Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Perhaps Better Described as Should Disease

Sometimes the diagnosis of a mental illness within the diagnostic manual is useful. Useful for the treating psychopharmacologist, certainly. But I have been thinking about my bipolar diagnosis for nine years now and the four readers of this blog are familiar with my view that a very small percentage of what is treatable in mental illness is treatable by meds. In fact, I think nothing less than a fearless inventory of your entire life is required to beat the incapacity pain in our minds (which manifests itself throughout the entire body, i.e., nervous system) can cause.

Lately I have been thinking that what I have is better described as "Should Disease". There is what I am like, what my situation is, how I spend my day and there is, a distance away, what I think I should be like, what I think my situation should be and how I think I should have spent my day. I live in the distance between what is and what should be, punishing myself that one is not like the other.

I made a mistake today and I now have enough self-awareness to realize what a horrific, humiliating ass-kicking I give myself every time I make a mistake. The mistake does not incapacitate me but the mortification and shame I feel unnecessarily as a result sure as hell does. With all the internalization of a first child, I even sort of attract further mistakes, so complete is my own condemnation and judgment of myself.

This is a more complete description of my symptoms than the traditional listings for mania and depression.

People with Should Disease inflict misery on themselves and truly suffer as a result. I propose a diagnostic tool for that. It's this thing I noticed watching movies with people. Most people see internal anguish as abnormal and wrong and scenes of internal anguish frequently become unbearable for them as viewers. This does not happen to me. To me, the actors on the screen, no matter how raw and well-acted their pain is, really are experiencing just what I experience not infrequently. It's just not that impressive. This could be used as some sort of acid test of internal suffering.

Women I think may be more likely to have Should Disease because there are so many volumes of Shoulds available to us. Fashion, Skincare, Career, Motherhood, Lifestyle, Ecology. I used to get so mad at male trial lawyers when I was practicing for just this reason. They would shave and slip on a suit and be ready to go. I would have body issues, concealer performance issues, cat guilt, mascara application anxiety, I would have to find a pair of pantyhose with no runs and it always seemed like I had so much more work to do. So many more areas where I could fail. So many big baseball bats marked with shoulds to use on myself.

The good news is now that I have identified it, it is easier to make it go away.

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