It’s funny how research that contradicts the current belief that the same type of treatment for the same type of “psychiatric disorders” makes sense doesn’t ever hold weight against the industry. And it’s kind of funny that the researchers for the pharmaceutical companies with shitty, half-assed studies that literally reveal nothing and yet have more weight than the study above.

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Source: Google Images

I’m kidding, this shit isn’t funny, it’s just sad.

In high school I was obsessed with labels. I wanted one. I wanted one so people would believe me when I said I was having trouble–otherwise, no one seemed to care.

I wasn’t good with people, I couldn’t stand in front of the class without fainting, I was super sensitive (a teacher once told me not to put a pencil tip close to my eye and I started bawling because I felt so degraded and stupid), I couldn’t go to school unless I got up at 4 a.m to prepare for the day. I needed three hours, not for hair and make up or whatever, but because I knew the anxiety would hit. Then I’d meet up with a friend, smoke some weed, head to class, and bullshit my way through the day. I’d smoke again at break, then lunch, then after school.

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Source: Google Images

I found something called social anxiety disorder and resonated with it like I’ve never resonated with something in my life. I thought having that would solve my life. I’d see more therapists, correctly this time, things would be better.

Did that. Didn’t work. I was 14 and started thinking maybe this wasn’t the problem. Something else had to be wrong with me.

GAD? I was always anxious, after all. PTSD? I’d been through some shit. Dissociative disorders? I was blacking out, you know, and I couldn’t really remember my childhood. Avoidant Personality? I did skip classes to avoid the mind-splitting anxiety. Anti-social personality disorder? Well, I did have vicious thoughts and I didn’t really give a fuck. Selective Mutism? I never did grow out of my shyness and I always froze up when people talked to me. Higher on the Autism spectrum? Well, I did love routine, I struggled understanding social customs, I stayed in my own world . . .  Agoraphobia? Well, I never went outside of my room, I was too nervous. Paranoia? People were always talking about me and working against me, they all hated me. Or was that just low self esteem? No, it wasn’t, it couldn’t be something that simple. Bipolar? My moods were fucking whacked. Schizoid personality? I rarely showed real emotion and, again, I didn’t give a fuck. But wait, wouldn’t that contradict the bipolar? Hmm, well I did have very active fantasy worlds, I remembered a few hallucinations as a kid and I was totally paranoid . . . oh no: I was totally schizophrenic. Totally.

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Or, I was all of that, and one fucked up teenager.

I was terrified. I was going to go crazy. I had always been a weird kid, I was always being sent into conferences and therapists and teachers were always worried and I brought alcohol to school in middle school and someone snitched on me and I threatened to kill them and they were scared of me until senior year of high school and I knew a lot of bangers and people brought tazers to school and . . . and . . .

And my terror was justified. Because social anxiety was brought up. PTSD.Autistic traits” (Jesus Christ), Agoraphobia. Depression. GAD. Schizotypal. Prodromal Schizophrenia. Schizo this, schizo that, how many words can you put schizo in front of before it loses its luster?

And now, dissociation.

I gave up labels when I was 16 because they all overlap vaguely and the words never gave me the justification I was seeking. I wasn’t really seeking justification anyway. I was seeking help. Hopefulness and understanding. I didn’t really get any of that.

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Hanratty’s asylum

Dissociation isn’t really a label, but it has been brought up again because of what I’ve noticed in myself. The whole, you know, not remembering anything in my childhood. The whole, you know, blacking out and walking into intersections. The whole, you know, going in and out of these states, these states that were thought for a long while to be a precursor to psychosis, where I’m met with a challenge, a thought, stress, flashbacks, e.t.c and suddenly I’m interacting with Thoth, the Egyptian God, which is who I’ve actually spent this last two weeks with, he gave me a message to decode, or battling the impostor in my classmates who has left her body and entered mine, or I’d quit a job at an amusement park because the bosses are also impostors, planning to get me locked up in prison . . .

