My Experience Only. YMMV.

Just the Facts

Or anyway, the facts as I remember them. (Truth is a three-edged sword, and my memory is like Swiss cheese, because of a couple of factors I will discuss later. In fact, the alternate title for this post is/should be “To be discussed later.”)

I have been depressed since I was a child. I was diagnosed with depression (with anxiety) in my 20s. I am now in my 50s and my diagnosis is now bipolar disorder, type 2. I think it fits me better.

I live in Ohio with my husband of 30+ years, three cats, and a dog.

I have a psychiatrist (Dr. R) and a psychotherapist (Dr. B). I like to think of them as Drs. R&B.

Over the years, I have taken various prescribed psychotropic drugs and still do. I once narrowly avoided electroshock treatment. I have never been hospitalized for my mental problems.

I have had a number of “mental breakdowns” (or whatever they’re called now). I just call them “the times my brain broke.”

I can still do paid work from home as a freelancer.

Oh, and I have no insurance.

Since you’ve read this far, I’ll give you a little tidbit to tide you over until I can get back to those various topics (and more).

I’ll freely admit that my social skills are not the best. Small talk, introductions, and remembering people’s names and faces have never come easy to me. I used to go to lunch with an unthreatening coworker just to practice innocuous conversation. (Well, and eat lunch, too.) I never told her that was what I was doing, but I suspected that she suspected.

So I can totally sympathize with others who have difficulties in these areas. But over the years I’ve learned that some people have social skills even less developed than mine.

One time outside a pharmacy, a woman came up to me and asked, “Do you have mental problems?” Honestly, I had do say, “Yes, I guess I do.,” but all the while I was wondering, “Does it show? Is it written on my forehead? Do I give off tin-foil-hat vibrations?” (No, I was not wearing a tin foil hat.)
It turned out that she recognized me from the waiting room at my therapist’s office. I didn’t recognize her at all, thus proving my social skills still needed work. But I think I would have started with “You look familiar” or “Don’t I know you from somewhere?” or “By any chance do you go to Dr. L.? I think I’ve seen you in his waiting room” and gone on from there.

Another time I was at a function at my mother-in-law’s church. It was my in-laws’ anniversary, and I was nominally the hostess (and the caterer). I had to introduce myself to a number of people and explain what I was doing there. Most of this was fairly simple. “Hi, I’m Matilda and Herman’s daughter-in-law. I’m married to their youngest son. Please help yourself to refreshments.” I thought I had the routine down pat.

Then an older gentleman came up to me and I automatically put out my hand to shake. The first words out of his mouth were, “Are you the one there’s something wrong with?” Again, my first thought was “Does it show?” Then I rapidly dismissed any number of possible replies: “Yes, [shaking hands vigorously] I’m the one with leprosy” or (if I could burst into tears spontaneously, which I can’t) “Yes, but it’s too painful to talk about.” Or “Harriet wasn’t supposed to tell anyone” or “You’ll have to be more specific. There’s lots wrong with me.” Or “I married into this family, didn’t I?” Or even “No. Are you?”

Fortunately, my brain caught up with the conversation and I was able to explain that no, it was the other son’s wife who had a serious and largely untreatable condition.

I was proud of myself for figuring out what he meant and explaining the situation to him with a fair amount of tact. But to this day, I wish I had tried the leprosy line. Take that, social skills!

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