Don’t Look At Me Like That!

I’m starting over.

Last week was an utter and complete failure in terms of my quest to be healthier. Granted there were a couple of barriers that were beyond my control. I mean, the common cold swept through my house, hitting three-fourths of us. My mom was, thankfully, the only one to escape it. She had knee replacement surgery scheduled for last Tuesday and it’d already been rescheduled from several months ago when Mom fell and broke her arm (an injury that required its own surgery) and had to cancel the first appointment. I was able to join my dad in visiting Mom right after the operation, but I had wear a mask over my nose and mouth to keep my germs from spreading. The rest of the week I stayed home, not just for my sake but so as not to spread the virus any further.

The common cold might be a reasonable excuse for staying home and not exercising, but is it a legitimate reason to relapse in diet? I mean, did I really need fried food more than twice in the span of four days? Was it wrong to indulge a tasty, sugar-filled soda twice? How did I rationalize it at the time? I can’t remember. Did I say something like, “Well, it can’t hurt if I only do it now and then.” or “Who cares if I die young? If I can’t enjoy what I eat, what’s the point in living?” At least that’s what I used to tell myself before when I’d stopped caring.

Of course, when I screw up one goal, I start to think about how I’ve screwed up in other aspects of my life as well: education, work, relationships, etc. A week before yesterday, I took part in a free webinar. Hosted by Mike McHargue (a.k.a. “Science Mike”) it was kind of experimental and the subject was Making Your Mark. And so I listened and took notes and he posed a couple of questions for all of us wanna-be-world-changers. He asked: “What do you do best in the world?” and “What do you care about more than anything else?” And though my mind has taken these questions quite out of context this week, I was pleased when he specifically addressed those of us with more than one passion. I remember he advised us to take a close look at the many things we’re passionate about and search for a common thread.

The quest to identify the common thread in my interests has consumed my thoughts ever since, though I used being sick as an excuse to put off doing any serious inquiries (trust me, it’s a daunting task spanning over twenty years of archived, personal writings, and that’s just the start). Judging by my inner monologues at least, the common thread is me. I’m always studying myself, analyzing myself, wondering why I think, act, and look the way I do, unintentionally comparing myself to others and society, trying to figure out how they see me so I can convince them to accept me as one of them; so I can show them that, despite all my imperfections, I’m worthy of love; so I can ease my fear of growing old alone.

But of course, I can’t do that.

Someone once recommended I see the film Welcome to Me because the protagonist, she said, reminded her a bit of me. I watched it and enjoyed it for many reasons but in no way would I’d acknowledge that Kristen Wiig’s character and I were much alike. I mean, this fictional woman not only wanted everything to be about her but she did so at the expense of other people in the her life. It didn’t occur to her to think of how her actions could affect those she loved most. She hadn’t yet learned to respect boundaries. At the same time, when she felt any sort of emotional turmoil in her own life, she didn’t hesitate to ask others to be there for her.

No, she wasn’t a narcissist. In fact, she suffered from borderline personality disorder, a diagnosis I was once given but I’ve worked hard with psychiatrists, psychologists, and other mental health professionals to overcome those destructive, alienating behaviors that are hallmarks of the disorder. Dialectical behavioral therapy has been the most effective treatment. But it’s offensive to patients with BPD to be labeled “narcissistic.” What’s the difference? Remorse. When a person with BPD realizes what she’s done, she’ll feel bad about it. Someone with NPD doesn’t care what the other person feels.

So maybe I am like the protagonist, Alice Klieg, in more ways than I’d like to admit. I write this blog that matters to very few people, I imagine. But it matters to me and I don’t know if it’s about mental illness or religion or social justice or being a Francophile or photography or simply achieving goals. Honestly it would’ve been very unlikely for me to ever to write about mental illness had I never been given first-hand experiences and diagnoses. For example, I might never have struggled with so much weight gain had I not been prescribed anti-depressants and mood stabilizers. I probably would’ve have been too busy with work and/or family to write for fun (and not profit) if I hadn’t been hospitalized enough for be approved for SSDI and not have to work . In fact, much of what I write about is informed by life experiences I never expected to have. I suppose it’s like this for many of us.