And what confused everyone was that you wouldn’t know it if you looked at me. And what confused people in the past was that the voices I did hear weren’t causing me impairment and I didn’t hear them every day. I didn’t see things everyday. Was it just stress? Well, I wouldn’t be eating or showering, but I’d look okay too. I’ve babbled before, but I could be focused too. You could have a general conversation with me; I might seem spacey but you’d just blow it off for tiredness or general strangeness. I’m a good trickster, huh?

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hahahahah kill me

There’s been a general back and forth about all this in the world of past psychological services that I don’t talk about because it’s all bullshit.

And my psychologist asks me why I didn’t tell the hospital last October what was really going on. Well . . . I really don’t want to get smacked on a cot and forced drugs, that’s why.  Had I been truthful, I would have lost control and anger would have replaced rationale. They already offered me drugs three times and I was only there for a little over 36 hours.

And when I’m back out of that fog, which could last a few hours, a few days, a few weeks, a month, two, three, whatever, I find I can’t remember what it was that happened before it all. I won’t be able to remember the thought, the stress, the pain, that pushed me to that point.

It’s a protection method, I know this now. After 21 years of bullshit, I get it. What exactly my brain has protected me from the past . . . well, only my brain knows. It must be in a hell of a lot of pain, and have a hell of a lot of empathy to protect me this viciously.

Does that mean I should be labeled with a dissociative disorder now? After all that in the above paragraph? I don’t think so. Keep that shit away from me. Next thing you know there will be a Schizociative Affective Generalized Attenuated Psychosis Post-Traumatic Bipolar Syndrome type IIX and I’ll be the first one labeled it.

I need to know all I needed to know now. It’s all about discovery and healing at this point.

To Be Or Not To Be “Disabled”. . . That Is The Question.

How do you respond to failure?

How do you respond to not “doing your best”?

I think these are two questions we have to ask ourselves constantly when dealing with our mental health. How do you respond to feeling “unwell”? How do you respond when you feel your “symptoms” or as I like to say, your mental health experiences, start interfering with your daily, hourly, tasks?

As I am only 21, I feel I am striving to improve on this daily. My current response is “curl in a ball and ignore the world”.

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I’m not sure how far that will take me.

What are your healthy and not so healthy ways of dealing with your struggles?

I’m sure you can guess by reading my “This Is Me” portion of my blog, that my diagnoses have always hopped across the spectrum of “mental disorders” as the DSM calls them, and I’ve never been through enough services or in enough crisis situations to warrant a decent one or two. This creates many problems.

This creates many problems because when you are not labeled, you do not get extra services. You don’t get your tests proctored in other rooms. You don’t get social security (you just hop around from job to job every couple of months hoping something will stick, knowing full well you’re not prepared for anything just yet), and no one believes what you say because a doctor hasn’t signed a little piece of paper.

It’s frustrating. Not to make psychosis seem like a walk in the park, because I know it’s not, but Christ sake, if I was running down the street without any clothes and covering myself in mud so the CIA satellites couldn’t track me anymore, or if I went to the ER and said “the FBI put a chip in my head, they’re recording my conversation, you need to surgically remove this right now” or I went into therapy and said “Every time I read a book Satan removes the words from my head and laughs at me, he follows me everywhere”, I would get some attention. I would get a very strong, and adamant label. Life would be very confusing and it would be hell to be stuck bouncing in and out of that. But I would have a label. 

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The small pile of “magical beliefs” or whatever the hell part of my personality that got me the “possibly, maybe, who-knows” “semi-partial, not really official” diagnosis of Schizotypal PD is not enough to count for anything. They probably messed up on that too: I’m more paranoid about demons following me and people conspiring against me than I am “magical”. Or is that magical too?

Whatever.

And this is where I’ve ended up: arguing back and forth with people over characteristics of myself.

Today I wanted to go to the Accessibility Support Center at my college to hopefully register with them, meet with a DSS (disabled students services) coordinator and be able to get accomodations like tutors and my tests proctored in a different, sound proof room with no people so I could concentrate for once.

Unfortunately, two things stopped me from getting out of my car.

