October 25, 2008

A cocktail by any other name...

The problem with being crazy is that if you're not acting like it, no one believes you. When I first met my new shrink a couple of weeks ago, he asked me questions like

"Do you hear voices in your head?"
"Do you black out for significant periods of time?"
"Do you have out-of-body experiences?"
"Have you ever tried to hurt yourself, or others?"

And I was sitting there thinking Huh? I told you I think I'm crazy, I didn't say I'm a freakin' whack job.

I come from a family who, for a very long time, didn't believe that stress existed. I don't think this is much different from most families of my generation. Our parents faced challenges and hard times with grit and stoicism, not anti-depressants. But that grit and stoicism was heavily augmented with a couple of stiff martinis and a lunch time bridge game for our mothers, so it wasn't all internal fortitude. Instead of heading into a dark closet for a morning of crying and run-away-from-home fantasies, our moms got the playing cards and the lime slices out and made the best of it.

But then drinking in the middle of the day became its own kind of craziness, didn't it? Somewhere along the line, after women working outside the home became the norm, kicking back a cocktail before the kids got off the bus earned its own stigma. Suddenly, needing a little pick-me-up before taking Susie to ballet wasn't acceptable. Before long, it meant you should probably go to A Meeting. So what did we replace it with? I'm no social commentator, so I can't pretend to chronicle the developmental stages between mid-day margaritas and daily doses of anti-depressants, but it sure seems like the same thing to me.

Why is it so not ok to need help? Why should we be able to handle it alone? Ok, I know you’re thinking, "Drugs and alcohol are not help." And you're right. I get that. But even going to counseling, reading self-help books, all that is part of the general belief that if you need that, there must be something wrong with you. We - women, men, parents, breadwinners, caregivers - we should all be able to handle everything that comes our way, no matter the level of mental or emotional challenge, without ever once asking for advice, regulating a chemical imbalance, or, God forbid, cracking a beer. Which I think is so funny – in America we drink “for recreation”. We don’t drink for self-medication. Seriously? Aren’t those synonymous?

I fear I ramble. (Yeah, I fear it every day, but I meant right now.) In my pursuits to become a better person and a better mom, I’ll use all the help I can get, in whatever form it finds me. I’ll try to be judicious in my journey though. If they tell me a lobotomy will help, I’ll make sure to get a second opinion before I lace up my own straightjacket.


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  2. Great commentary on the evolution of Mother's Little Helper...and excellent writing, Tam.

  3. Mother's Little Helper - lol! Thanks for the encouragement :)