08 July 2009

Final Fourth of July

I seem to have lost the thread that leads from one post to the next post but I feel pretty sure that if I just keep writing them, I'll find it again.

This last weekend was Independence Day for us former colonials. I hope that it will be my last one whilst living here - I don't plan to move back to the states after grad school; I didn't want to move back in the first place and I get on better with my parents when I live on a different continent. Anyhow, because I'm off to London and two of my friends are off to Oxbridge and my very lovely ex-girlfriend but one is off to Missouri, all for grad school, we all four got together to watch the city fireworks from my back porch and discuss moving issues, house hunting and the fear of failure.

We've been friends as a group for three and some years now. The two going off to Oxbridge just got married last week; she's a classicist and he's literature with a classics minor. My ex-girlfriend but one - really now just a very, very good friend - is also a classicist and is going to study some very offbeat and interesting things about the classical tradition and classical urbanisation patterns. The Oxbridge classicist is going to work primarily on Greek paleography - she promised to take me to see the Oxyrhynchus papyri and I am unendingly excited. We are all a bunch of happy dorky people headed off to the promised land of graduate study. We've spent a lot of time together as a group, especially when N (ex-girlfriend who will henceforth be abbreviated because this descriptive reference thing is too clunky to be accommodated further) and I were still dating.

The Oxbridgers have been well known for hosting parties named after grammatical constructions in Greek and Latin. (Did I mention that we are all dorks? Is it necessary even to mention that?) There is a certain kind of construction for descriptive paraphrasis called an Absolute, so there was the Ablative Absolute party, the Dative Absolute party, the Genetive Absolute...recently we found out that there is a rarely used Accusative Absolute but we haven't managed to have that one yet. It could still happen.

Oxbridge boy and N have been best friends for years, since before either I or Oxbridge girl knew either of them. But it was at the time of the first Ablative Absolute that the Oxbridge people began dating each other and that N and I first got to know each other. She and I started dating near the time of the Genetive Absolute. Then at the Oxbridge people's wedding last weekend, N was Oxbridge boy's best man, which led to a fun discussion between me and one of the professor's small daughter who never has been quite sure whether N was a boy or a girl, which N gets a big kick out of. She finally decided that N was the best girl-man, on account of being a girl but the wedding program saying man and because she was standing with all the other boys up front instead of the other girls. That child is going to be very comfortable with gender queerness when she's an adult - it's great and it'll be an advantage if she goes into classics.

I do have a point to all this anecdote and it is this: between last weekend at the wedding with all those people who know what the intervocalic sigma is and this weekend on my porch, I noticed that I have a lovely group of friends. They have all done what they could to help me over the past few weeks, especially N, and I don't feel abandoned and rejected as I often have at the end of a relationship. (N actually sat there and listened to all the gory details - she has always been an above average ex but that really goes above and beyond). It hasn't been just these three either; it's been my Georgia friends and my across the hall neighbors and the rector at my church and some of the professors and even some of the people and the rector at my mother's church who've helped me.

Two years ago, when I had just got out of hospital and had the worst and most acrimonious break-up ever of my life, all of these same people were my friends. But two years ago, I felt completely abandoned. The difference this time is that I'm well.

I never did like the idea of borderline personality disorder and I still don't, nor do I think that I actually have it. But I looked it up a month or so ago and read what seems to me to be the calmest description of it I have ever seen, though it could just be that I was calmer, and something caught my eye. The 'borderline' in the name refers to being in a state of borderline psychosis. That much makes sense to me. It would explain the deep disjunct between my experience then and my experience now. Two years ago, everything and everyone felt hostile; I couldn't let anyone help me, especially with moving, because then they'd find things out about me and use them against me and come to hate me secretly if they didn't already hate me secretly. Every thing that anyone said was full of too much meaning, as though all words and phrases were talismans too inscrutable to understand but suggestive of grave consequences from the heavens to the depths for any reply in word or by deed. I couldn't understand what anyone meant when they talked to me and I was tongue-tied by the need to load my words with the right meaning, convinced that I needed to strike on exactly the right phrase, like a spell or incantation, that would tell them what they were asking so that they would stop interrogating me like that. I would be happy to take the suggestion that all of this was the result of a state of borderline psychosis; in fact, that does explain it much better than bipolar disorder alone. There would be no moral content in saying that I had bipolar II with concomitant psychotic tendencies - it would be a bit scary sounding, but it wouldn't have any moral content. Borderline personality disorder does, however, have moral content; it's in the idea of a disordered personality, a disordered self, which implies culpability and carelessness.

I was so much more ill than I knew. It's only since I've been feeling better that I've been able to see how far from well I was and for so long. It has only been nine months since I began to feel well, and only five that I have felt really well and I still feel better every month compared to the last. I have no memory of ever feeling well before, at least not in a longer-term, continuous, dependable way. It is a new feeling. I remember having the same trouble with talismanic sentences when I was seven.

It has definitely taken too long to find an adequate treatment and/or diagnosis but in a lot of ways it doesn't matter anymore, now that I have one. It's too late to do anything about the past now, and though I do wish it had been different, it is different now. Much like finally getting the bachelor's degree: it bothered me no end that I hadn't finished yet and so many years had gone by but now I have it and it doesn't matter to me that I got it this year instead of last because I have it forever from now on.

It's the same with my friends. I wish I had been able to understand that they were trying to help me and that I had been better able to accept that help two years ago. But it's there now and I still need it now and I can accept it and understand it now. Thank God.

So instead of spending this Fourth of July alone watching the fireworks from my back porch, we had a proper party with moderate drunken carousing and barbecue and I made my little pecan deadlies and there was bourbon and beer. It was a proper Southern celebration and the last any of us will see for years. There was even an illegal fireworks show that some people let off in the parking lot of the church across the street, which was better than the licit, city-sponsored fireworks. This time next year, it'll be time to stand in line at the Texas Embassy, which is a restaurant in London that's the hotspot for all the American expats who aren't invited to the party at Winfield House - it's a little cheesy but I have had some bizarre discussions about American foreign policy there over the years with junior VP's of various corporations so I still look forward to going. I'll be taking the Oxbridge friends with me.


  1. I just wanted to say how much I enjoyed reading this post, how much it resonated with me and how happy I am that you are better.

    You are awfully clever.

    I hope you enjoy yourself in the UK. It is, of course, the bestest country in the whole wide world.

    I especially enjoyed the paragraph about the best man/woman.

  2. I'm glad you enjoyed it!
    I am very ready to move back to London - far and away my favorite place to live. Only two more months...hurray!