One of the benefits of being so open about my illness is that I get to see their reactions. I also get to see that people absolutely can't seem to reconcile that a medicated me is very different than a psychotic me. They don't think of me as like "psych patients". I, on the other hand, identify myself as "a psych patient".
I know there are some differences between me and average. However those differences go both ways: there are a number of ways I am much sicker than most people. And that is what people can't see.
Today I said something about "most psych patients smoke. I don't, but I have really wanted to when I was severely manic". My co-worker said "listen to you; you just throw yourself into "psych patients". You're funny".
I was actually confused for a moment until I realized she doesn't see why that's funny to me. It's true that I'm working and independent with most things and that you don't see bizarre behaviors the second you look at me. But I worked very hard to accept that I am a psych patient. I have my own set of behaviors and weirdnesses and mood swings and paranoias; I've had hallucinations and I have acted horribly in public. I have screamed at a psychiatrist and nearly been hospitalized against my will. Actually I've nearly been hospitalized against my will more than once. Yep, that's a psych patient.
For so long I refused to accept that I was who I am. I tried to use the things that keep me functioning better than many people with my degree of illness to separate me. "They" were patients with limitations; "I" could do anything I wanted and I was not limited. Except I was, I just hadn't gotten healthy enough to accept that.
I still remember the day I got it. I see Dr. Brain in a large clinic on a Saturday. She had no assigned desk or secretary. I started vomiting Thursday night. I tried to make it up on Saturday but I threw up all Friday and trying to get going on Saturday was making me sick yet again. I called and cancelled with a random person. I asked them to tell her I really needed her to call me. Rather than let her know I was vomiting they cancelled and said "call her". Dr. Brain had just moved to this practice and my routine had been disrupted. For years I'd seen her the same Saturday of the month at the same time. With this she adds me on to the end of her VNS clinic day because I generally need longer appointments and more consistency than she could give on a regular day. The thing was that I wasn't finding out until the day before appointments when they were, I was still quite unstable and so I'd get a bit freaked out. It's a huge hospital and her actual secretary doesn't set Saturday appointments. I didn't know who to talk to at the clinic, and if I did get someone it wasn't who I know now to talk to, so I'd be told she was booked until April of the next year, I had to call the scheduling desk, and no they wouldn't look because she would not be adding me to a list. Then I'd get upset and email her, and she was busy and would ignore me until the day before the appointment when someone would call.
So, anyway, that paragraph got ridiculous. But the point was, she felt I was being passive aggressive and didn't call. I was rapidly getting depressed. Finally Dr. Mind called to sort of mediate and get me a med increase. He told me later about her anger and then when I cried in frustration he asked why. I sobbed "Because she's treating me like some psych patient and I don't deserve that". He looked at me and very gently said "But Just Me, you ARE a psych patient. You maybe haven't upset her before, but the way the secretary presented the message would be a very typical frustrating behavior." I was positively shocked. But, he was correct and frankly I'm a better therapist when I remember I'm not that different than the most frustrating people.