Staff members pulled us apart. He got put on 1:1s, but I just got a warning ("Please don't punch anyone else"). It probably had something to do with the fact that, as a rape survivor, I don't respond well to rape threats or assholes barging into my room. So yeah, gonna go with "He deserved it."
You Don't Usually Know What's Wrong
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When someone in a film has a mental disorder, it's always clear exactly what's wrong. It takes a movie doctor 12 seconds to lower his glasses and throw out a diagnosis of schizophrenia. But one of the most frustrating things about a serious mental illness is that you almost can't know exactly what's going on.
"Shit, let's just call it a headfuck cocktail."
It took me more than a decade to go from my first therapy session to knowing what I had. I started with a diagnosis of major depressive disorder, but after my first episode of mania, it turned into bipolar disorder, then bipolar with psychotic features, and finally schizoaffective disorder, bipolar subtype (and no, there's no fun little acronym for that one because it would be SAD-BS). Your brain changes as you age, so it's possible for your disorders to evolve like terrible crippling Pokemon. I started therapy at 13, but I didn't have a full-on delusion until I was 21. It was not very effective.
Since the doctors can't be 100 percent sure what's wrong, they can't be sure that the treatment is going to work. It could even make you worse. If you're secretly bipolar, but have only outwardly shown signs of depression, then antidepressants could throw you into your first mania. That's besides all the normal risks and side effects of medication. If you only get dizzy, sleepy, nauseated, or jittery, consider yourself lucky. Bad side effects include fainting, dangerously low blood pressure, seizures, the beginnings of Stevens-Johnson syndrome, and muscle stiffness to the point where you can't stand up. And those were only the side effects I personally experienced.
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Others were rather more severe.
Delusions are pretty confusing, too. One Friday night I came home and instantly knew my boyfriend had been replaced by an alien doppelganger. He looked the same ... but somehow off. I knew it was impossible and screwed up and wrong. That's one of the things about mental illness they don't show you: You can know what you're thinking is abnormal as you're thinking it. Here's the other thing about mental illness: That doesn't help one fucking bit.
If you suddenly hear a voice telling you that your neighbor is Satan, you don't go "Well, golly gee, time to kill him with a screwdriver, I guess." You'll fight it and disbelieve it, until you start seeing Satan in everything your neighbor does. By the time you confront him, you have tons of evidence. The evidence doesn't make sense to anyone else, but your brain makes it make sense to you. So when your neighbor ignores your hello, it's clearly because he's Satan and not because he didn't hear you.
Those damn horns he keeps wearing sure don't help.
And my alien delusion? How would I disprove that? My boyfriend would say he wasn't an alien, but that's exactly what an alien would say. Eventually, I got over it ... by ignoring it. My thought process went something like this: "If he is an alien and I blow his cover, he might beam me up to the mothership right now and whisk me away. If he's not an alien, he'll get upset that we're having this argument again. If I act normal until the alien leaves, I'll be fine."
The only way to fight your delusions is to ignore them. Not that this is a comfortable thing, since my brain is now convinced that I've had sex with an alien.
Hymn Herself has written a novella about her time spent inpatient in McLean Hospital. It's called House Full of Insects, and you'll buy it if you're cool.
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