Last Friday was my birthday. I was 12. It was not my belly-button birthday. It was my sobriety birthday – 12 years without a drink. Normally I celebrate my sobriety date but this year I didn’t think much about it. My other mental illness was on my mind – literally.
I started sliding on Tuesday. I felt awful – everything ached and by end of a very, very long day (Election day is the longest day of the year for journalists) I had a low-grade fever. I told my boss I wouldn’t be in on Wednesday. I went home and slept for 16 hours with a couple of bathroom breaks and a banana. I woke up in a fog, a dark cloud above. The fever was gone but I was in a funk. It wasn’t just a funky-funk, it was an uh-oh funk.
Other recovered alcoholics take little jabs at us.
“I never chewed my beer.”
“I have managed to stay sober without the big bottle or little bottle.”
“…and I have not taken any mood altering substances in my xx years of sobriety.”
My response: “Well, good for you.” But in my head I am thinking, “Maybe you should have.”
There persists – despite decades of peer-reviewed research, anecdotal proof and the admission of LSD use by AA founder Bill Wilson – ignorance in the recovery community about the use of antidepressants and mood stabilizers. They backhand us with their belief that we are not clean and sober because we take psychotropic medications for other mental illnesses.
On Monday, BP announced it would give $52 million to five federal and state agencies to pay for mental health and substance abuse care in Gulf Coast communities affected by the oil spill.
It’s one small step for BP and one giant leap for legitimizing mental health care. Until now, the physical impact of the oil spill has been well documented and tended. Oily birds are lovingly bathed, skimmers troll the coastal waters and claims checks are slowly rolling in.
As for anguish and anger, they make for good sound bites but beyond that, who really cares? Most of us would make a donation to a turtle hospital before we would give a dime to a mental health care clinic. Until now.
The last time I checked, my head was still attached to my body. Yours is probably, too. So is Kenneth Feinberg’s, which is why I do not understand why Mr. Feinberg, the oil spill claims czar, has decided to pay claims for “physical” health problems but not “mental” health problems.
“Mental” health problems are conditions that disrupt a person’s thinking, feeling, mood, ability to relate to others and daily functioning. They are conditions and illnesses that involve our brains – and the last time I checked, mine was still in my head and attached to the rest of me.
So, how can a health problem that involves my brain NOT be a “physical” health problem? If my pancreas doesn’t produce insulin they way it should, it is a “physical” health problem. If my brain doesn’t produce “serotonin” the way it should, it is a “mental” health problem. It is all happening in my body – so why the distinction between “physical” and “mental?”
And the topic at tonight’s meeting was….ANGER.
I am not a violent woman but I have anger “issues.” A lot of us women have anger “issues” – we just don’t know it. That’s because we don’t know how angry we are. For me, I didn’t really even know what anger was until I was told I was angry.
I learned there is obvious, apparent anger – like when your girlfriend brings over her little dog and it makes a deposit on the area rug in your bedroom and you don’t see it and you are barefoot and then next thing you know…
Then there is the anger that rises like yeast. It simmers as a resentment for weeks, months or even decades. It is deep inside you, where it is dark. What started as just a grain of anger begins to bubble up and froth.
My phone rang at 4:45 am on Thursday morning. I didn’t recognize the number so I didn’t answer it. Then I heard that little voicemail alarm and I was like, oh man, what now?
It was a friend who was about to be arrested. The deputy was kind enough to let my friend use his phone and make a call. An arrest warrant had been issued because my friend had failed to pay the court costs from a DUI 18 months ago. My friend performed all the other conditions of probation except the court costs of $373.