The question usually comes from good friends, at a time when I am struggling. They want to know how to help me the most.
What is it like to have a psychiatric diagnosis?
It’s like there is a dark cloud following me all the time. It isn’t always directly overhead, and some days I don’t even notice it. But it’s always there. Part of the landscape. At times just waiting to swoop in.
On most days all it means is that it’s a little harder to be happy. Or maybe that I have to process some emotion before I can focus on today. It’s the reason my reactions are on overdrive occasionally. My emotions can have the upper hand and overwhelm me. And I have a harder time with that than anybody else. I promise.
Sometimes there is thunder, in the form of a trigger, and I can put on a raincoat and galoshes. I have been known to tell close friends what thunder sounds like to me. That way they can help me de-escalate when it rains. Sometimes storms hit me out of nowhere when I wasn’t expecting to get wet. And then there are times when a monsoon has been known to put me out of commission for days at a time.
It’s not something I can “snap out of” or “get over” and it doesn’t help when people tell me to look on the bright side. Believe me, I put forth lots of effort to hold myself together the best that I can. Sometimes a flashback from a long time ago completely rocks my world. Sometimes I can take a long time to recover from that kind of thing.
And the cloud is still there.
What can people do to support me?
Understand I have a dark cloud following me. Don’t be scared or awkward. It’s just a cloud. It is simply one more thing in my life that I have to manage.
Don’t put me in a box with a label. There are others who deal with a similar cloud, but I may respond to a particular situation in a completely different way than somebody else. Whenever there is thunder, know that I hear it, even if nobody else can understand why it is such a big deal. And please be mindful enough not to create more thunder in my life if it can be avoided.
My dark cloud is unique. It doesn’t belong to anyone else. And even if someone got rid of their dark cloud by doing a particular thing, it does not mean that the same remedy will work for me in the same way.
The cloud that follows me is part of my world. Sometimes it frustrates me because it makes my life harder. Sometimes it makes me sad because it colors how other people see me. Once some people have been told about the cloud, they run in another direction. There have also been numerous times over the years when people have blamed my being hurt on the cloud instead of taking responsibility for the things they do that cause me pain. That is not okay. Compassion is what I need more than anything.
I still laugh out loud and try not to take life too seriously.
Back in the day, I was a serious athlete. Made the U.S. Paralympic team in 1986. Then the games were canceled due to terrorism.
Used to dance as well, but Brandon and Rachel have little Lawson now and Brandon’s free time has become pretty scarce.
Writing is one of my passions.
I prefer romantic comedies over science fiction movies.
My “made on the stove” popcorn is legendary, I’m told.
Advocacy is part of my soul.
Road trips are the ultimate good time.
Sonic cherry limeades are the bomb.
Raisins make me gag. So do black olives and pimento cheese.
A vegan diet is working for me these days.
I love my job at Lawrence Magazine.
Cuddling with my spectacular service dog is my favorite past time.
Jigsaw puzzles used to challenge me. Not so much anymore. These days I tend to get bored if I can’t find all the edge pieces right away.
’80’s music is the best; it reminds me of my high school days.
The Little Drummer Boy will always be my favorite Christmas carol.
Being crowned Ms. Wheelchair Kansas 2007 was amazing; the thing is I am not really a “crown and sash” kind of girl, so every time I made an appearance as a titleholder I had to step out of my comfort zone a bit.
I miss George.
The West Wing is, in my opinion, the greatest tv show of all time.
And I respectfully request that when we are together, you see all of me.
Don’t let my psych issues “cloud” your judgment.