My Diagnosis is Not an Excuse, It’s a Responsibility
I was born more sensitive than others, and with a giant conscience.
That’s why, after years of therapy, sobriety and self-awareness, I have never used PTSD or PMS – which I later learned was PMDD – or anything else as an “excuse.”
At times, it is a valid reason. It is an extremely real series of triggers and chemical reactions that I have spent years, and will continue to spend years, learning to manage even more effectively. But I do not take advantage of the chance to act like a maniac, or a brat, or be irritable, or make mountains out of molehills, or to make your life difficult, whoever you were, whoever you are.
When you claim we can “control it” if we want to – it being any number of behaviors that we don’t usually exhibit – you’re partially right. We can learn to cope, we can try that much harder than you guys have to on a bad day, and we can apologize and try to tread lightly, but the chemical and hormonal changes going on in our bodies are very real.
With a diagnosis, or an admission, or a realization comes relief. It’s not a doomsday sentence. It’s the beginning of getting better.
On the other side of the stepwork that comes with recovery, you often find that for most of the people, situations and memories that make you angry, frustrated, bitter and resentful, you indeed played a role in the situation. It’s shocking your first time around – in a good way, if you’re open minded – and over time, you learn that admitting you’re powerlessness over some things, like alcoholism, PTSD, OCD, ADHD, depression, bipolar, means you now have a lot of power to make choices. Once you do realize that you have a part in most of the unpleasant situations in your life, you have a responsibility not to repeat the behavior, to the best of your human capability.
You now have the power to get help to learn to make better choices, to seek support, both professional and social, to choose to speak, act, do differently, to put a plan in place to live a better, more productive life.
Most importantly, you now have a responsibility.
Once you finally know that your mental health condition has a name, it is your responsibility to try and take care of yourself, that condition, and the people around you as best as you can.
Do: let those people be there for you – it’s tempting to shut out the world and everyone in it during tough times, but this is when we need people more than ever.
Don’t: let them tread on your self-respect by taking advantage of you or throwing your diagnosis back in your face.
We also have to want to do it, because nobody is going to do it for us. You are free to choose suffering, and you are also free to accept suffering.
Sometimes, you will have used all of the tools and skills at your disposal and still feel crappy, and that’s when you need to gently communicate to the people you love that you’re trying your best, that you’re condition is winning the battle right now and to please bear with you and know that it is not directed at them, and that it is bit their fault.
Even in the outside world – someone bumping into you on the sidewalk could be so triggering that you want to shove them even harder back or call them some name. Don’t. Try to take a deep breath and internally wish them the kind of good day you’d want for yourself.
You may get an email that is flat out rude and disrespectful, and not only because you’re extremely sensitive that day, and want to retaliate. Don’t. Instead, wait 24 hours if you can. If you can’t, keep the emotion out of it if you can. You will never, ever regret speaking in kindness and holding off on a preachy email – if you do need to ask for respect and address an issue, do it with dignity. Having any number of diagnosis requires self-love in addition to self-care, and we need to love ourselves and be gentle with ourselves extra super hard.
Leaving a wet towel on the bed is not a good reason to start throwing your partner’s belongings in a pile in the middle of the room and screaming at them to get out while spiraling for hours. It’s not a good reason, and yet, there are very serious chemical reactions happening to us at any given time that not only prompt this behavior, but make it difficult to stop. It’s your responsibility to seek help to plan better for next time.
In recovery, we become better people who do better because we know better.
We nurture our own growth, physical health, wellness, and mental health, and, especially as women who deal with things like PMS and PMDD thrown into the mix, there are some days where we’re just unintentionally going to be difficult to be around. Everyone has bad days, and we have to work that much harder to try to manage ours.
Other people around you will also have bad days. Bad things will happen to them, too, and you will want to be there for them, rather than just focusing on the fact that you need them there for you. This is an opportunity for a win-win – we always feel better helping others when we’re not hurting ourselves in the process, and you get to show that person that you are still a kind, compassionate human being, despite how awful you may be feeling on the inside.
If we want to be understood, we need to gently explain to the people we love most that we have an awareness of what is happening and that we’re trying, and ask for the support we need. There will be things we can’t control when we’re in the insidious clutches of a condition, but it’s that much more important to change what we can.
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