By Michael Merline
Uncle Bill arrived drunk that Sunday, which was unremarkable. What was remarkable was his relative quietude. Grammy was in the kitchen, trying to help out, but the other women ignored her except to avoid running her over as they scrambled to get the turkey feast ready. She stood in the middle of the kitchen giving out helpful hints, instructions, and random recollections of Thanksgiving meals past.
She would occasionally forget where she was, and then awaken from her journey of forgetting to further regale her imaginary army of prep chefs. Most of the kids were out in the yard plotting some sort of mischief and settling old scores from the last family get together. Allen and Frank were arguing again, this time about football. It wasn't a party until they got into a physical fight and had to be pushed outside, where they drank beer and felt good about themselves again.
At the table, the older women kept the conversation light, occasionally asking for input via terse interrogations of the younger set. Under the groaning table of mountains of calories, the dog lay forlorn, hoping for a food related accident. At length, during a lull in the conversation as the dishes were being cleared, Uncle Bill suddenly stood, raised his fifth tumbler of Scotch, and addressed the crowd with a toast. Women came out from the kitchen wiping their hands on aprons and towels, and he began.
“I've been in this family my whole life, and I've seen a lot. I never said anything about any of it, but today I will. You are all the biggest bunch of liars and thieves I've ever seen. And I've seen plenty. You talk a good story but not one of you ever says what you really mean. All of this unspoken cap just festers and then you die, perhaps not soon enough.”
At this point Amy dropped her wine glass and the sound of breaking glass put a rather pointed punctuation to the moment.
“Now what I want you all to do is look each other in the eyes and tell the truth for once in your miserable lives. I'm leaving, because I've said my piece, and I'm tired. Happy Thanksgiving, and thanks for the meal.” He staggered out to his car, where his wife had already had it running. From the house, the dead silence he left began to melt into twittering and giggling. Allen and Frank were rolling around in the grass, yelling sonofabitch at each other. Bill sighed and a slight smile crossed his lips.
By Nicole Cater
Let’s talk about meltdowns. I’m not sure what they mean to everyone else, but I know what it is when I’m having one. They come as a reaction, all out of proportion to the situation. Or they come for no reason at all. There is sobbing, hair pulling, clothes renting and an overwhelming sense of the worst dread. I am paralyzed by fear, anxiety, and uncertainty. I can’t act. Even trying to act could make situations worse. Granted, it could make it better, but in the throes of a meltdown, better is as foreign as Sanskrit. A meltdown involves doctors, medications, sometimes trips to lockdown. It is a serious business. And it’s one I try to avoid at all costs, even though I have no real control. If my brain says “meltdown” there is not much I can do to stop it from happening.
So why detail what a meltdown is and what (seemingly nothing) causes it? Because when you have Bi Polar Disorder and are not secretive about it, you become something other than human; less than human, with people just waiting for what they can label a breakdown and then smirk and say “I told you so”.
But I’m human, just like everyone else. And that humanity is expressed in emotion. And I have the full range; BPD has done nothing to hinder this. Sure, I think differently, and maybe you don’t understand my thought process. But maybe I don’t understand yours. I don’t hold it against you. But you sure as hell will hold it against me.
I learned in grade school that a temper was not an asset. So I worked hard to control it. I have a long fuse. So generally, I taught myself to be, if not happy, at least quietly accepting in most situations. But anger is an emotion and since I’m human, I have it. If you light my fuse, eventually the bomb will go off. I’ve strived to keep my temper in check my entire life, until it reaches righteous indignation. But since I have BPD, the struggle with my temper and the anger that I eventually feel is completely invalidated. I’m not angry; I’m having a meltdown.
This is an awfully convenient ploy, especially for those whom my anger is directed towards. It couldn’t have been something they did that eventually pissed me off. I’m mentally ill, so it’s a meltdown; it’s my own illness, not any external factors.
I get to be mad. Because I am human, and I have a conscience, I get to be pissed off. And if you tell me it’s just a meltdown, I will be even more pissed off, because I know what my actual meltdowns are. You have no clue. You just don’t want to take the blame for making your friend righteously angry. And if you do this, I most likely will discount you as a friend. You have invalidated me as a person with a full range of emotions. Furthermore, you have minimized me down to a diagnosis, an illness which you probably don’t even understand.
Worst of all will be the eventual excuse “I didn’t mean to offend, don’t get upset”. But I’m already upset.
Without giving it any consideration, you have judged me. You have found me lacking humanity. And you have reduced a well rounded person into a mere product of illness. Tell me how your disregard for all of that makes me in favor of a lie (that you tell yourself to feel better). How is this not offensive to me?
I get angry. As a person, I am entitled to this emotion just like any other person. Since I was young, I have tried to keep anger in check, to not overreact. And it’s hard work. But I’ve been rewarded with a slow fuse and a temper that blows over quickly. How many people can say the same?
When you call my anger (or anyone else’s with a mental illness) a meltdown, you take away from us as people. Not only is it not truly a meltdown, you are also denying us the feelings that belong to the whole human race. The fact that you probably caused it and are trying to mitigate the blame makes it even worse. I understand that anger makes people uncomfortable. It should, because if someone has done something wrong enough for a person to get angry, everyone starts questioning how they feel about a situation. But my illness is not your easy out. My anger is for a reason, and I get to own it. I’m entitled to own it. You, on the other hand, do not get to use my own illness as a scapegoat for your shitty behavior.
So be warned: I get angry. And you won’t like me when I’m angry. Because despite my BPD, I am smart, devious even. My fuse is long and you can avoid making me angry. But if you do, know this: I will win. Despite whatever excuses you throw in my way, or maybe because of them, you won’t stand a chance. Meltdowns are about me. Anger is about you. And you have to answer for it.
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