On Being A Little ‘Weird’

This weekend, I have been staying out at my brother’s farm, looking after the animals while the family are away for a few days.  I have had a wonderful time, in spite of the wet, windy and sometimes snowy, storm all weekend.  It’s been really nice to be with some animals again, particularly the family dog (Duncan, of MEET DUNCAN… A BLACK DOG notoriety) and two cats (Harry and Sally).

Since posting  Real a few days back, it has been running through my mind how readers might have reacted to that post, or what impressions you gained of me.  It made me stop and think for a bit.

The cats I am staying with at the moment are both quite different in character.  Apart from the fact that they both physically are domestic, short-haired cats that’s about where the similarities end.

Harry is my nephew, J’s cat.  He’s about three years old and really just does his own thing.  He’s not in the house much, and is mostly off around the farm hunting a collection of mice, rats, rabbits and anything else he can find.  Actually he’s quite useful in this respect, and seems quite fearsome.  He will tackle rodents bigger than him, if he has the chance.  (I just don’t need to see rodents that size, thank you)

Sally, on the other hand, belongs to the whole family.  From memory she is about 10 years old.  She hangs around the house, doing very little.  Usually lying asleep under the coffee table.  Although on first sight you might think that Harry is the dominate one, actually Sally is.  And don’t the other pets know it?

It made me think that we’re all different too.  I don’t like using the word ‘crazy’ because of its overuse in building stigma, but we all are a little bit crazy.  And in mind opinion, that is a very good thing.  We also all hide parts of ourselves from the world, even those close to us, but those parts are still important in making up who we are.

I told you in Real that I talk to my teddy bear.  This is n0t a sign of Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID), Schizophrenia or some type of psychosis.  It’s just a part of me that I developed from a very young age, as a way to cope with the reality of the world around me.

Each of us does this.  Maybe someone develops an addiction.  Maybe it’s a friendship with a pet.  Maybe it’s as an expression through music or art.  Or maybe something I haven’t yet thought of.  Each of these (maybe some good, some not so healthy) become a way to help us cope with the world.  I believe that for people with mental illnesses, this becomes much more important as we try to live through the realities of trauma, horror and pain.  Whatever we individually do, is simply a means to get us through life.  A coping mechanism.

This is exactly what was described in something I quoted in my last post:

 “Because,” explained Mary Rommely simply, “the child must have a valuable thing which is called imagination. The child must have a secret world in which live things that never were. It is necessary that she believe. She must start out by believing in things not of this world. Then when the world becomes too ugly for living in, the child can reach back and live in her imagination. I, myself, even in this day and at my age, have great need of recalling the miraculous lives of the Saints and the great miracles that have come to pass on earth. Only by having these things in my mind can I live beyond what I have to live for.”  

― Betty Smith, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

As you can probably imagine I have had numerous psychiatrists want to diagnose a range of disorders over the years.  Now I’ve learnt not to share this part of my life with mental health professionals because they just don’t get it.  But that’s a matter of their failure to look beyond diagnoses.  Immediately they see something a little different, they are out with their copy of the  DSM-V.

Actually on all the occasions I was prescribed, and then given Electroconvulsive Treatment (ECT), an element of the reasons it was being given was because they wanted to “fix me” of this imaginary relationship.  I didn’t always know this at the time, but it’s something I discovered in reading back through hospital notes in more recent years.  Something that didn’t impress me much.

Thankfully, the last psychiatrist I dared to expose this part of my life to, came to a conclusion that actually I was “a little weird’ (his exact words) but he couldn’t see any harm in something that had obviously helped me through a lot of my life.  My therapist (with whom I have recently finished) concluded the same thing.  Although he didn’t call me weird.  He said that what I had done made perfect sense.

And then (finally) I was today reading a fellow blogger’s post about his Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD).  Something he said clicked for me.  It made perfect sense, and it is something I want to explore in time. He said this about living with BPD, as a quote of an source known to him:

 “I feel like a child trying to live

in an adult world

That’s just how I feel.  Not always.  Sometimes I can feel like I’m acting the adult, but mostly I feel like a child in a room full of adults.  It explains a bit about Ted, and why Real doesn’t seem at all strange to me.  It just is.

“I believe that imagination is stronger than knowledge. That myth is more potent than history. That dreams are more powerful than facts. That hope always triumphs over experience. That laughter is the only cure for grief. And I believe that love is stronger than death.” 

― Robert Fulghum, All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten

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7 thoughts on “On Being A Little ‘Weird’

  1. One thing here that really struck me, and I don’t know why it never did before, or maybe why I could never pinpoint it so specifically.

    “Actually on all the occasions I was prescribed, and then given Electroconvulsive Treatment (ECT), an element of the reasons it was being given was because they wanted to “fix me” of this imaginary relationship.”