  1. I can’t go places by myself. I drove all the way to campus, stared at the sign and drove off. I’ve never been able to shop for myself or go anywhere by myself. There is one market I can withstand about fifteen minutes from my house by car because it is large and it’s rarely ever packed, at least not during the hours I go. I don’t get my hair cut. I don’t shop for clothes, shoes, or anything I can’t get at that one market. I don’t go into the financial aid office the enrollment office or any office on campus without a friend with me. I can’t even print a piece of paper without someone with me. How the fuck am I going to walk into a place, say hey, I have mental problems, I’m fucking crazy, let me take my tests in a sound proof room please? 
  2. I don’t have a label. I’m walking into a place where quadriplegics, people with learning disabilities, Down Syndrome, severe Autism, e.t.c all go to say “hey, I need this help” and I’m sitting there looking normal, acting normal, without papers or documentation asking for something the person across the counter is going to assume I don’t need. This part is my anxiety of being judged.

You ever have anxiety of being judged as not having a mental struggle? That’s a new one. That’s when you know you’re fucked up. 

dependentFrom where I stand, I am extremely dependent. People go to the store for me. They do laundry for me most of the time (it’s hard for me because the laundry room for the apartment complex is very loud, the washing machines are loud, and if a cricket breaks its leg on the window sill the crack echos off all four walls. It’s just sensory overloading. Not to mention running into other people in there. That’s my nightmare.), they make appointments for me, phone calls for me, e.t.c. Sometimes the depression fatigues me so I can barely put something in the microwave.

You might be thinking what any social security officer or doctor might think: well, you have a job. You went to the interview on your own. You went to the office and did the paperwork on your own. You’ve done your laundry before. You drive.

And I have done all those things. But nothing is ever maintained. Every time I think I’m doing well, I backslide and everything overwhelms my mind. I only work three times a week and I’m already feeling like I can’t handle it. I’m ready to quit again.

I know people say “you can do it, don’t give up!”

Listen. You can’t see the floor on my room. There are crickets crawling around on my computer desk as we speak and I have no idea where they came from. It’s a wonder I haven’t made more attempts on my life with the amount of time I spend thinking about it. My cumulative G.P.A has fallen from a 4.0 to a 3.5, that literally makes me cringe to write. I can’t sleep at night because my heart rate decides to pull a NASCAR and race, I wake up thinking “well, shit” and go to sleep thinking “well, shit”, and today, realizing that I can’t do a simple task to make things easier for me, something for myself, at college has only beaten down my morale once again.

I have to go into work in about twenty minutes. If I make it through this week without banging my head against the wall until I’m unconscious or slitting my wrists vertically, it will be a miracle.

That’s not a joke, I”m a self-harmer.

People need to stop making jokes like that. “Ha, ha, Imma slit my wrist”. How is that funny. I don’t get it.

Anyway.

Mental Illness . . . err, sickness . . . err, Disorders.

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An interesting conversation on some forums came up yesterday about those of us who struggle mentally possibly making ourselves ill. They had the support of people until they questioned:

Now the doctor should say “try to imagine that your not mentally ill, don’t tell yourself that it’s the case, and go about your daily activities as if you aren’t ill.”, would that get many people over the depression? Physical problems are obvious, but with mental illness it’s always subjective, one may answer that I have these traits, but those could be grey areas.

After using their logic to defend their belief that if you took a lot of tests everyone would have some kind of disorder, so they wouldn’t be disorders they would be normal, they came up with the above question.

I think it’s why the person who responded to them was not on their side. Their response was:

No, it wouldn’t. Depression is epic to deal with. If a person responded to that kind of “treatment.” Then they probably didn’t have depression in the first place. And yes, there are grey areas. Where something could be depression or another issue. But that’s the same with physical illnesses. There’s often not a firm single diagnosis. The doctor will treat the most likely cause. If the treatment doesn’t fix it, they try the next most likely. And so on. Any physical illness forum will have “horror” stories. About doctors who refused to believe the actual diagnosis. And tried all the wrong treatments first. That doesn’t mean that people don’t have a genuine issue. Or that whatever it is is something they should “just get on with.”

I gave them both the benefit of the doubt.

Let’s discuss it anyway, shall we? Because one of the reasons I started this blog was to talk about stigma and self-stigma and how we as the people being stigmatized can address it in a productive way. Although that concept has gotten a little lost in my aggressive, generally satirical rants. 

