I was just wondering this morning what we all would have done if there had been no internet invented before the onset of covid-19. How would we keep up our blogging? How would we research best practices for covid-19 symptoms? How could we have virtual meetings with doctors? How could we keep up to date with loved ones, family and friends without facetime? How would the kids be doing their remote learning in grade schools, high schools and colleges? How would we keep up with workplace meetings on Zoom? Just imagine how much more isolated we would be feeling without any of these coping mechanisms. Perhaps we need a shout-out to the internet to give thanks for our ability to connect (however limited) to each other in these uncertain times.
This was going to be the cover of my book: My Sojourn through Bipolar Illness – Safety, Society, Stigma and Stability. Thought I’d share it since I am now blogging instead of seeking a publisher. For me the painting captures the feeling of being stigmatized by mental illness as well as the simultaneous goal of keeping your eyes on the prize (the target) despite set-backs big and small.
This past week my doctor asked me to retake my monthly blood test because my white blood cell count was very low and I was immune system compromised. My doctor was saying we might need to change meds. This made me fearful on two counts. One, I was fearful about finding a new medication that would work for my bipolar disorder. I have been on this medication for 12 years and it has been largely therapeutic. Two, I was worried about a compromised immune system in this time of rapidly spreading illness. Lo and behold, I found out yesterday that my white blood cell count was on the rise! There is no need to change meds! though I do have to rest and mend myself from fatigue. Happily, I do not have covid-19 symptoms. I am truly grateful for this news. I cannot imagine trying out new medications in this environment of social distancing and the like. The goal now is to rest and get liquids and exercise in order to boost the immune system.
I would be interested in what others have to say about abuse that is psycho-social or psycho-sexual rather than physical. I have tried to heal myself from wounds associated with my college thesis advisor’s behavior toward me for 30 plus years. I don’t seem to get all the way through the processing and foregiveness stages since it seems to the general public that “me too” moments only speak to physical abuse or assault which I did not suffer. I sometimes feel that psycho-social or psycho-sexual assault is worse because we don’t have any context for addressing it.
Do you feel that psycho-social or psycho-sexual behavior toward another person qualifies as abuse? I’d be interested in your thoughts. By these terms I loosely mean that someone is seeking to psychoanalyze you and perhaps make you vulnerable so as to increase his or her own sense of power over you. This includes sexual advances that are not physical in nature but that help reinforce the power dynamic of one person over another.
During the fall of 1984 I was working on my thesis with a professor named Professor Dean Flannigan. My thesis topic was somewhat controversial as I was using Modern Fiction in my research and drawing conclusions from authors of the times like Alice Walker and Flannery O’Connor. I was looking at the way family is portrayed in Modern Fiction as an indicator of the socio-political developments and historical dynamics of the time. It felt like the English Department was not altogether in favor of such a modern approach to a thesis, yet approval for my thesis topic was provided by the relevant committee. This was a couple of years after my approval of a major in American Studies.
Professor Dean Flannigan is a story in and of itself and one which I will not detail right now except to say I now feel that Professor Flannigan was someone who needed to be revered and admired by his students yet also considered a peer. This situation was associated with risky behavior including serving cocaine to students in his home and invitations to Chicago which may have triggered my illness.
For me at the time, this was a “me too movement” moment. While I was not physically abused by Professor Flannigan, I believe I was psychologically abused. Professor Flannigan without any training tried to psychoanalyze me through the thesis advisement process and perhaps even tried to make me feel unstable. This unwarranted psychoanalysis triggered the response of a six-year-old child within me that likely experienced child abuse. Professor Flannigan’s attempts to psychoanalyze me I call psycho-social or psycho-sexual abuse. They left me with exposure of this six-year-old child with no way to regain security.
Today, I continue have high disregard for this professor and for Ivy College given the behavior of Professor Flannigan. I also readily agree now that I was not mature enough to distance myself from his later “come-ons” and “innuendos.” While an excellent scholar, I was not mature enough to tell Professor Flannigan to go to hell when he started to make advances toward me. I was confused with feelings of respect I held for him intellectually vying with feelings of confusion and paranoia at being asked to travel with him unaccompanied to Chicago.
Immediately after my first breakdown, Professor Flannigan began to distance himself from me in an effort to secure tenure. This effort to secure tenure was after he and I had several thesis review meetings, after he invited me to join him on a trip to Chicago, after he tried to analyze my childhood on several occasions and after he tried to seduce me into coming solo with him to Chicago and after making zodiac references to me like “Scorpio riseth…” I had no idea what that saying was supposed to mean. I also had no idea how to establish a boundary with Professor Flannigan. On the one-hand, I thought he was brilliant and a brilliant scholastic role model. On the other hand, I felt his actions to seduce me (as I understood them) were highly inappropriate. But I did not have the strength to articulate this to myself much less to him. If I had perhaps been more mature myself, I could have indicated to this Professor Flannigan that while I revered his intellect, I found great fault with his personal behavior. Bottom line I was emotionally too immature to know how to say no to a trip to Chicago or to an invitation toward some sort of sexual interlude. I was academically brilliant as a scholar but not so much so as a student to a professor who consistently pushed the boundaries of appropriate behavior.
Since that time, Professor Flannigan has enjoyed getting tenure at Ivy College and has secured virtually unprecedented popularity on campus. I, on the other hand, have not enjoyed similar successes particularly in my professional life which has been hampered over the years on numerous occasions by my illness.
Would George S. Patton have sent his troops out with no guns, no ammo, no boots, no helmet? Why are we not giving those on the front lines now – doctors, nurses, hospital workers, first responders, essential business personnel – the equipment they need to fight this war? — Wondering out loud
For the last week or so, I have been keeping a list of items that I need to do to keep a household running like going for a blood test, picking up meds, picking up meds for my dog and so on. The list is not particularly long. I am not listing out every single thing on my bucket list, but I am including those things I must do to run a household as well as some other non-essentials. For example, this morning I awoke (late) and rested and felt ready to tackle cutting the grass in the back yard. The grass was really long so this took several starts and stops to complete – literally. But complete it I did! And better yet, I marked it off my list! All of a sudden I feel empowered by doing one small thing on my to-do list. I would be curious if other people find this approach helpful to structuring these long unstructured days. What I hope I can avoid is putting too many items on the to-do list or putting really difficult items on the list. I do not want to psyche myself out with too much on the list. Just make a short relatively easy list so I have some easy “wins.” Maybe putting a healthy meal on the table for myself and my family each day. Taking the dog for a short walk. Or taking myself for a short walk. Anything that is constructive that I can cross off my list with relative ease.