11 January 2009

The Exhaustion of Being Earnest

One of the things that I dislike most about the mental illness is having to be so earnest all the time. It's very tiring.

It's dangerous to behave in any other way. Being sarcastic and certainly being self-deprecating around a doctor or case worker can easily land you with a new diagnosis of some personality disorder, or worse, in the hospital involuntarily. Then, too, other people are so very earnest about the illness; they want to help and they have advice on drugs and omega-3s and their very special sympathy voice and this all makes it difficult to do anything but be earnest and meek right back at them.

Now my internalized earnestness is warning me to qualify that statement. I do often give people who genuinely want to help too hard of a time. In fairness to myself, though, I have a hard time understanding why it is that I have to be polite about being talked down to by people who have no idea what they're talking about. More even than I am tired of being earnest, am I tired of people telling me that "natural" cures work better than my medication. Why one set of synthesized molecules is better than another I have a hard time understanding.

I hate being expected to unload my life story on qualified strangers and to listen humbly to their pronouncements on my motives and my feelings and my mood as though they knew me better than I do. (Obviously this is one thing if one is in the throes of illness and genuinely out of touch with reality but it's quite another when one is stable and as healthy in action and self-awareness as one's doctors.) I wish I weren't expected to take it all so seriously all the time. But what else can I do when I am required to be 'treatment compliant' if I wish to continue to receive services? I couldn't do without the medication right now. I only have to forget one day's dosage and I start to feel the effects.

I miss the days when I was still an artist and I felt as though my depressions were, if still tedious and painful, at least also glamourous. In all honesty, they feel more like a character defect than ever at the moment.

I miss the sense of glamour because it made me feel like I had something to offer the world. It made me feel unique. I still felt like a person in my own right. Now I feel like a bundle of symptoms. On the one hand, it's great to have a diagnosis because people take bipolar disorder much more seriously than depression, where one can often tell that people think that one is faking and malingering and mucking about in a desperate bid for attention. On the other hand, a fair number of people make it clear through their actions and comments that they don't see me as a full person anymore. Their preconceptions stand between their eyes and good judgement and myself.

I wish I knew better where I am in all this. I had rather be honest than earnest.

1 comment:

  1. Earnest go hang. Sarcasm and humour always win the day. But I am lucky I suppose, because I'm a man - the daleks and goons cut us much more slack before judging adversely re personality disorders, and personally, I think that particular in-built sexism in the system absolutely stinks.

    Honesty in all things is the perfect yet impractical policy, as I've discovered more times than it should have taken me to learn.