I’m sure we can all agree here that telling someone “you don’t have depression” will not solve their depression.

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However, can we all agree that when we were first diagnosed, or when we’re labeled by a professional, you almost immediately get that sense of something being wrong with you? Of being clinically different than others? Of having a “chemical imbalance”?

Can we all agree that so many mental disorders listed in the DSM-V have overlapping features, and can we please agree that many of them have symptoms that could easily be misdiagnosed by a professional or exaggerated by a patient caught up in themselves after searching on the internet?

This is what the original poster mentioned about labels:

[Labeling] people with a disorder is a more polite way of saying “your a pussy”, “or your lazy”, “or pull your head out of your ass”, maybe they can’t do that, but until they test whether it is an illness and not the latter, then you can’t know.

Because they defined everyone as having some portion of mental disorder, and therefore rendering mental disorders normal behavior, they can come to this conclusion, it follows their logic.

A response to that line of text was that labels are a way for people to “Deal with a collection of symptoms” in which a method is suggested to resolve or manage said collection of symptoms.

I agree with neither of them. I don’t think a label is a way to deal with a collection of symptoms, nor do I think the doctor is calling me a pussy whether or not he’s actually thinking that, I think a label is a way to list a collection of symptoms for clinical purposes and nothing more. And yet, over the years, we’ve placed stereotypes on those symptoms, labeling them “abnormal” and “weird” or “freaky”.

Then we want to start changing the name of the label as if that would change the way people see the symptoms. Because the label is the problem here, right?

Wrong.

Stigma isn’t just people calling us lazy and unorganized and this and that. Stigma is us calling ourselves that and honestly, as an advocate for all of us, I’ve always pushed more for a transformation of how we see ourselves, rather than a transformation of how other people see us.

We can always change how we think. We can’t change how they think That’s their job. 

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That doesn’t mean we stop educating the public, it just means we focus the majority of our energy on ourselves, on how we feel about ourselves, on realizing that we’re not defective, genetically mutated, chemically imbalanced, or “Abnormal”, no matter what kind of professional documents say so.

As much as I love psychiatry and psychology, it is not in any way, shape, or form an exact science. We need to stop treating it as such.

That being said, I believe that poster had an underlying point the person responding didn’t catch: seeing ourselves as ill is a problem. Our illness isn’t a problem, obsessing over it as an “illness”, is.

depression-and-bipolar-disorderI have depression. And anxiety. It’s been severe, more severe than I let people on about. But even as a child, even when I knew there was something about me that didn’t quite match with the other children, there was only a brief period in time (a few months maybe) where I thought I was defective.

That doesn’t stop me from being depressed. However, it does stop me from worsening my depression, my anxiety, my obsessions, on my own. It stops me from worrying that my ideas of reality and death, the way I relate seeing a sign on the road to my destiny or seeing someone flash their lights as a message to me, or reading a really inspirational quote and feeling it was meant for me because I’m here for a special reason, my derealization and such, are the beginnings of something “psychotic”.

I think people in general get worried when they take a test online that tells them they’re suffering from traits of a disorder, a mental health problem, an illness.

So I took the liberty of taking a few personality tests, things I feel people go online for the majority of the time. 

Paranoid:

High (Not surprising)

more info | forum
Schizoid:

Moderate (Also not surprising)

more info | forum
Schizotypal:

High (still not surprised)

more info | forum
Antisocial:

Moderate (fucking hilarious if you know what Antisocial means)

more info | forum
Borderline:

Very High (hysterical)

more info | forum
Histrionic:

Low (honestly truthful)

more info | forum
Narcissistic:

High (fuck you)

more info | forum
Avoidant:

High (Not as ‘high’ as you think)

more info | forum
Dependent:

Very High (LOL)

more info | forum
Obsessive-Compulsive:

Very High (Yep. Totally.)

