I’m Not an Asshole. I have an illness: Part 4

Today I thought I would talk more about my illness and what makes it so insidious. Yesterday, I spoke to my sister on the phone. She is a psychiatric social worker with about 40 years of experience working at a mental hospital. She works directly with patients.

She said that she has never seen a patient who had rage as a symptom of their mental illness. She told me that if I arrived at her hospital and she didn’t know my story, she would have thought that I was an asshole. What hope do I have of hospital staff understanding me? 

I am so lucky to have had the one experience in a hospital where they understood (Part 2). Perhaps, it was because I came into the hospital with the worst rage I have ever experienced. Perhaps this made it abundantly clear that extreme rage was my illness.

Should I work myself into a lather before going into the hospital, just so they get it? Why should this be necessary? Why can’t psychiatric care givers give me the benefit of the doubt? If I go back to Salem Hospital, will they remember that my rage is a symptom of my illness? Why should it matter? Since they are a mental hospital, If a patient is agitated, isn’t it a good chance that it is due to illness?

Add to this that I can’t tell the difference in being healthy (euthymic) and being euphoric. With a euphoric hypomania, I have a good time, but if I am not careful, I am the only one having a good time. What I mean is that I can be so wound up that I act like the obnoxious guy at the party that everyone hopes will leave.

However, I often have subtler euphorias where I have rapport with those around me. They are often just as convinced as I am that I have somehow turned a corner and I getting healthy. Then that night at home, I find out the truth. Because I am too wired to sleep in spite of taking enough sleep meds to sedate a brontosaurus, I know it was euphoria. The depression/irritability cycle begins again the next morning.

I do have periods of mental health. I estimate these periods to only be about 20% of the time. When I have a period of healthiness, I start thinking I have made progress again. I am convinced that either something that happened in therapy or a med adjustment did the trick. Then I get depressed or irritable again and realize that euthymia can be just as much a chimera as euphoria is.

After years of chasing down every evidenced-based therapy I can find and Googling new meds and other treatments, I have finally realized that not only is there no cure, but having a normal life is not possible for me. I am struggling to accept that this is the best it will ever be. I continue to hide in my room when I am irritable, so I won’t take it out on anyone.

In fact, I have gotten progressively sicker over the years. I worked as an electrical engineer for 30 years, had girlfriends and was even married for a while. As my illness progressed, I started missing more work due to hospitalizations. When I started raging at work, I knew I could no longer be productive. I probably will never be able to work again. I have serious doubts about having another relationship. It is too much to ask of another person.

What kind of life is this?

©2017 Stephen L. Martin

Painting: Georgia O’Keeffe–Red Canna   O’Keeffe suffered from anxiety and depression.

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