Something that surely many people need to hear
It was last year, I believe, when my wonderful therapist said, “I don’t think you’re bat-shit crazy, Carlene! You’re just you.” She said this because over the three-plus years I have been visiting with her, I’ve told her the long story of “what is wrong with me” and detailed the various traumas I have been though, and why I believe I am, ummm, a wee bit nutty.
(Some of my favorite people have said, when I tell them I’m
“crazy”, that I’m the ‘good’ crazy, or the ‘fun’ crazy. Which is also nice of them to say that, after having heard not-so-nice things for some many years).
Being the type of therapist she is, she often points out my good qualities as she sees them and reminds me if needed of what they are at subsequent sessions. Her encouraging, uplifting words are like a large glass of iced tea (or whatever beverage) to a soul thirsty for positive affirmation.
I am positively convinced that many other people out there need to hear words like these … not just now “in these uncertain times” but ALWAYS.
It is a sad fact that some people rarely, if ever, receive encouragement, and many are knocked down when they try to “build themselves up.” Those of us “older” people may recall being told back in the day things like “Don’t toot your own horn,” or “Don’t pat yourself on the back too hard, you might break your arm” (both of which I heard regularly). Because I have a history of being willful, stubborn, and prone to making less-than-brilliant choices, it was said of me, “If there’s an easy way to do something and a hard way, she ALWAYS picks the hard way.”
I truly hope no child ever has to hear these phrases now in these modern, slightly more enlightened times.
There are so many other people in the world struggling with various mental health challenges. These people would really love to hear positive, helpful words, and to receive kindness from not only their friends and loved ones but also from strangers. I like to compliment people, or just chat friendly-like with random people, thinking that maybe I am making their day by doing so. Maybe not, but I like to think so. If I see a child who clearly needs attention, I might give her/him some, if appropriate. I believe I do this because I remember all too clearly not getting the “right” attention as a youngster, and I hate to see kids being ignored. Unfortunately this happens often.
There s a popular Facebook meme that says something like this: Some people you know seem so happy and encouraging on the outside, so sunny in spite of the storms they’ve been through. These people go out of their way to make others feel better because they know how it feels to be beaten down and do not wish for others to feel that way (no, this isn’t the exact wording, rather it’s my translation of the meme). I’m sure many of can relate, mental health issues or not. I’ve always rooted for the “underdog” because I know what its like to be in their shoes.
More than once when I’ve told my therapist one of my stories (such as an adventure I had or some fun thing I did with my son, or my grand-nieces, or a random child-calming thing I did in the Target store), she has said, “Everyone should have a Carlene in their life.” By this, she meant someone upbeat, positive, fun, and a bit quirky/off the wall, as I fancy myself to be.
Then there are those who need/deserve a therapist like mine. Unfortunately not everyone has the means to go to a professional. This is sad but a fact of life here in the U.S. where medical care is sometimes prohibitively costly.
I have always thought of myself as “weird .. in a good way” though I’ve often felt that people around me thought I was weird but not a good weird. For many years that bothered me quite a bit, and eventually led me to find out just exactly what was “wrong” with me and why I was “weird/different” than many of my peers. Then I happily stumbled into the mental health clinic where my awesome therapist practices and found out I have a number of issues … but not one of them is labeled “bat-shit crazy”.
My journey to uncover my mental health conditions has been one covering a few decades. I’ve seen several therapists over the years, some of whom bored me, others I didn’t “connect” with and still others didn’t seem to be helping in any constructive way. As I wrote in a previous article earlier this year, I’ve long known I was different; I was “the one on the outside looking in at everyone else,” and I was labeled all types of unkind things over the years … “space case,” for one, which I suppose was because I often “tuned out” most likely because I was bored, such as in school.
In my 20s I realized I was depressed (and no doubt it would take a real tough person to NOT be depressed, given my childhood experience of bullying and lack of appropriate positive attention), often suicidal and thought about it fairly regularly. I considered drug overdoses or a car “accident” which might have involved driving over the cliff into the Mississippi River. As I recall this I’m profoundly grateful that something held me back, mostly because at the age of 29 I had the biggest surprise of my life — my son, who is now a well-adjusted, thoughtful, kind, and quirky 25-year-old man.
One of the many benefits of having birthed my only offspring was that when he came along, I dedicated myself to a healthy lifestyle. In fact, over the years he literally has been a lifesaver for me, the biggest reason I keep keeping on. His being inspired me to have good things to eat, to get adequate exercise, and so on, that my late mother had preached for, like, ever at us, her three daughters.
(My son continues to this day — even though he has “flown the nest” — to ask about my dietary/exercise habits, as well as inquire into my mental health. He says its payback, that he has my back and is my encourager because I’ve always been his greatest cheerleader. Awwww!!! Everyone should have a kid like him.)
After getting divorced at 36 I decided that perhaps instead of focusing on what was “wrong” with me, I would ferret out those aspects of me which are good ones and build on that.
I didn’t know yet at that time that I had anxiety, though I know as I look back that I certainly I felt it all the time, with the racing mind and all. I just kind of was my own “motivational mindset mentor” and read all kinds of psychology books and articles and continued trying to “accentuate the positive” (as they say in an old Disney movie).
In the months after my therapist made that funny and uplifting pronouncement in early 2019, I took a number of tests to determine exact diagnoses for my mental health challenges. I knew I wrestled with depression (which is aided by an awesome anti-depressant) and anxiety. When I was previously employed in a group home and had to take test on mental health disorders, I became convinced I have a personality disorder. Maybe, maybe not, though I wasn’t tested for that, for whatever reason.
The verdict I received this year, pre-pandemic, was Generalized Anxiety Disorder, which I knew all too painfully well I have, and Attention Deficit Disorder, which I’ve suspected for about five years. Although I may sound odd to some when I say I was delighted to learn I have ADD, it’s true because it explains a LOT of situations and actions in my life, and some of my “weird” habits as well.
I do take meds for depression and (when needed) also for the anxiety. For the ADD I opted to not take meds because of something my regular medical provider (also a woman) said to me one day: “Carlene, when you look at what you’ve achieved and how far you’ve gotten in life, do you really want to go there?” I would just handle my ADD-related behaviors pretty much as I always have (for example, I try to “dial down” my sometimes overly-active mouth when in public, and other coping behaviors).
Besides, my “weirdness” — which I think others perceive of me because of my ”different” ways of acting/dressing/talking is part of my cool-ness (at least in my mind). Now in my advancing years, I am reveling in “being different” rather than being ashamed of it. I am pretty sure some of my neighbors think I’m “weird …in a bad way” (especially when I put up the “Biden/Harris” sign in my living room window, which sets me apart from my neighbors who are Trump supporters) but I pay no mind. I’ll readily admit to be the “crazy cat lady on the west side of (my town).” One guy I know asked me “are you sure you’re not just crazy?” and I said “yup!!!”
Of course now that I knew I have this, that and the other thing, I set out to read whatever I can on these subjects. There are NUMEROUS articles I’ve read here on Medium that have been very informative and eye-opening; sometimes I can spend hours reading them, until I make myself get up and do something else. I practice self-help (in the form of mind-quieting/calming metosds for the anxiety, and physical exercises for body and mind health) along with getting professional help — something I wish everyone who needs it could get.
To those of you who read this, if my story rings a bell with you and you believe you have mental health issues — or someone/some people you care about have them — please be kind and loving to yourself and seek help, if you can. Also urge your friends/loved ones who may have issues to do the same. You, or they, might think you’re “bat-shit crazy” but the odds are probably pretty good that you are not!! Good luck to all on their quest to better mental health!