Paranoid |||||||||||| 41% 50%
Schizoid |||||||||||||| 53% 40%
Schizotypal |||||||||||| 45% 56%
Antisocial |||||||||||| 45% 46%
Borderline |||||||||| 36% 45%
Histrionic |||||| 21% 52%
Narcissistic |||||| 30% 40%
Avoidant |||||||||||| 45% 48%
Dependent |||||||||| 40% 44%
Obsessive-Compulsive |||||||||||| 44% 45%

I feel these are pretty common tests people take on the internet, I see it all the time, people self-diagnosing based on traits generalized from an automated system. And when someone sees: “Jeez, I scored 53% on Schizoid, that’s 13 percentage points above the average score!”, they google the term, find the symptoms, and two things happen:

  1. They feel they’ve finally got answers
  2. Subconsciously, they embody those criteria, they embody those symptoms. They may have legitimate struggles, but making themselves (by no real regard of their own) fit a label, they’ve essentially made themselves “sicker”.

I took a mental health assessment. Scores out of 100, animated with the following gifs of my exact reactions:

Substance Abuse: 0

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MDD: 92

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Manic Episodes: 43 (keep in mind, I answered ‘sometimes’ to the ONE question that spoke about “feeling elated” and I answered never on the ONE  question about impulsive behaviors, spending, gambling, sexual encounters.)

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Bipolar Disorder: 99

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GAD: 100

Panic Disorder: 58

Panic attacks: 53

I took several more. Psych Central thinks I have Borderline Personality Disorder and so does “Borderline Personality Disorder Demystified”. Healthyplace also thinks I have BPD, but they also think I have schizophrenia so go figure. Psych Central disagrees and says I do not have schizophrenia.

What do I gather from all of this?

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Because what people don’t understand about these things are how bullshit the questions are. If someone truly has magical thinking, do you think they’re going to know what that entails? They’ll most likely mark “never”. Most of the questions are generalized, provide no concrete examples, and would be better at rating the consistency level of a healthy dog’s bowel movement than anything about my personality or mental health.

My advice?

Use personality tests for fun. Don’t even use them to “see if you have traits” of a disorder. It’s just not accurate enough for that.

If you’re struggling with your mental health, avoid the internet, it bullies you into believing it. If you’re struggling with your mental health, see a few professionals and get some different opinions.

Don’t take their diagnosis as a life sentence. Don’t take what they say as words from a religious text. You really are as sick as you think you are.

You could struggle with the worst disorder known to man, and as long as you don’t limit yourself, no one else can limit you.

I’m not saying what people experience on a daily basis is a lie. What I’m saying is that it exists, but not in the terms the medical business puts it in. It exists, it’s manageable, and the better we feel about who we are, the easier it is to live with ourselves.

I figure that’s pretty solid common sense.

I’m going to sleep. It’s 5:18 a.m

Masks After Halloween

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Last night I could have used someone to talk to.

I would have wanted someone to discuss something relevant with or maybe dive into a world of fantasy with. No small talk. No “how was your day”.

My day was the same as all my other days. How do I even answer that? It’s a weird question to me.

One thing about having anxiety is that there are nights where your heart flutters in your chest and your brain throbs like an infected silicon fluid sack stuffed in the already over-sized breast of a celebrity suffering body dysmorphic disorder. If you’re like me, to compensate for all the pent up energy, you might constantly move your limbs or twiddle your thumbs or watch a video on your computer while simultaneously watching a video on your phone, anything to block out the barking of your heart and the screeching of your mind.

I have a bad tendency to google search random diseases and tricking myself into thinking I have them. It’s an extremely bad habit.

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Anything to do with my heart gets me extra paranoid. One night I woke up in the middle of a panic attack at my boyfriend’s house and started freaking out. Somehow I got onto google and in the very vulnerable state of panic, convinced myself I had heart disease.

Just . . .

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The room started spinning and I woke him up and asked if he could get me water. He didn’t understand why until I was pacing across the floor, shaking, completely oblivious to everything around me.

When I sleep at other people’s houses, something out of my routine, my anxiety is at an all-time high. This was a little earlier in our relationship. I don’t have panic attacks at his house anymore, but I do have trouble sleeping sometimes. I’ll usually wake up about fifty times in the night and each time jump in my skin because I’d forgotten where I was.

The only way to quell my anxieties is to have a distraction. People are good distractions. Then I can focus on trying to figure out why they’re talking to me about their day instead of

Oh fuck oh Fuck a spider. FUCK. I knew it. I felt it under my skin, that’s why I looked up. It just crawled up the fucking wall behind my world poster. Why the fuck do they like it there? FUCK. Hold on a minute. Let me kill this sneaky, black motherfucker.