    You know more extensively how I feel, and my personal experiences with ECT, Cate. But I think what you illustrate here, and I think the abuse that happens — and yes, I very emphatically term it abuse — is that a treatment professional runs into something in a patient they don’t understand, they haven’t been taught, they aren’t prepared for, they don’t know how to treat. Thus, since they can not be wrong, there must be something very wrong in the patient, something only drastic measures can “fix”, as you say. When in reality, there was really nothing wrong in the first place. Just different. I wouldn’t even term it “weird”, just “different”.

    And as long as they don’t cause harm, aren’t our differences what make us beautiful, truly beautiful? The sad irony of my tale (which I know you know, but it cannot be repeated enough), is that the doctors did “fix” so many of my difference with ECT. So many of my best and most beautiful differences. And I have been fighting three years now to get what I can back, which is not much, and to accept that I never will the rest, which I know I never will, not completely, despite what I have to tell myself every day to get by. As a bonus, they gave me a whole new set of “differences” that are legitimate traumas and problems, which I am left to try to navigate through entirely on my own.

    Sorry to have spilled my guts on you here. You know I’m not having the best of it here, and as I said, you know a lot more about me and ECT. But I am so very happy that you are reaching so many more positive, healthy understanding when it comes to what does and doesn’t constitute what is “illness” and “problems” and “wrong” versus what are just the unique, beautiful, very individual and private traits that make you the wonderful Cate you are.

    1. I couldn’t agree with you more, Ruby. It makes me so sad, but also very angry, this need to stamp out difference. I don’t actually believe that I should ever have been given ECT now. I could accept it when, as I always thought, they were giving it on the basis of chronic suicidality which responded to nothing. But really all they were doing was trying to stamp out something that was keeping me alive. I have no doubt that my ‘weirdness’ (in their eyes) was pretty much the only thing that was keeping me alive. That’s why I am now determined that I don’t discuss it with them.

      It makes me so sad that they tried to remove your difference too. It’s just so wrong, and the big problem is that at the time they are doing this, we are not in a good state to be able to speak up for ourselves. The whole issue of consent worries me when it comes to ECT. Who can really make a decision on that? For me, on one of the occasions I was given ECT treatments my (ex) husband made that decision. I’m sure he did what he thought was right at the time, and I don’t have any issue with what he decided. I just know though, that he didn’t understand the situation, or me, enough to make that call.

      1. Cate, I think that is also what is to me the most upsetting thing. I was in no fit state to consent. I had been very vocally against ECT for more than three years. I wasn’t even suicidal. But I was well over the age of consent, and my mind had deteriorated to the point that when the doctor told me ‘This is the only way’, I said ‘Okay’.

        I’m researching advanced mental health directives, the kind one would fill out while as mentally healthy as possible, and which would be made legally binding. In them, you could state what treatments you will and will not consent to for when you become ill. Because I can tell you now, I was never in all of my life so profoundly ill as when I “consented” to have electroconvulsive therapy performed.

      2. Ruby, it makes me so angry that they put this consent onto you (and I) when we’re not able to give consent. They should at least be prepared to say they did it without consent, because really that is the truth of it. I think an advanced health directive would be a good thing.

        You might be interested that I have a legal power of attorney of the health and wellbeing of a family member. Most things I can consent to, if she is unable to consent herself, but I am not allowed to consent to her having ECT. I think it’s about the only thing I can’t do. I might have to do some research and see why the have put it in place. Theoretically on that basis my ex-husband shouldn’t have been able to decide for me. Hmmm.

        I was never in all of my life so profoundly ill as when I “consented” to have electroconvulsive therapy performed” Me too. 😦

  2. Hi Cate… maybe I am also “weird”, but I don’t know what part of your post – and the one about Ted – that the Psychiatrists don’t get. I can remember feeling the same about material things and having imaginary conversations with my sisters doll, Susan! I used to steal it and then get big trouble for playing with dolls in the first place. I think that was more about a human instinct to share love and affection and that wasn’t coming from the proper sources

    As the years went by, I needed animals to help me cope. I currently have two 14 yr old cats, one of them I hand reared from a few days old and we have a Jack Russell called “Jack Russell”. They are the only living things that I share any love and affection; they are what keeps me connected to life. I do tend to humanise their emotions and thoughts, even the fish! But hey, if it helps me get through my days, why not?

    1. I couldn’t agree more, Cat. I think psychiatrists in general just don’t take the time they need to in order to properly understand what is going on. They leap to enormous conclusions. That’s been my experience anyway and I guess it is at least partly driven by their lack of time. Love and affection are so important and if we don’t have humans around who can give and take, then of course we turn to other options. Nothing weird about that.

  3. Pingback: Remembering Who I Am | Infinite Sadness... or hope?

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