REALITY BYTES: Asleep At The Wheel
More often than not, a psychiatric diagnosis is made after a brief interview where the “physician” observes an apparent set of symptoms that fall into some category of dysfunction and abnormality. So after about fifteen minutes in a sterile, foreign environment, the observed symptoms are almost immediately categorized by level of severity and the diagnosis is magically transformed into one of several very expensive, very new, and very over prescribed medications that are often used off-label by psychiatric practitioners.
Did we not learn anything from the Hawthorne studies where we learned that the very act of observation in and of itself changes not only behavior, but also performance of subjects in any given setting?
There simply is no such thing as “natural” observation. The act of observing changes behavior, and I can tell you for certain that the act of being observed sure changes mine!
Largely driven by pharmaceutical conglomerates, a psychiatric diagnosis can be every bit a trendy as a pair of designer jeans back in middle school. It seems that lately, that diagnoses are driven more and more by big Pharma and the latest and greatest pharmaceutical discovery.
It started in the 70’s when Valium first became known as “Mommy’s Little Helpers.”
The 80’s brought with it the discovery of Prozac, the wonder drug. And before we knew it, everyone from the Island to the Upper East Side was popping the capsules on a daily basis. Seeing a shrink was the norm, not the exception.. It was almost trendy to be depressed. So long as it stopped there.
But next? Next came the smart pills. The Adderall, Provigil, the nap in a bottle. Stimulants were to late 90’s what cocaine was in the 70’s. Only this time they were prescribed, and they were socially acceptable, and they were given to children. Parents from Westchester and Scarsdale rushed to the nearest doctor in town to get their children on the fast track to the Ivy League. I would not be surprised if Shire-Richwood (the company that developed the pharmaceutical gem) bought add space in pre-schools. ADD. It’s almost cool to be diagnosed with it. shit—look at Ty Pennington. He’s a man’s man. When I grow up, I wanna be hyperactive too! And bam—there is was in the next edition of the DSM-IV: ADD with Adult onset. You don’t even need to be hyperactive anymore, just N.O.S.. (not otherwise specified).
Now we have Depakote & Seroquel and everyone from Britney Spears to the kid next door is suddenly bipolar. And apparently, now I am too! Could it be that I’m just moody or having a bad day? Could it be that your annoying personality and is getting under my skin? Or that maybe, just, maybe I have good reason to be angry or upset? It couldn’t possibly be that years of chronic stress have finally just pushed me over the edge?
Or could it?
So after years of being medicated with every pharmaceutical from Ativan to Zoloft, I finally got that golden diagnosis that makes me almost as cool as Britney and Paris, and so, yes– I have been diagnosed bipolar too. I’ve also been diagnosed with just about everything else that appears within the spectrum of anxiety disorders, so is it any wonder that I find it a little bit unnerving to place myself in the oh, so capable hands of a shrink who seems to have gotten his degree out of some cracker jack box– because surely no competent medical professional would dare to place me on just about every sedative and anti-psychotic medication or threaten to have me institutionalized simply because I suggested he may actually want to treat me rather than medicate me… but that would be too labor intensive for a shrink who divides his time between the local community mental health agency and the county jail.
FUN! I’m certifiable now!!!
So rather than take the time to listen to a word I have to say, or try something archaic like actually evaluating my symptoms and reviewing my medical history before treating me with the latest and greatest R&D breakthrough to hit the Pharmaceutical Industry since Penicillin.
I have and taken pretty much every pill.
If I’m happy I’m grandiose. If I’m sad, I’m chronically depressed. If I’m angry I’m paranoid. When I’m confident I’m narcissistic, and when I’m excited I must be manic. Couldn’t’t it just be that you’re constant bullshit is really just pissing me the fuck off?
I have finally become every bit as crazy as I could have possibly imagined one being. Wouldn’t it be nice to know that maybe, just maybe, there was some hope before my entire body and mind were tweaked with every artificial emotion —
Unfortunately, the one thing I am not is psychotic, though I often wish I were!
The idea of living in an alternative reality is most appealing! A place where this hell-hole I call home might is sprinkled with glitter and daffodils.
Dust? Not here. Couldn’t be. I just vacuumed three years ago and I saw Tinkerbell flying overhead spreading fairy dust while she thought I was sleeping!
No. Unfortunately, I am not psychotic, but I might let you think that I am! It’s a little more fun that way… for both of us!
Until, of course, until it gets real. Until I am so far beyond exhausted that I can hardly get my ass out of bed or sleep through my alarm because I pushed myself way too hard for way too long…. I have fallen asleep during my lunch hour, found myself dozing off during a conference call– or worse— a webinar!