*INTERMISSION*

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Okay, it’s dead.

Anyway, I can focus on trying to figure out why people are telling me about their trip to the supermarket. I like talking about abstract concepts because people’s opinions fascinate me. They might say something I’ve never thought of and therefore expand my theories. That’s invaluable to me.

But I honestly don’t give two shits if you couldn’t find the soda you wanted and had to settle for Ginger Ale. How do you respond to stuff like that?

I compensate with humor. If you catch me in a group of people who I know well where small talk ensues, I’m not asking questions or participating, I’m cracking jokes about whatever they’re discussing just so I can be part of it. I have no other way of communicating. So I make due with what I’ve developed over the years.

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I learned that from my father. He’s very outgoing and good with people, but he’s also got a lot of humor and knows when to insert it in a proper conversation. I never understood the conversation part, so I picked up on how to make people laugh. It’s better than making them wary of my intelligence.

No one seems to mind–if they do, no one’s told me outright. It’s so ingrained within my personality that my comedic responses are 100% reflexive. Sometimes I wont even know what the conversation context is about.

Last night in the midst of all the swirling negativity I watched prank videos and a South African comedian by the name of Trevor Noah. Finally, a comedian who spoke on a topic I understood very thoroughly: Being mixed race and the propensity to identify as one race over the other.

Although I’ve never traveled outside of the U.S, I understand that gut feeling of wanting to “be black”. I also understand how annoying it is to be called “half” of a race.

I used to identify as “half black, half white” until I learned about all the races in my ancestry. I stick to “mixed” now. Other people say half black half white and I don’t correct them because I’ve corrected enough people to learn they get offended. THEY get offended.

You can’t be “half” a race. Genes don’t work like that. Sure you get half from your mother, half from your father, however I could have 20% of genes expressed from my mother, and 80% expressed from my father. I could have some genes that mutated together–that could be a reason for why I have straight-curly hair (straight at the top, curly towards the bottom, and just a ball of fuzz if I don’t put anything in it).

oreocookieoriginalI was called “Oreo” a lot.

 

If you know someone who is mixed race, please refrain from calling them “half” of something unless they are alright with calling themselves that. You wouldn’t like it if you were, say, Mexican, and I saw you sagging pants and wearing “bling” and I immediately assumed you were trying to “be black”, so I said “you’re not Mexican, you’re a wannabe”.

They’d run after me while spitting Spanish at a million miles an hour.

I don’t run after people spitting Ebonics at a million miles an hour, but at least I respect how a person identifies themselves.

We’re a culture buried beneath proper labels and identities. It’s probably why we’re so uncooperative when it comes to understanding people who are Transgender. People who identify as someone we don’t outwardly see, as if our physical self is all we are. For fuck’s sake, there are cultures that identify with five or more genders. And we’re the civilized society? We need to stop kidding ourselves.

If people understood just how quirky the modern, deep physics of the universe is, they’d think twice about making judgments on something or someone based on a physical characteristic.

I understand the gut feeling of wanting to “be normal”, too. It’s ingrainednewscientist-30412015oct03 in us from the moment we’re born: Pink for girls, blue for boys remember? But I detest the word “normal” and moderately detest the word “Average”. But at least average indicates some statistical value. Normal is just a label created by disillusionment, misunderstanding, and a lack of empathy. Why would I ever want to call myself an illusion?

It’s why I’ve spent the majority of my life working so hard on my mask. It would be something equivalent to a sin to let someone in the physical world catch sight of how absolutely stumped I am by their world. If people saw just how confused I was in conversation–if I didn’t have my humorous compensation technique–I’d be thrown off the plank on the bow of the boat in a matter of seconds. If people listened to my obsessive, intrusive thoughts they’d think I had homicidal fantasies.

Just FYI, I have a lot of intrusive thoughts about death; if I pass a cross walk where someone was standing, I get anxious over imagining my car swerving out of control and running them over. Then I imagine the police and prison and court and I space out for a few good minutes lost in that fantasy. I don’t want to kill people, it just comes as a freaky accident in my mind.

