an unfit member of society

I am officially disabled. At least, according to the Ontario government, I am – as of last week. Broken, they say.

Humbug, says I.

“You’re the least disabled disabled person I know,” Frantic F told me cheerfully on Sunday, over cake. Just after I may have failed my exam.

I don’t feel disabled. I did feel ill for quite a while, but a month or two of meds, a whole lot of food, and whole days full of rest have given me back a feeling of oneness with my body; all together they have grounded me to some kind of stability within, rather than the free-floating without-ness I felt in hospital; and this has faded the impression that I have been haunting my own life since being back home. (The last being the most terrible of the terrible feelings: here I am, visiting a nightmare that most appallingly seems to belong to me. I am mired in myself. I wake to find it real. And I’m still crazy; I’m still sick.)

But better. I am feeling much better – just still a little imbalanced.

Now, when I say “a little imbalanced”, I’m exaggerating to favour the encouraging. Part of the personal education I’ve been involved in these past nine months or so has been delving into the fact that the tides of personal capability and emotional range I’ve been experiencing my whole adult life are not necessarily common to the rest of the human population. What I have taken as simple fact, just the way things are, that these weaknesses or quirks of character have had to be ridden out like a wave as each year presses on, this assumption has become evidently suspect. Suspect as it is not necessarily necessary. You don’t have to be this way, I have been told. There is, in fact, another option: to not be bereft of standards and continuity, to be, perhaps, whole and balanced instead of erratic and unpredictable. What a wonderful idea. What a clever gift.

unfitThe only problem is that this different way of being remains theoretical. At present, still just out of reach. Oh, sure, changes have been made, I’m doing better – I’m managing – but I’m still traveling that slippery bar between extremes; and I still wonder what it might be like to have true stillness at my heart, not to feel compelled or empty in turns.

One of the issues that presented itself, back when I started to try and unpick this mess in my brain last summer, was the drug abuse. Heavy drinking, problem drinking, can lead to a person developing symptoms of mental illness – or amplify those already there to grander proportions. The problem was the question: how much of my pathology was rooted in deliberate mind-alteration, and how much deliberate mind-alteration was rooted in my pathology? How much, indeed? I had been drinking quite a lot, for a substantial amount of time. (“How much is ‘a lot’?” asked (& apprentice). “A LOT,” I answered.) In fact, drinking was woven quite inexorably into the fabric of my day-to-day life – socializing most especially. After the events of last June, the contained cyclone of mind-bending confusion, I was frightened enough to make a change. So I stopped. Stopped drinking. Stopped socializing. Just stopped.

I stood up and said to the bobble-headed world of psychological health-care, what’s next? I quit drinking! What’s wrong with me?

And the heads danced on shoulders, shrugging side to side as I was answered: it’s hard to determine what about your behaviour was induced and what was innate. You were drunk with awful frequency for a very long time. You could be severe or mild, occasional or constant. Time will have to tell.

Balls, said I.

And I haven’t even been able to pour a glass of wine to help the interval pass.

Finally arrived, three-quarters of the distance towards the year mark, where this whole mess started – and several crises later – I met with New Psychiatrist and covered the content of these past number of months. He said,

“We really need to get this under control, because you’re rapid cycling, and the last thing we want is for you to lock into a progressive manic state. Those are much harder to treat.”

I should say. I could also have told them that from the beginning; but it’s a murky lens, psychiatry, reliant so hard on the subjective. It’s necessarily cautious, and there’s a better documented history to back me up, now. I’m down on paper. I am wrapped up in observation and history. The lens’ scrutiny prevails. The jumbled mess is laid out.

I don’t know if it makes much of a difference. The solution is still medical – pharmaceutical. I’m just searching for the right drug, not the perfect system of magical thinking. What we have is a condition, not a consciousness.

Even though how I think and how I act, as I have up to this moment, makes me who I am; and the idea of changing it questions what is intrinsic to a person, and what is simply window dressing.

I do know that I’d like navigating the day-to-day to be easier. So bring on the pills.

As for being disabled, I am slightly indifferent to it, besides the fact that it gives me the money to cover my rent. It’s a mediocre boon, being designated unwell enough to be granted government assistance. Working does not help the road to recovery, to be sure; the time to heal is necessary.  (I’m also of the mind that working, in a general sense, is seldom even good for the soul, Protestantism be damned.) It’s just a shame that you have to be life-threateningly ill to be approved for it. I’m not sure the crazy by itself would have been enough.

The irony, of course, is that the intervention comes now. One quarter of a year later, I feel ready to rejoin the world, and the province tells me that I should feel free to stay home and not worry so much.




~ by A Mundi on March 20, 2009.

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