Sunday, June 29, 2008

Getting Rid of Those Labels

Over at the Shrink Rap Blog Dinah has written a very interesting post called "True Emotions".In the post she describes a patient:

"...the patient was floridly manic. I don't remember the details, what I do remember was that she was running on empty, high as a kite, going 99 revolutions per minute, you name the cliche. There was a reason why she was on an inpatient unit and not being seen by an out patient doc. She wasn't getting better and, as is often the case with people suffering from mania, she had no insight that she was ill, she was feeling good-- really good-- and oh so energetic, and even louder than that, and so what's the problem here?

...I'm trying to reason with her, and finally, she screams at me in a way that stays clear long after her name and the details of her life have oozed from my memory, "You're problem is you're not Italian! You don't understand TRUE EMOTION!!" She had a point."

The post is really important for me and probably for other people who are receiving psychiatric treatment. When I read Dinah's post I felt so understood, like I do with my pdoc, but not like I do around other health professionals, or my family, especially my husband. I do it myself too: Dissect every tiny mood change like I'm going to go crazy either too high, or too low. It's hard to get better when I'm constantly worried about "how I AM".

When I read Dinah's post it reminded me of a situation I was part of a number of years ago. I commented the following below Dinah's blog, and I should remember this anytime I worry I might become manic...

" What a great post. Two other pdocs have given me the label "bipolar", but the one I see every week says I have MDD and a hyperthymic temperament. This I believe, but I can't help but worry every time my mood skyrockets. I am so scared I am going to go manic.

Even before someone tried to label me my friends would make fun of the hyper energy I have when I am well; my million ideas, my rapid speech, how loud I get (very loud...because I get so excited with all the ideas), how excited I get, how wild I get.

I almost bought into the labels until I went to my Great Uncle's funeral and met my Grandma's side of the family...every single one of them was like that...So "On" it was absolutely amazing. It was like being in a room with twenty people just like the well me.

We weren't Italian, and certainly, statistically, we cannot all have been manic at the same time: we just are a family of people whose personalities are exuberant, jovial, high, full of ideas, like to do a million projects at once, can fly from one idea to another and understand the connections between all these ideas with ease. Maybe everyone else was just "slow?"

The experience of being surrounded by so many people just like me was breathtaking and eye opening. I recently had the pleasure of meeting three more members from that side of the family; people I had never met before.

At a family wedding this little old lady came up to me and said, you must be "B's" daughter. I just had to meet you (she's talking really loud, and is exuberant, and excited, and very, very talkative). We have to stick together us "Family name".

No one is like us, listen to the din, the room, listen to how loud everyone is, they are excited and energized. We've always been this way. You stay here I have to grab "M" and "R" They are going to fall over when they meet you. They are just like us...and with that this 85-90 year old lady ran off to look for my new found relatives.

They all showed up, along with my uncle, my cousin, and my second cousin. The din was unimaginable. Everyone talking really loud, everyone butting into everyone else's conversations. Ideas flowing like rain pours in a monsoon, and all of us are keeping up with all the conversations. Never a pause to catch our thoughts or to let someone else speak.

Then suddenly we all went silent, looked at each other and burst out laughing. We are all just like Grandma was...it is too bizarre: Loud talkers, so excited about the world and all the things in it, a bit pushy, speaking a mile a minute, and no patience for people on the outside who don't get what is going on.

Almost the entire side of my paternal Grandma's clan have hyperthymic temperaments. When "on" we are more than on, when happy, we are beyond happy. I think that is why I have such a hard time with my depression...because when I am well I feel like I am completely in control of my life, I absolutely love being alive and I think this world is the most amazing place in which to exist. To lose that to depression is beyond devastating.

2 comments:

The MSILF said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
myalterego said...

I could really relate to this. I love my natural temperament.