If people saw how much emotional pain I was in when they spoke to me hoping for a good conversation or if they saw how much ATP my body burned just so I could sift through a million responses and choose one I hoped made sense, maybe they wouldn’t talk to me.

If people knew anything about respect, they wouldn’t look at me any differently when I say I prefer to be indoors alone than outdoors making a fool of myself.

transparent_beth_inhouseMy mask is my life. Without it I’d essentially transform into a floor mat. I made it through school as the quiet girl who never speaks over the girl who says weird shit and is probably “retarded”, by choice.

Everyone has some kind of mask for some reason in this world. Because being yourself is never enough.

We’re doing it to ourselves. I think that’s the damnedest thing.

 

Greater Than A Label And Smarter Than One Too

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I received messages from people yesterday who were shocked that I wasn’t celebrating New Years, that I didn’t go to a party or celebrate 12:00am by screaming, hugging people, and saying Happy New Year to everyone I came across.

I responded with shock at their shock. This was one of the best New Years Eve’s I’ve had in a long while. And I spent the majority of it alone. 

 

2015 was not a satisfying year. Probably because I can’t remember half of it.

I forget a lot, remember?

I don’t know what 2016 will be like. Prediction is not a science. Science isn’t even good at being science half the time, so if prediction was science it would be one and a half times worse than science originally was. Like my bullshit numbers there? It’s okay, just breathe, your brain will recover from my awesomeness in a moment.

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Recovered? Good.

2015 unearthed a lot of issues in America we’ve left swept under the rug. Racism is the big one. Healthcare is another. Mental healthcare and mental health is right up there with them. All those shooters, all the stigma, all the panic, all the politicians sticking their little rat noses into business that isn’t theirs to control, issues they don’t even understand. The day a neuroscientist runs for presidency without the slightest bit of knowledge of politics is the day we need to rethink our healthcare system in this country. The day money dictates the kind of mental health treatment you get is the day we need to rethink our entire lives as human beings.

Oh, what’s that? Hold on, I’m getting some word from my producers right now. We . . . we have all that already? Hmm. Well . . . shit. 

Then we need to rethink the entirety of our lives.

That’s a lot to process and it’ll never happen, so let’s just rethink the healthcare system for starters.

 

If 2015 unearthed all this, 2016 better come along and flip it to the top of the soil before it gets buried again.

I believe one of the major issues we’re having in this country is lack of involvement.

aaeaaqaaaaaaaauhaaaajgy4mte4ntizlwjkmtutndk2oc04mzbmlwzknmqynjlizwyzmgI think that’s one of the major reasons people like Alex Gorsky a.k.a “America’s most admired Law Breaker” got awarded that “man of integrity” bullshit in September. You all remember him right? Responsible for the marketing scheme of Risperdal? The one who snuck through FDA loopholes to get Risperdal marketed to children and elders? The C.E.O of Johnson and Johnson? The one who got caught and had to pay back 2 billion dollars as “punishment”? The one whose team wanted to put lollipops and candy in “trial” packages of Risperdal for kids? The one I had so much fun talking shit about here and the one who is described in a little more proper detail by The New York Times here?

There’s a prime example of the main issue not being the drug, but a corporation embracing their typical sociopathic selves. 

I could never write articles on people like that for big time news websites. How are those writers able to keep their composure? I’d have to slander some names and point out some stupidity with harsh sarcasm. That’s how my brain operates.

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People learn from the emotions they feel, from their reactions. If I get a disgusted feeling or a laugh or some anger out of someone, they’re more likely to remember the subject than if I just rambled off some facts like a school girl know it all.

People like Gorsky get away with things because citizens like us are misinformed and uneducated.

It’s why there are published articles about how published research findings are often false. Don’t believe me? Read it here.

It’s why the figure of speech known as “chemical imbalance” has been so widely accepted as a proper way to describe a mental disorder. Hey, I didn’t come up with that on my own, that’s from Harvard Med.

