My Mental Magic Shield

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.

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13 Comments

  1. certain parts of your post really hit home with me. the whole ‘being crushed in any way possible’ by the narcissistic (in my case, borderline) mother (many similarities between the two), as well as being a rape target/magnet partially due to having already been crushed but also because in some way we think we deserve it, maybe even that it wasn’t really rape. i can really identify with what you say here, and think it holds much merit and i wish others who are ‘normal’ could understand this.

    Reply
    • Thank you, Kat. Although I’m sorry for what you’ve gone through, it helps to know I’m not alone in this. Take good care!

      Reply
  2. Sounds like we are reading the same book. I think that mental illness does make me unique because of what happened to me. Everyone is unique, we just tend to have a name for ours!

    Reply
    • So is it true what the Cheshire Cat said…”We’re all mad here”? I rather think so, the more I live and observe. It’s just that some of us have it louder than others. Sorry if the nasty parts happened to you…hope you’re doing OK…

      Reply
  3. Back-talk, which I had to explain to a counselor once, was greeted with a slap across the face and a bar of Dove soap crammed into my mouth so hard I would choke as the water in the bathroom sink kept pouring out as loudly as they say Niagara Falls sounds and my mom having a vise-grip on my whatever part of me she could grab. This was the only time I fought back, saying over and over as I was being dragged to the bathroom, “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry!!!!” The words didn’t matter. It was too late. That huge bar of wet soap to “wash my mouth out” was coming and that meant I was going to choke. That’s when the real struggle against her began. I fought for my life because I knew I was going to die!! To this day I cannot abide the smell of Dove soap!!

    I don’t think I’ve ever used my illnesses in the way you describe, but I have told those I trust or those who know I have these illnesses and are getting upset with me, “My brain isn’t working today and I simply cannot . . . ” (fill in the blank) I’d love to be able to use it with the not-nice people who live on either side of me, but they know from the gossip what problems I have and have used it against me. Even when I went through breast cancer and chemo and radiation they never stopped harassing me, and one of them had a daughter who had been through breast cancer. They have no sympathy, empathy, concern or compassion. So I guess I’m very selective in how I tell others I’m sick. I guess it depends on the situation and the amount of — or lack of — trust.

    All-in-all, I wouldn’t trade what I have for anything because I’ve had this most of my life and it factors in to who I am and who I have become and who I will continue to become. There are so many pluses — not to mention the whole world of mental health bloggers who prove to me over and over again just how very special we are!! 🙂

    Reply
  4. Oh no, soap in the mouth! At least my mother never had the courage to do that, although she did threaten from time to time. At least it was Dove and not Dial (kidding, sorry).

    Somehow or other, you’ve managed to come through all of this with a wonderful attitude and way of dealing with your life’s challenges. I admire you!

    Reply
    • I forgot that I wanted to include another aspect in my comment: Did you ever see the Jody Foster movie “Accused”? She was a young woman with what some would term “low standards.” She went to meet her friend at a bar — her friend worked there — and she got gang-raped. (This movie was made years and years ago.) Kelly McGillis, I think, is the actress who played the prosecuting attorney. Jody went through hell trying to get on the stand to testify against these upstanding (barf!!) young men. The part that sticks out in my mind, which your post reminded me, is when Jody was grilled by the defense attorney. Kelly stands up and says, “What was going through your mind?” Jody didn’t answer. Kelly presses further: “What word were you thinking?” Again Jody hesitates. “What one word were you thinking?” Finally she’s able to respond: “No. I kept thinking ‘no’.” MAN!! So powerful!! The defense attorney was attacking her for not saying, “Stop” or “No” aloud!! No one thought of what she might be screaming in her head!!

      Reply
      • I haven’t seen the movie. I love Jodie Foster. She’s an amazing actress. One of the recurring “themes” of the many times I’ve been raped is that the rapist says, “Don’t make any noise and you won’t get hurt.” It’s like a broken record that plays in my head sometimes and I have to put on some loud music or sing or something until it goes away.

        Reply
  5. When I was 18 and in a group home I experienced the same attitude from the group home director. She made us bath twice a day, told me I was institutionalized, and that everyone else saw me as abnormal.

    Come to find out that she had a sadistic and controlling personality. Bi-Polar is not the only mental disorder out there. Alot of people who are given positions of power do have mental illnesses. That’s probably how they got the position in the first place.

    In my opinion, your mother and your grandmother needed control and power. And the only way they knew how to get it was to make others feel less of themselves. When really it’s them who are trying to cover up their own insecurites. Thank God you didn’t turn out like them.

    I’m also considered anti-social. There are many cruel people out there who are determined to use others for self gain. You have a right to avoid them. Many of them work hard to gain your trust and approval before they hurt you. Good people and bad people mix like salt and sugar.

    Reply
    • Wow, I’m really sorry you had to go through that experience. Being in a group home must be bad enough, without a cruel sadistic director. Funny, my mother was director of a group home. Funny? Not so funny. Glad I wasn’t a resident. I ran away from home and never went back. Interestingly, nobody tried to “reform” me, either. I’m glad of that, because I probably would have found a way to kill myself if they put me in a group home. How did you bear it?

      Reply
      • Well…She called me crazy so I acted like it. She gave me an invitation to act out. To me being crazy meant acting out without consequences. After awhile she stopped using condenscending remarks to break me down and started giving me compliments. But it was only for awhile. If I did something wrong, it was back to putting me down.

        Reply
  6. Sounds exactly like my mother. Ugh.

    Reply

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