polyamory and mental illness

Fucked Up Parts of Mental Illness: Punishing Myself for Having Fun

Okay, once again not the post I was planning on writing. This time I could probably push through and write about home care for mental illness, but I think what’s going on today is kinda relevant to a lot of folks with mental illness.

This week has been awesome for me. Depression has been largely not a thing. Anxiety has been mild. I not only got caught up on all the shit I haven’t been able to do, but I got far enough ahead that I started sorting out the shit I’m going to need to do in the near future. Those of you with moderate to severe mental illness will now how freaking awesome this is.

I found a schedule that worked for me, ways to accommodate my mental hang ups that kept me from getting triggered, and actually had a fucking clean home for the first time in I don’t know how long. I made the goddamn beds, even.

I was feeling positive about myself and the future, I still didn’t have a buffer for my blogs and shit (obviously) and catching up on my book writing was going to take a while, but still…

I got caught out in the rain running errands yesterday. A mile walk in the rain is not most peope’s idea of a good time, but I used to got out in the first rainstorm of the summer and dance in the puddles. In my then-frame of mind, the rain wasn’t a bad thing, but a chance to revel in just being alive and able to enjoy it.

For most of a mile, I laughed and grinned as the rain soaked through my clothing to the point I had to hold my skirt up to keep it from falling off. Even walking in slippery leather sandals couldn’t steal my fun. I jut took my sandals off and walked barefoot through the puddles.

Eventually the rain tapered off. And a dagger slammed into my side. Pain. Pain pain painpainpainpainpain. I gasped for breath. I blinked back tears. I bit back a scream.

When I was younger, I would have thought I was sick. Something was wrong. Maybe I had appendicitis. No. For whatever reason, for me, emotional pain manifests as this feeling of being stabbed right in the viscera. I sure actually being stabbed hurts worse, but the mind-body connection is real enough to send people to the hospital thinking they were having a hear attack. I know this main. I walk through it, the rest of the way home.

I try to review what might have set me off. My mind diverts me into thoughts about my children. The aftershocks of my custody case (I STILL don’t even have regular phone calls)  are always guaranteed to be painful to think on. But there is nothing new there. Nothing to cause this sudden pain, nothing but old and familiar aches.

My mind was tricking me, but I let it.

The rest of the day did not go well. It wasn’t a complete loss, but the smooth productively I had been enjoying was gone. Doing anything was a struggle. I blamed the way my computer was stuck in unending updates, the date who canceled dinner b/c he decided to try getting back together with his ex. I tried not to think about that stabbing pain, which had quickly faded anyway as my mind successfully diverted me from thinking about whatever had caused it.

 

Then I woke up this morning and couldn’t think. It took me an hour to get breakfast for my kid, because I couldn’t get up off of the couch. I couldn’t begin to try to stuck to my schedule. Trying to finish my half-completed blog post that was already late wasn’t even a possibility.

And I didn’t know what happened. Nothing that happened yesterday was bad enough to explain this crash. After the way the afternoon went, I might have expected a rough day, some trouble focusing, not this complete break down to the point I could manage the most basic tasks.

I finally got myself moving, and with momentum, came a small amount of clear headedness. “Why?” I asked myself. I probed my head using everything I learned in 2 decades of working to explore and understand my mind and my mental illnesses. My mind tried to divert me again, but this time I wasn’t willing to let it. Painful or not, I HAD to know what was going on.

And I remembered that walk in the rain. I remembered the fun. And I finally “heard” the evil thought that had been attacking me from my subconscious. I had enjoyed myself yesterday. not just enjoyed myself, not just taken pleasure in getting stuff done. I had had FUN. Simple, joyous, fun unshadowed by any fears or worries or self recrimination. I’m not allowed to have fun. I’m broken, pathetic, mentally ill. I’m  healthy or normal or capable. I don’t deserve anything as pure and simple as enjoying a walk in the rain.

My mind was punishing me, attacking me, destroying me, because as a mentally ill, broken, shattered, pathetic wreck of a person, I don’t deserve to have fun.

God, the mind is a fucked up thing sometimes.

If you grew up in the US in the 80s or eary 90s you probably remember the old GI Joe cartoons that ended with a ittle moral sermon. The kid would say “Now I know.” And Sgt. Slaughter always replied with “And knowing is half the battle.”

It’s surprisingly true in dealing with mental illness. Once I identified this vicious thought pattern, it became a lot easier to function. Not easy. This is still going to be a fucked up painful day. But fucked up and painful is a huge improvement over shut down and broken to pieces. I can pick up my schedule now. Go back o getting my work done. I’ll slide a bit. but I’ll be able to keep going. Just pacing myself, like always, while this knew and strange psychic wound heals. Because I know those thoughts are lies. And now I can deal with them like any attacks from someone I love. Does it hurt when someone I love attacks me? Yes, but as long as I know what they say isn’t true, it doesn’t destroy me.

That’s what 20 years of healing has given me. The ability to recognize that these destructive thoughts are lies. That I completely and totally deserve my awesome walk in the rain, and many more like it. But it wasn’t always that way.

I used to believe those destructive thoughts, and then I helped my illness destroy me, adding my own actually self hatred to the fake hatred of my sickness. If I was still in that place now, I would be in desperate need of professional help right now. Because it is that kind of destructive thought, backed by the power of true belief, that can lead people to pick up a knife, a gun, a rope.

 

I don’t know how common it is to believe we don’t deserve the good things in life. I do know that when we internalize the idea that being mentally ill makes us less deserving, less worthy, less HUMAN, than the people around us, we are on course for our own destruction.

This can manifest in ways that vary from seeking out destructive and unhealthy relationships, to creating drama in the relationships we have, to, in a similar case to my own, attacking and hating ourselves for daring to take joy in our loved ones. NRE can be a particularly bad time for this, as every burst of joy t losing ourselves in a new partner is countered by a flare of self hatred that we have dared to embrace love and life.

If you or your mentally ill partner often find yourself taking a bad turn after something great happens, whether its as simple as jut being happy walking in the rain, or as big as a commitment ceremony within your polycule, you might want to ask if maybe you might be punishing yourself for the good things that happen to you.

Don’t. You deserve every bit of it.

And poly partners, don’t be afraid to tell your loved one this. As loudly and longly as you need to.

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