I also agree that “much of the general public seems to have accepted the chemical imbalance hypothesis uncritically”.

trust-me-doc It’s all accepted because people often don’t take charge of their own recovery. Obviously some need more help than others and obviously some respond to certain kinds of treatment better than others–there’s never a black and white, the entire world is a grey area. Everyone is different.

That’s not an excuse to be completely clueless. 

If you’re going to do anything in 2016, get involved. Don’t just be part of your own mental health recovery, advocate for others as well, and that means becoming active in your recovery. That means learning a little more about psychology and the psychological system and not letting those rude doctors we’ve all come across at some point drop bombs in your lap like you’re some disordered freak.

Reevaluate what an “illness” is to you. Reevaluate what a “disorder” or “brain disease” is to you. I know quite a bit about depression from experience and from schooling knowledge and I’ll tell you one fucking thing it isn’t: disease. So if people could kindly stop saying that, it would really, really drop my blood pressure a few points.

stop-being-ashamedStigma is a good way of keeping us ashamed of ourselves. You probably don’t feel comfortable blurting a diagnosis in your work place or to certain friends or maybe even to family members. But remember, your diagnosis is only as harmful as you let it be. A word is a word. It’s up to others to see you differently because of it. And if they do . . . Will. That. Kill. You? Be logical here. Is it Ebola? 

When we cower in the shadows behind what other people tell us we are, when we let ourselves be drowned out by several different labels–talking about the people who say “yeah, I’ve got ADHD, depression, Bipolar 2, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Social Anxiety Disorder, Agoraphobia, Borderline Personality, Narcissistic tendencies, and Schizoid tendencies”–our recovery will be inexplicably harder.

I didn’t make that diagnosis up by the way, I’ve talked with people who gave me that exact line up. It confused me greatly.

You must have one interesting psychologist or psychiatrist to give you that many diagnoses. Or many.

Or your self-diagnosing.

I’m a psych student with a copy of the DSM-V and a lot of criterion memorized. By that account, I’m more qualified than the average citizen to diagnose myself. But I don’t.

4c128dd9169c5db3c7dcf90905137ae4Feeding the thoughts of being “sick” and “ill” and having something “Wrong” with you because you struggle with your mental health is called “self-stigmatizing”. Believe it or not, that contributes to public stigmatizing too–you’re acting exactly how they expect you to.

Meanwhile, Gorsky is up in his Country Club Prison suite rolling in the rest of his billions of dollars and jacking it to pictures of kids with Risperdal lollipops in their hands and uncontrollable drool dripping from their mouths.

Why do I focus on the negative things?

Why not? Why should I focus on the positive things?

Those things are already positive, they don’t need to be changed or rearranged; they’re good how they are.

If your right leg is broken, you want me to examine your left leg? Want me to put a cast on it and send you out the door?

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Focusing on the positive things in your life to make you hopeful? Good.

Focusing on the positive things in the industry to distract you from the major areas that are cracked and going to hell? Bad.

If you’re struggling with your mental health, these are things you need to know about it because you’re involved in it.

We have the power to walk into a doctor’s office and demand the treatment we want.

We have the right to be educated.

We have the right to be seen in better light.

We have the right to never be ashamed to mention “oh yeah, I suffer from depression” or anxiety, or anorexia, or bipolar, or schizophrenia, or “covert narcissistic tendencies with a hint of borderline” if you really want to fucking get that technical. 

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We have the right to be informed mental disorders are much more complicated than a “chemical imbalance”.

We have the right to be informed mental disorders are much more complicated than merely “psychological factors”.

We have the right to be informed on other treatment options with as much emphasis as is given to medication treatment options.

We are not merely test subjects. We’re also human. Be truthful to us. Say, “this drug works on serotonin and a few studies involving about twenty people, some of whom dropped out because of side effects, showed significant improvement”.

We have the right to depend on medication if we need to without being seen in a negative light.

We have the right to stand up for ourselves.

We’re not sick or abnormal or ill or disordered or diseased or incapable of anything. We’re not a label or a diagnostic criteria. We struggle and we survive just like every person, plant, or organism does on this planet.

We’re unique, we’re individual, but we’re not so different from everyone else.

This year make strides in your own life to improve your mental health and the world’s mental health. Misconceptions will be the death of us all.