Archives for posts with tag: mental health

Last week I saw a new psychiatrist and I was very nervous.  I hate seeing new psychiatrists and having to answer all their questions.  But this time I was prepared.  I had written out a page of information that I anticipated my new doctor would like to know.  I really suggest doing this as a coping strategy for seeing doctors-it makes for a much more productive session.  Usually doctors ask if you have ever been sexually abused (I have) and about the nature of that abuse.  I do not like talking about it at all.  I decided to take charge of my fears and so I was the first to bring up my sexual history.  Talking fast, I told him that a year and a half ago I had gotten pregnant and then had an abortion, but he interrupted me before I could finish my story.

You don’t have to tell me about this.  Anyone can be sexy.  I only care if you think you were acting out of mania.  Otherwise, don’t tell me. Being sexy is not crazy.

I was nearly speechless-I’m not used to doctors not wanting to pry into my personal life!  I told him that I did think my actions were due at least in part to mania or my borderline personality disorder and it’s true, I do.  But I have been thinking about his comment and it has provided me the opportunity to rethink how I think about some of the major sexual events in my life.  Before, I was viewing everything as a negative and that it was proof of my mental illness and of being unstable.  And while I do think that my mental illnesses did play a part in why I made some impulsive sexual decisions, the truth is is that I am human and humans have sexual desires.  For instance, I got pregnant, because I had unprotected sex.  I knew better and yet I continued to have sex.  For a long time, I pathologized what I did-I blamed my actions on the impulsiveness that marks having Borderline Personality Disorder.  It was the only explanation I could come up with that would explain why I would do something so “stupid.”  If you go back father into my past, then there are the times when I was a freshman and a sophomore in college and I was “friends with benefits” with several guy friends.  For a long time, I rationalized that I was sick with the moods of Bipolar II and that was why I acted the way I did-I was either severely depressed and wanted comfort or I was manic and impulsive.  All of these things were true.  But it is also true, that college students often experiment with their sexuality.  “Friends with benefits” is not a term only reserved for the mentally ill.  I was a young woman with a sexual drive.  Sometimes I wanted comfort and sometimes I felt impulsive, but so are many other nineteen-year-olds.  Likewise, many young women sometimes have unprotected sex.  It may not be smart, but it isn’t that uncommon either.  Yes, it is helpful to look at what part my illnesses play in my mistakes, but my illnesses are not all of who I am.  I am a sexual being.  I have sexual needs.  Besides, I don’t even regret most of the “benefits” I had in college.  It’s time to stop looking at my sexuality through the lens of mental illness and start accepting that it is okay to be a sexual person and that all people make mistakes.  Because of my pregnancy, I take sexual intercourse more seriously.  I have an IUD now.  I am working on being less impulsive and I recognize that some of my impulsiveness comes from my disorders, but some of it comes from my being human.  I am human.  I am sexy.  I have mental illness.  I am in recovery.  My sexiness does not equal craziness, but is a natural part of my being.

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TRIGGER WARNING – Sexual and Emotional Abuse Described!!!

Last Tuesday, I saw my new psychiatrist for the first time, so I was really anxious.  I always get really anxious when seeing a new therapist or doctor.  I especially get nervous around the doctors, because I know that they will ask me if I have ever been abused and I frankly don’t know the answer to that question. I feel like I was sexually abused by my first serious boyfriend, ten years ago, but to be honest, I’m not absolutely sure.  I wasn’t raped-I always gave consent, but every time we had sex it was very painful and rough and not in a good way.  It got to where I would just lay there silently crying while he would roughly have sex with me.  On top of that, he would say hurtful and demeaning things to me right after sex.  I remember one time he called me a prude.  After the first time I had sex, when I told him that it was really painful, he told me that I should be comforted by the fact that my “tightness felt really good.”   No, that was not comforting!  Basically he was telling me that my pain didn’t count and that his pleasure should always come first.  What finally got me to break up with him was when he bought me a dong and told me to “wear it between your legs until it’s comfortable” and then laughed.  Does this count as sexual abuse, or is it emotional?  When my doctor asked me if I’ve ever been abused, I thought about this guy and I answered yes, sexual.  But when I told my doctor that I had never been raped, he wanted clarification and that I could barely provide.  “Were you scared?” he asked.  “No, not really.”  The room became cloudy and all I could see was me in bed with my old boyfriend with tears in my eyes.  I was losing my grip on reality and losing my voice, so I finally said, “I’m sorry, I can’t talk about it anymore.”  And that was that.  New topic.  But I felt defeated, because I felt I hadn’t been able to fully articulate the abuse to my satisfaction.

The problem is that most sexual education is about abstinence and avoiding icky diseases.  It’s not about how to respect yourself and each other.  It’s not about consent and communication.  It’s not about  what constitutes rape, what is abuse, and how to stand up for yourself.  Thinking back to that time, I remember wanting to please him and feeling like a failure.  I wish that I had had a more rounded sexual education-I think it would have saved me a whole lot of trouble.  And even if it didn’t stop the abuse from happening, at least I would know what to call it.

