the individual

What is individuality? I mean, what is it really? I think it may just be a construct of our imaginations. I wonder if you even have an individual personality without society. I mean, all we do all our lives is try and live up to some expectations and overturn others — expectations of ourselves, based on other people’s actions; expectations of ourselves based on self-perception; expectations laid upon us by other people.
So what if you think you’re a reasonable person? What if, as far as you are concerned, you and all your friends think that you’re fairly reasonable, laid back, drama-free, quirky, generally funny, compassionate, and intelligent. But there’s this other subset of people, over here, who say you’re irrational and uptight and full of drama. They say you’re not so much quirky as weird and off-putting, they say your jokes are stupid and you’re too judgmental and pretty stupid besides.
So who’s right? I mean, depending on the lens and personality an action or behavior is viewed through, technically, both groups could be “right,” an objective term for such a subjective situation. And does it matter anyway? I mean, fuck those guys, right? They don’t matter anyway.
Except, what if they do matter? Boss, co-worker, friends/ spouses who’ve grown apart, sibling, parent . . . what if they do matter, what if their perception of you has changed and shifted over time, and you want to change it back?
You can’t, really, I guess. I mean, it’s that old canard — you can’t change someone else, only yourself. So maybe you commit to change all the things they say need to be changed, but find yourself against the wall of their preconceived notions. Suddenly, you realize with a sickening wrench that not only will they not allow you the opportunities to prove you can alter potentially damaging behaviors; they won’t even allow it’s a possibility. They have a set image of you in their heads; this is your personality and it cannot be changed, in their opinion. They do not see you the way you see you, the way your friends see you. There is a schism in this social relationship, a shattered piece of glass that refracts and reflects words and behaviors and ideas all wrong; distorting them through the lens of personal belief and personality.
And since, really, your personality is based on society and social interactions, this persons perception of your personality is technically accurate. Now, whether you have intended to or not, you have become someone you despise, at least to one person. And you have no real control over whether or not that perception of you is altered — it really depends on that person. Even if you take every step to erase all behaviors that offend them, even if you follow every bit of advice and materially alter yourself into a clone of what they require of you, it ultimately still depends on them to see that change in you and accept it.

today I . . .

