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SNAFU: Normal is just not good enough!

by Stephanie Bova

This is a view from my "within," as a person who got hooked into the psychiatric system by the misguided benevolence of my now ex husband. I used to have uncontrollable mood swings, low self esteem, self hatred actually, anxiety, and depression. I got over them. I never got over traits which I chose to nurture rather than eradicate, but I did get over the bipolar diagnosis. I am aware that my "denial" bothers others who believe mental illness is forever, which may have inspired them to make a career of trying to change me and others like me. That is their problem, and mine only to the extent that their behaviors intrude upon my freedom. The invasion of my personal space by others has been both personally devastating to me and unnoticed by my keepers/helpers. I wish I had the right to be left alone. Because I was initiated into the mental health system, I have been fair game for twenty years for the fixing of others, who did not pick up the tab for their actions but billed me for their bungling, invasive, invalidating interventions.

In spite of the adamancy of psychiatrists and family members insisting that I had a chronic and incurable disorder, I maintained my integrity. From my point of view, I have a unique, exquisite order, not a disease. I wish there were more of us, not less, because I would have had an opportunity to bond with my peers instead of feeling isolated and different because of my intelligence, talent and sensitivity.

We "bipolars" (and "schizophrenics" and "schizoaffectives" and even "borderlines" are, on this earth the way it is, the salt and pepper. When an 800 page, or so, book is written dancing around all possible manner of categorization of my "disease," I have to laugh. Books like that are tediously long winded without getting to the heart of the issue, they are written by persons who have not had the experience, like white people writing about the black experience.

In my experience, most people are relatively ignorant, often a little slow, sort of unconscious, well meaning, hesitant, very enmeshed with a codependent, overly controlling, basically fear based lifestyle. They worry about what the neighbors think and they are afraid of dying. Yes, I free(ly) associate I have a well populated mind, read voraciously, entertain myself on long drives by thinking with no radio on to distract me from myself. I have been known to get a bit impatient with people who can't match my pace or intensity or deliciously wicked sense of humor. I am learning to keep those traits under the bushel basket when it is viewed as "inappropriate." If I have committed any crime in my life it is assuming that other people can be or are just like me. The fact is I was born gifted, raised gifted (i.e., with care, respect, stimulation), and continue to be gifted, regardless of the stigma that attaches to being on the edge and capable of going over it rather easily in the past and, I might add, rather eagerly at times. I like the exploration of inner and far outer space. I have had my hell on earth and I am presently living in a heaven.

My life is an incredible gift to me, including the four decades of pain I went through trying to figure myself out and getting no help from most psychiatric professionals who as a profession, when I started this escapade on earth, were busy doing terrible things to people, out of sheer curiosity and perversity. Some of these crimes against humanity continue today, all in the name of treatment. In all fairness, I have met wonderful people in the last
year within the public mental health system and worked with them to make this turnaround a reality. This is only the beginning, incredibly exciting for a person like me, who resisted the system for almost twenty years.

My shyness and lack of confidence was most debilitating and long lasting; I thought I could never get over them. But I did. I learned to exert my untapped willpower to overcome all those obstacles and now, after a few years of hard work and struggle, I live in a perpetual state of "upness". I am so happy to be healthy; I want to share myself and how I both kept to myself and preserved myself in the face of overwhelming pressure from a community that never understood me nor cared to for decades.

I believe that the mood scale that crops up here and there would be greatly improved by moving the center point, the supposedly "normal" state, just slightly to the right (or left, depending on your point of view), over into something close to the hypomanic state. Normal in this world means less then optimal functioning and enjoyment for a large part of the time. So called hypomania is a very comfortable state, particularly when shared. There is little energy differential, no jealousy or attempt to control, a high energy level and a good attitude toward oneself and one's abilities to influence one's world.

A deeply meditative state can accompany high energy, a very silent, multi dimensional yet simple connection to the great silence that supports the dizzying, mind boggling display of possibility and actuality that is the visible world. Many traditions teach about the eternal. We, in this country, are mostly unfamiliar with them, but they provide a sort of ethereal grounding that balances off the energy. After all, the eternal is boundless energy and we are just tapping into it in this world of time and physical dimension.

We need the bright but inward people, who shine their light only in private, to act as the emotional and intellectual rain forest of the planet and give it insight and depth which it sorely needs.

(This article was first pubished in 1995, in The Journal of NAMI California)

STEPHANIE BOVA is a fifty year old writer, artist, divorced mother o f two grown daughters and grandmother to Jasmine, age four. She is active as a leader in the consumer survivor movement and considers herself recovered and fully human.




Special thanks to California NAMI. This article was originally published in The Journal of NAMI California, and is provided on this web site with permission of NAMI California. Copyright 2000, NAMI California.

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