I’ll never forget the day that I officially learned that I was pregnant.  I had already done a home pregnancy test, but I decided that I would wait until I had seen a doctor before freaking out.  I went to an “Urgent Care” medical office, instead of my regular doctor, because I was embarrassed.  I wish I had gone to my regular doctor-he’s very caring and has known me since I was a baby-precisely the reason that I did not want to see him.  Unfortunately, the doctor at the Urgent Care had the personality of a douche.  In fact, that is exactly what my friend called him when we got out of his office, “What a douche!”  He didn’t do a blood test, which is what I had wanted.  I remember he entered the room and handed me the stick, while I just stared at it in shock.  Since I didn’t move, he said in a very annoyed voice, “You’re pregnant.  I’ll give you a prescription for prenatal vitamins.”  He handed me a prescription and then left the room.

I was in shock.  I was also infuriated.  I knew that I shouldn’t expect the care of a therapist out of a doctor, but I did expect him to act like he was interacting with a human being.  I hated how he assumed that I needed prenatal vitamins.  He assumed that I was keeping the baby and that this was a joyous event, but nothing could be further from the truth.  I knew from the beginning that I would be getting an abortion if I got pregnant and it would have been nice if the doctor had acknowledged that I had choices.  I wish that he had talked to me about my options and that he had asked me how I was handling the news.  I wish that he had given me some referrals to people that could help me, instead of treating me like a nuisance.  He could have referred me to Planned Parenthood or to the Feminist Women’s Health Center.  Anything would have been better than him assuming what I would do.  By making those assumptions, he ignored the fact that I had a choice.  I could choose to keep the baby, or give it up for adoption, or have an abortion.  Choosing an option over another does not make one a better or worse person.  When he ignored my power of choice, I felt less than human.  Surely having the ability to make choices is one of the things that makes us human.

With all of the legislation lately against abortions, I am afraid that we may lose our ability to choose what is best for our bodies very soon.  If you’ve read this blog, then you know that I was afraid that my mental illness would get worse if I stayed pregnant.  I made the choice to have an abortion and I have no regrets.  What I do regret is how I was treated by that douche-bag of a doctor.  What we need are more feminist doctors-ones who values a womyn’s agency and who acts with empathy.  This is what I envision for our future.  I’m not going to try to become a doctor, but I hop that by sharing my story that perhaps it will change someone’s mind on how to treat people who are pregnant and not to make assumptions.  Not all people that are pregnant are happy and glowing, but all people deserve to be shown all of their options and to be treated with dignity.  And the best way to give someone dignity is by giving them the power of choice.

A person on tumblr said the other day that womyn should not get abortions, because it could mess with their mental health, since an abortion to the body is the same thing as a miscarriage.  Another person then responded that they had never known any womyn that regretted having an abortion or having mental health problems because of it.  I would like to address both comments here.

It is true that to the body, an abortion that is carried out by a doctor is the same thing as a miscarriage.  Because the elevated hormones are still present in the body for a while after the abortion, some people even think that a womyn who has had an abortion may still go through postpartum depression.  I am one of those people.  I am very sensitive to hormonal changes and when I got my abortion, my life spiraled out of control-hormones plus a huge amount of stress at work and in my relationships plus not being on the right medication and I was definitely due to another breakdown.  So to the person who does not know any womyn who have had mental health issues due to an abortion-here am I.

To the pro-lifer, though, I must say that despite my hormones and hospitalizations and stress, I never once regretted my decision to have an abortion.  Despite all that happened, I still credit it with saving my life.  You see, as one of my old doctors liked to say, I have “severe” mental illness and I am convinced that I would have gone through a postpartum depression much more severe than the one I experienced.  There have been a few times when I have felt flashes of guilt, because I am adopted.  Surely someone that is adopted is supposed to give their own child up for adoption if they follow in their birth mother’s footsteps by getting pregnant, right?  Wrong.  Every person has the right to make their own decisions about their own body, regardless of what anyone else decides to do with theirs.  It doesn’t matter what anyone else says or feels or believes about abortion-the choice is yours and yours alone, because your body is yours and yours alone.

So yes, I had mental illness issues partly due to my abortion a year and a half ago, but no, I never regretted it and never will.  In fact, the ability to have an abortion has made me even more firm in my beliefs about female autonomy.  About two months ago, I took a lobbying for reproductive justice workshop and I plan to start lobbying with the Women’s Feminist Health Center in Atlanta soon.  Having an abortion did not make me regretful, but it did add a fierceness for reproductive justice that is unparalleled.  I feel blessed that I was able to have my abortion and I want all womyn to have the unfettered ability to make their own choices.