Today I did a couple things, none of them life-changing (I don’t think), but all of them thought-provoking or mildly interesting (to me).
Thing 1: I had a phone appointment with my therapist where we discussed anger management. More on this in a minute.
Thing 2: I made a new recipe. It’s always vaguely stressful to me to make a new recipe, because you don’t know until you eat it (which I usually do after serving not just me, but my husband and son) if it’s any good. Today I made a mild variation of the chicken marinara recipe on the back of a bag of Costco Tyson breaded chicken tenders. The recipe was basically: Make these chicken tenders, then plop them on top of some pasta, cover with marinara sauce, and sprinkle with mozzarella and parmesan cheese. I didn’t have any canned marinara sauce, so I made this one from Allrecipes (substituting grape juice for red wine, because I didn’t have any red wine available). And I didn’t have any mozzarella or parmesan cheese, so I used some slices of that Harvarti sold at Costco. Anyway, it turned out surprisingly well, which was especially relieving considering that I made all these alterations to the recipe. So today I’m feeling like a Competent Housewife. Oh, and I made some delicious lemon bars.
Thing 3: I read Auschwitz, by Miklos Nyiszli, which was all sorts of horrifying and gut-wrenchingly sad. It’s a very short book, and Nyiszli writes in a very matter-of-fact, up-front, bare-bones sort of style — yet his sparse descriptions and matter of fact tone lay the horror of the entire experience bare and clear. I think this book should be required reading in every school.
Thing 4: I read Taken, by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins. No, I’m not an evangelical, nor am I turning xtian. The series was offered for free on e-book a few weeks ago, and I downloaded it out of curiosity. I was kinda hoping against hope that the authors would be choosing to focus on the awesome plot device of a raptured world, rather than using the book as an obvious vehicle to evangelize. Unfortunately, modern xtian fiction is pretty sub-par. Gone are the days of thoughtful, engaging xtian stories; now it’s still just some really bad storytelling and heavy-handed parables meant to frighten people into believing. I think the absolute worst part about these books is how completely awful the writing is. There’s a lot of telling, but very little showing. It reads like a bad youth sermon, and is often jumpy and boring. Think Twilight-quality literature here. The xtian movement is really shooting themselves in their collective feet with their shoddy music, bad movies that lack broad appeal, heavy-handed xtian fiction, and creepy youth camps. They seriously need to consolidate their movement and hire a great P.R. firm if they want to survive into next century.
So . . . that’s about my day. Oh, the anger-management thing with my therapist. Quick background: I was diagnosed with cyclothymia when I was 13. I was staying in my room and reading a lot, and my mom decided I must be depressed. She took me to a couple therapist until I was diagnosed with cyclothymia, then a few more until one agreed to medicate me. I started taking meds when I was 14. Mom still felt the diagnosis was incorrect (she had bipolar I with atypical presentation), so she convinced her psychiatrist to see me. I was the first teen patient he treated, and he diagnosed me (at age 15) with bipolar II. This was back in 1995, so ADHD wasn’t really all that well known yet. In 1998, I was diagnosed with rapid cycling and my doctor mentioned in passing that at some point he’d diagnosed me with ADHD, but the stimulant medications to treat ADHD would trigger a manic episode, so he wasn’t treating me. In 2004, my diagnosis changed to bipolar I with atypical presentation. In 2008, I was told I hadn’t suffered from rapid cycling since 2004, but I did have mixed state presentation and mild paranoia issues (and had for years).
By late 2009, frustrated by my ever-changing diagnosis and disturbed by the growing nagging sense that I had been misdiagnosed (a conclusion I came to after reading more and more about bipolar and ADHD, as well as considering the circumstances surrounding my initial diagnosis), I decided to go off my medications. I actually went off them in early 2010, and I can honestly say that the time it took for my body to detox was one of the worst times in my life.
I’ve been off for over a year now, nearly a year and half, and I haven’t had any mood cycles or other bipolar symptoms. I have, however, noticed a few other things:
  • I definitely have ADHD
  • I have never learned to manage my anger.
See, mom really preferred the disease-model idea in dealing with bipolar, and she saw no real point to therapy — medications were the only way to go. I disagree, but that’s neither here nor there. The point is, any time I got “out of control” according to my parents, and showed emotion that was too strong or baffling to them, I’d get one of these responses:
  • Did you take your medications today?
  • Do you think you need your medications adjusted?
  • I’m going to set up a visit with [psychiatrist].
The end result was that I often felt marginalized, voiceless, and diminished. I felt silenced, as though all my emotions were a result of mental illness and therefore invalid. Worse, I couldn’t differentiate between the so-called “bipolar moods” and actual strong emotions; what I was told were bipolar moods felt like valid anger to me. Anyway, I never learned to deal with my anger response in a healthy way. Basically, as a teen, whenever I was angry, my medications would be upped or altered or what-have-you until I was mostly-calm again. This never lasted long. As an adult, I continued the same pattern, since it’s what I knew. Now that I’m off meds, I have to learn to control my anger like an adult.
So my therapist and I identified those things that “trigger” me, as well as my behaviors when I’m angry. The worst thing about me when I’m angry is that I try to make other people — people I love — understand how I feel by “teaching them a lesson” and treating them in a manner designed to make them feel  the same way they just made me feel. Unfortunately, I do a pretty great job of saying just the right things to make my friends and family feel alienated, marginalized, dismissed, and worthless. However, in some weird quirk of human behavior, absolutely no-one takes the next (obviously logical, right?) step of saying, “Oh, so this is how she feels when I do [similar thing] to her!” Nope, everyone just gets says to themselves, “She’s vicious, awful person who doesn’t respect or care about me at all.”I know, completely illogical, right? (in case you can’t tell, I’m making fun of myself there)

Anyway, we also discussed ways for me to stop and calm down when I’m merely irritated, and how to prevent me from getting into the viciously angry phase. Oh, and those triggers? Unsurprisingly, they’re related to how I was treated as a teenager with a bipolar diagnosis. I really, really hate it when I feel as though someone is dismissing the validity of my emotions due to factors outside my control (mental illness, being female, etc.) I really hate terms that marginalize and dismiss me as stereotypically “female” or “mentally ill,” as well as terms that indicate I as a female have “stepped out” of society’s prescribed role for a woman (ie: “crazy,” “bitch,” “bitchy,” and “irrational,” since that’s often in conjunction with crazy or bitchy).
Basically, I hate being treated as less worthy than any other human being, just because I’m perceived as deviating from the societal concept of what normality is, or the societal concept of what proper female behavior is.