Sunday, September 20, 2009

What it is, and what it isn't...

...and who we are.

Here is a link to an article about Iris Chang, a very accomplished young writer who committed suicide a handful of years ago. I post this because I think there are many interesting points to be taken from Iris' story, and from the article itself.

Iris is believed to have had some variety of bipolar disorder. She was also apparently bright, driven, perfectionistic, meticulous, dedicated to her work and her family, compassionate, strong, forceful...and unfortunately the effects of mental illness overshadowed all of these in the end.

While I have never been diagnosed as bipolar, and probably never will be (I would have to land my thoughts long enough to last all the way through a manic episode, HAHA...just joking, and yes, I know that they can co-exist, but that's not my point...), there is so much of Iris, according to this article, that I see in myself, and that others see in me. And look at that...two people with DIFFERENT mental health issues, with similar personality mean personality and mental illness are not the same thing? Whaaaa? Okay, sorry, turning the sarcasm flame to low...

I am a perfectionist. My family and friends regularly refer to me as "driven". I have a surprising knack for hiding real problems from other even while I'm shooting myself in the ass with my impulses. I am a very hard-worker, and often a very effective one. I am smart. I am meticulous in my logic even when my mind moves too fast. I am ridiculously over-responsible. I am compassionate and work to help other people. I am very passionate about ideas. And so was Iris.

When I think about, or read the ridiculous stereotypes about ADHD (and other mental health issues) it really knocks me in the gut. Okay sometimes it also hits me in the funny bone, I mean seriously, according to the stereotypes, I should be first of all male, which I am not, a child, since the current psychiatric diagnosis manual doesn't even include a definition for adults (and I do not climb on furniture, LOLOL), I am only disorganized or messy about certain kinds of things. I also regularly make decisions for myself that are GOOD ones. Psychiatry is not perfect, but to go to the the other extremes that some go to is just as imperfect.

And there are certain things that, when you are truly impaired by a mental health issue, you KNOW, and I don't know how else to say this but: Here, in my mind, in my consciousness, the line between my personality and intelligence, and the imparing symptoms of mental-health-issues that I experience could not be clearer to me. Reading about Iris only confirms this for me further.

And what I take from reading about Iris is that her mania was not her drive...her mania merely served her drive and allowed her to act on it in a way that many would not be able to, for better or worse. Her depression did not "make" her compassionate or sensitive...but possibly made her experience of those traits more intense than was necessary. ADHD allows my already intelligent mind to do some amazing things, but also acts as an obstacle. And just as Iris's illness got the better of her intelligence, drive, and compassion...I do not wish to allow mine to continue to get the better of me, as it has many times over my lifetime.

That's why I'm so interested in applying my drive and intelligence to seeking the best solutions for my mental health issues.

And it's why I get so annoyed by some of the opinions out there about my particular mental health issue. I don't really care if you think that ADHD is a gift from God. I don't really care if you think that it's a figment of "Big Pharma's" imagination. I really only care that the line between personality and impairment is clear to me in my life, and I am only interested in what works. I am what I am, and we are what WE are, regardless of stereotypes and opinions.


  1. Dude, I am totally using this at a meeting: "you mean personality and mental illness are not the same thing? Whaaaa?" EXACTLY. This applies directly to something we have to deal with head on in steps 6 & 7: it takes us so long in program to realize that our character defects are not who we are! But we think they are, that's why we're so afraid to let go of them.

    And when I say "we" there I mean me and the people I've met in program, not you or anyone else not in recovery. Just to clarify. Thanks for that Aha! moment though. :)

  2. ...such an important distinction. I actually saw a guy on Intervention last night who was struggling so hard with that...probably too early in his recovery process for him to make that distinction.

    I also think it's way harder to forgive one's self than to forgive others...but it's so important...sigh. A worthy struggle.