It is hard enough to navigate a big boxy 5-speed SUV wide awake. Try doing it when your eyes start to feel blurry. Just add a huge ass deer bumper to that contraption, and I’m definitely a danger to others!
I have hit way too many non-moving objects while awake and focused– not to mention the times I am tired and distracted!
Asleep at the wheel again!
Them I get home… eventually… and it happens again! Asleep at the wheel of the very worst kind: My mouse wheel!
The Logitech mouse optical bar that controls my entire world! How many times have I accidentally lost or sent files simply from “bumping” the wheel?
I lost a whole hard drive once– back when they were really, really expensive! At least no one got hurt. Well, not that time!
There was actually one time I fell asleep sitting up with a cigarette burning over somewhere too close to my keyboard. My new laptop that I bought with my very last disbursement of my student loans. It was an all-in-one deal. I must have had a cigarette in my hand, my mouth– don’t even remember… but after a few minutes went by, probably a few hours, maybe even a few days, and I woke up to find my favorite letter melted into the motherboard just beneath the flimsy little keys.
That was no fun, since I had to change all my passwords using a pen jabbing at the empty space on my keyboard where my F-key used to be.
I recently had to put another poor keyboard to rest along with its antiquated predecessors of roller balls, and peripherals that I bought long before the USB port was ever an option! So there lays my keyboard, along with a few outdated mice, printer cables, cable splitters, and a a whole lot of cords that surge protectors.
I can’t say why exactly, but for some (pathological) reason, I still have mice that I used to run with DOS before I upgraded to Windows 3.1. Yes– I have quite an extensive cord collection! Zip drives, Floppy disks, thermal paper that has turned yellow since they I don’t think you can even find a fax machine that still uses those 6 foot rolls I used to buy in the early ’90’s.
They are in there somewhere, tucked away in boxes filled with telephone cords, old school printer cables and hardly modern gender switchers! Buried along with an external zip drive and my first hot swappable floppy disk drive and CD . Because sadly, I do not think I could function in this world if I were attached to a keyboard that was missing the letter “F”.
But don’t worry—I got a new one. I could not live or die without using my favorite word in the English language. No—that one needed to be replaced. Next generation: Wireless! Woo-hoo! Now we’re talking. Falling asleep at the wheel can be a problem—especially for a cat. Poor little thing. She is so used to watching me move it around furiously – just enough to catch the signal at just the right angle, my poor cat thinks it’s a toy. The only mouse that is more fun to chase than that bird she once caught when she jumped off the porch. Poor little spotty, she curls up next to the PC tower because it is warmer than my bed. My mouse gets more attention than my poor little kitty cat. Holy shit! My priorities are fucked up!
But still… here I am, huddled over the keyboard while the world waits for me outside. I could be sitting in a bar. I could be mailing a letter. I could be taking a walk—but no. Here I am. Stuck like a zombie in front of the keyboard.
“COMPUTER OFF: MAKE IT STOP!”
I burned of staring at that the computer screen begins to morph into strange little dots in my peripheral vision. I’m so stressed out that I shake when I write, and I’m so stressed out that my adrenaline and cortisol levels are literally damaging my brain. If I’m not crazy yet, trust me I’m well on my way!
There is no diagnosis for being lonely. But if there were how would it best be described? Being in a room full of people. Being in crisis and no one to call– or worse calling someone when in crisis and no one shows up? Which is worse? I think I’d rather not make that call. Why, you may ask? Because we can convince ourselves that is simply because others are busy– certainly not because they don’t care when deep inside we know the truth.
Do I really want to be reminded that I have spent just under 36 years on this planet and that I cannot think of one person I could rely upon in an emergency. Not a single person to call. No emergency contact number, no permanent home address. And even if I could come up with a name or number, who among them could I possibly trust to take care of Spotty? Shit– I can’t think if anyone who would might even notice that my car hadn’t moved — or that I might have.
This concerns me more than I could possibly let on… who will know t check on Spotty? Who would notice? It is not her fault that I don’t play well with others. No one would notice at all– at least until they actually needed something from me.
Everybody calls me in crisis. And time and time again I come running. But sometimes I would just rather be alone. In silence. In White Noise. Where I am safe. Where I am free. Where I am trapped and where I am completely and utterly alone.
Other times, I just want to run. I don’t know where; don’t why, just run. So I can be alone in a strange city where it is actually okay for me to be alone. It is easier to remove myself from the social circles of days gone by, high school reunions, Family or College re-unions….
And though I have read quite a bit about the physiology associated with the “fight or flight” instinct– I still don’t know if I am running towards something or away from another.
