I just had a revelation. I’ve always told everybody something I learned in my NeuroLinguistic Programming (NLP) practitioner course in 1997-98, which is, All Illness Has A Purpose. All illness has a message that your body is trying to teach you. Even when it’s a horrible illness, like God forbid cancer, or Lou Gherig’s disease (did I spell that right?), or you name it. The reason for the disease is to give you the opportunity to grow the spiritual organs that you are missing.
Hard one to swallow, eh? Yeah, for me too. I’m always grateful that I don’t have anything worse than what I have, although in suicidal moments (or days, weeks, months, or years) it seems as if I really could not feel worse no matter what was being done to me.
But tonight, as I was alternately reading stuff on children of narcissistic mothers (I have one: a narcissistic mother who is the daughter of a narcissistic mother–what a joy) and a 1981 textbook on runaways, what causes them and what to do with them (I was a runaway in 1970-71), I got a revelation. What do my psychiatric diagnoses do for me? They shield me. They stand between me and the world.
This is a double edged sword. Because my Bipolar Disorder and Autistic Spectrum Disorder (which I do not think of as a disorder, but an advantage) put me one level of separation away from the world, I feel isolated a lot. I used to feel lonely, but now I feel more comfortable when I’m alone, which is 99.5% of the time. On the positive side, my “disorders” protect me from a lot of the slings and arrows I would otherwise be subject to, if I was out in the world and participating in it.
Twice that I can remember, some other human being was trying to coerce me into doing their will, and I said “Don’t do that, you’re hurting me, you know I’m mentally ill,” and they stopped. So that was a positive way to use my illness as a defense. On the other hand, it would have been much healthier to say “stop doing that because it’s a shit thing to do and I won’t put up with it.” Now THAT would be a healthy way of defending one’s self. But since I wasn’t up to it because I actually WAS feeling ill, using my illness as a shield was a good strategy, I think.
On the other hand, I don’t wish to cultivate this defense mechanism, because I think it could become a habit: “oh, poor me, I’m mentally ill, don’t stress me out.” When actually, what I should be saying is “Hey, don’t fuck with me, you’re taking advantage of me, you’re trying to abuse me, you’re seriously pushing my buttons.” But that has always been a problem for me, because of the way I was raised.
When I was a child, “back-talk” was rewarded with “back-hand” across the mouth, prolonged tirades including belittlement, insults, curses, and other forms of crushing. The Silent Treatment usually followed. Banishment to one’s room was routine; but as soon as I got old enough to grok the situation, I stayed in my room voluntarily, or stayed outside, even if it was cold or raining, rather than be in the nasty indoor weather.
So I learned to say as little as possible, if confronted by negativity or abuse. I always laugh when I read accounts of rape trials where they look for signs of struggle on the girl’s part. Oh yeah, great if they find his skin under her fingernails; but let’s be realistic: when some dude who is twice your size says, “don’t make any noise and you won’t get hurt,” you’re probably going to keep as quiet as possible and let it get over with so he will go away and leave you to your quiet private hell. I know that one very well. Way too well.
I have to say I think I was more of a rape-magnet because of my abusive upbringing. When your mother tells you you’re nothing, you’re shit, etc., etc., etc., after a while your subconscious incorporates that into its reality, and it becomes part of your personality, that you are somehow substandard protoplasm, and rapists get that on their radar from miles away. It’s like, shit, if there was some asshole wanting to rape somebody in the general vicinity, all he had to do was turn around and, pow, there I was, telepathy or something.
That was before I figured out that I was crazy and therefore had a good reason for people not to fuck with me. I have permission now to get really, really angry. I can unload on people if I get that pushed. But it freaks me out, because I am a pacifist. I unloaded on a particularly toxic asshole last year. It was the first time in my life I have ever done that. No, it was the second time. The first time was when my ex-husband “forgot” to come home from work one night.
So I’d much rather use my magic shield: I’m mentally ill, don’t fuck with me. I don’t know how healthy that is, but it’s better than heaving a vase at their head.