Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Mental Illness

I realize I haven't spoken of the girl's story in a while. Robin William's death, with the subsequent talk of depression and mental illness, brought it to my mind. More about that soon.

The girl has a new diagnosis. Bi-polar II. It is different from Bi-Polar I in that the manic stages tend to be hypomanic and depression is the more frequent pole of the two poles.

It took the girl decades to get this correct diagnosis. Some doctors and counselors suspected it before but didn't ask the girl the exact right combination of questions to sift through all the depression episodes and find what lied between.  What lied between was that for all her beautiful life and loving family,  beyond her smile and laughter, despite her sense of humor, her life passed in stages of behavior.  Her love of writing only showed up every couple of months, thundering like a waterfall before drying up to dust. Her days of laughter were limited to a week before turning bitter and fake. Her sleep requirements ranged from 6 hours one week to 11 hours the next month. Her passionate obsessions that people found smart and endearing could just as quickly turn to apathy.

For the girl, the hardest question on a silly internet quiz was always "Do you consider yourself an introvert or an extrovert?"  She could never answer that question because the answer depended on the week, day, hour, second. Perhaps if a therapist had asked,"Do you have trouble answering introvert/extrovert questions on silly internet quizzes?" she could have shouted "YES!  I feel crazy because I have no idea what kind of person I am. I love and hate people all at the same time!  I am a walking, talking, writing contradiction!  To compensate for this, I put on a happy face. Overly happy. Overly friendly. I play the part of the extrovert at all times because it is so easy to fake a behavior that I truly have occasionally...I mean when the mood strikes just right.  And I make people laugh. But shit, I'm really fake.  I'm all over the place and I don't know why."  (New medication has worked wonders for the girl. Those that know her best see the most improvement.)

It is no one's fault technically. She didn't know what to say and therapists were doing the best they could with the information she gave them. But what about society?  Does society make it easier or harder for people like the girl and Robin Williams?  People who are suffering mentally, but are outwardly so happy and gregarious?  It is so hard to believe, isn't it, that a person so full of life and talent and humor was also miserable enough to seek death? Perhaps that is what society needs to understand about mental illness. It does not play favorites. The people that seem the happiest may be among the sickest.