I am, and always have been, “a man without a country.” I am a woman without a home. I always have been, and even as an adult I still felt Homeless at Home. (Durant, 2002)
So I moved as far as I could from the obvious places one might expect me to find me. I am definitely a “New Yorker,” but only in spirit and in attitude. So I really can’t go home again. That simply is not an option. And even if I were invited to go to one of four possible high school reunions, what would be the point? What for?
To be reminded yet again how much potential I used to have?
Why bother going back to the “glory days” of football uniforms and cheerleader skirts? Is our desire to participate in the juvenile, yet ritualistic tradition of seeing how well we measured up against our peers? Is the competition over yet, or are we still waiting to see who has the most toys, the biggest diamond, or the prettiest trophy wife after all is said and done? Are those events driven by our desire to see how far come or how far others have fallen? To see that the girl who fucked my boyfriend in the tenth grade is now wearing his ring? To listen to my sorority sisters who still gossip about eating disorders and drug problems?
Life is sometimes like a car wreck, you don’t want to look, but you can’t turn seem to turn away. And yes, secretly, deep down inside, we are a bit relieved if not happy that it happened to some extent meone else instead of ourselves. Yep, no question: better him then me!
So for everyone out there who recently promised to help before , during, and after my surgery– you can all breathe a sigh of relief… You need not worry that I might actually take you up on that promise.
If you don’t know me well enough to know how difficult it is for me to ask for anything, then clearly you would be the last person I want to see when I wake up the hospital.
I don’t care if it is breast cancer or a broken toe– you are not welcome here. I don’t call during a crisis. Not because I’m strong, not because I’m brave, and not because I’m weak. Simply because I’m not that person. I’m not stoic, I’m not brave, I’m just not that person!
If or when I’m in trouble, disappointment and broken promises are the very last thing I need or want. Even if it out of some misplaced sense of pity or superficial concern. I have been in trouble before. I know what to expect. I am certainly old enough, and apparently smart enough to have learned the rules of the game by now.
So if you catch me feeling sad, lonely, or just plain sorry for myself, take comfort in knowing that I expect you to walk away– much like you have in the past. And don’t worry, it’s okay to think to yourself, better me than you.
So instead, I find it is far better to drown myself in White Noise then baby bullshit and pure stupidity.
To distract myself with fancy websites, useless information, self-reflection, loud music… Fancy gadgets, the newest widgets, and everything else that completely distracts us from the reality of our existence.
To keep us from realizing that we may actually be completely alone in this world and maybe even in the next one too…
It is easier to fake a smile and go about my merry way than to be confronted with the fact that nobody gives a shit about how I feel or what I’ve been doing, unless, of course, I have something they need.
Something of value, something material. Something concrete. Something that can be sold, or something that can be used. Something, of course, other than me.
Because sadly, what gets lost in translation, is the very fact that I am something of value. Something to love. Something to hold on to. Someone who will stay by your side even if it hurts me to do so.
The one thing you will never know, is just how much it hurts to watch you walk out the door. Especially when I knew it was coming, or perhaps maybe the only way it could ever have been.
I think I’m done.
You can come, you can go– whenever you like. Eventually I do smarten up– and the one time you come knocking, I may just not bother to let you in.
Yes– White Noise.
White Noise, Dark Nights. Sanity and Superheroes.
So please don’t call me and ask, “how are you?” Unless you really want to know, don’t bother asking. Because one of these days, when you least expect it, I might be ready to tell you. I might be ready to tell the world. I might just tell you to sit your ass down and tell you exactly how I am. And let me warn you: it’s not good.
Dark empty nights are only special if you can endure the silence. Not just the midnight hours, but the long stretches of silence and solitude that can only be cherished by those who not only appreciate it, but by those who are capable of creating their own White Noise.
I am lucky that I actually enjoy the dark in the dead of night. Because only then am I am completely free to enjoy the complex whisper of the midnight hour. And finally, just as before the sun comes up, and a quiet calm comes over my body and mind. A single moment where I gain complete control over my racing thoughts and busy mind. It only then when I can actually moment write, post, and submit.
Elyssa D. Durant, Ed.M.
“You may not care how much I know, but you don’t know how much I care.”
Reference: The Politics of the DSM
LIVE: What’s In A Name?
Friday, June 13, 2008 7:13 PM
From: “Elyssa Durant”
To: “Elyssa Danielle Durant” Message contains attachmentsWhat.docx (27KB)
Posted by Elyssa D. Durant, Ed.M.
Friday, June 13, 2008
Labels: Drafts Dark Night, Diagnosis, DSM-IV, Psychiatry, Smart Pills, Sorry Works, White Noise