Is It Mental Illness? Or Is It Just My Personality?

May 5 2017

There’s a fun game I like to play. It’s called “Is It Mental Illness? Or Is It Just My Personality?”

I thought we might play together today, instead of keeping this delightful game selfishly to myself.

Ready? Here we go.

Lately, I’ve been pissy. <– That, right there, is a true truth.

Lately, I’ve been pissy, and mostly at Greg because a) he’s the luckiest, b) he’s in the closest proximity, and c) he thinks I’m the type of animal who eats from a trough, which he continues to insist he doesn’t think at all, but I believe I’ve made my case.

Now, about my pissiness, my family would say, “So? How is this any different than normal?” But that’s just because my family is mean and full of terrible people. Yes, technically I’m mouthy, and technically I’m mouthy with great frequency, especially where mouthy = opinionated and verbally demonstrative. After all, the Bible says whatever you do, do to the best of your ability, so I’m obligated by Christian duty to use my mouthiness to its full potential. Yes? Yes. That’s theologically clear. But I do try, honest, to use my mouthiness for good as much as possible; words of love, words of joy, words of kindness, words of peace. I’ve even learned, in recent years, to be OK with my volume — which is LOUD — and to own, more and more, the Power of Voice. The Power of Vulnerability. The Power of Using My Words — of Knowing Things and Not Knowing Things out loud and in public — as if it’s OK to be both human and divine, made of magic and mess, grace and grime intermingled.

However, the truth is, I sometimes… occasionally… move past the Magical Mouthiness and the Messy Mouthiness and into a sort of Prolonged Pissiness produced by Inexplicable Rage, which is, well, less than ideal.

And then I bottle my rage, seal it, and bury it deep, deep inside, where it cannot harm me or others. Except when it leaks. Which it does all the time because rage is corrosive and does quick work on both the bottle and the seal. That’s when the rage bubbles to the surface and breaks in adorable little pissy pops. *pop* *pop* *pop* … mini-rage bubbles bursting beautifully. Iridescent, shimmery, and suffocating the wildlife, just like an oil sheen on the ocean. Just as persistent. Just spreading everywhere, you know? Impossible to clean.

Now, my friend Heidi, who ruins everything, is trying to teach me how to be mindful; how to accept my feelings as they come; how to judge them as neither good nor bad; how to recognize and acknowledge them — Hey, look! I see you’re here to visit, Rage… or… JOY! I’m so happy you’re hanging out today! — before deciding what to do with them, or before, say, jumping Rage in the back alley, wrestling it to the ground with a switchblade in its kidney, shoving it in that bottle, lowering it into an unfathomably deep grave, covering it with dirt, and whistling while I walk away, pretending not to be bruised. So, sure, sure; Heidi’s way may be better, more healthy, and less brutal in both the short and long term, but my way is FASTER, friends. I think we can all agree.

Unfortunately, as we have discussed previously, inexplicable rage can be depression in disguise. UGH. And blerg. And boooooo. The trick, then, is to figure out what is a normal, human amount of pissiness to experience, and when have I plunged over the cliff into the eternal, turbulent sea of unmitigated fury? A sea where I sit my sexy siren self upon the jagged rocks with my hair whipping in the storm-driven wind, hungry for blood, and sing the song that lures my loved ones to their deaths? So. You can see where this gets complicated.

Usually, when I’m trying to decide whether my pissiness is a symptom of my mental illness or just, you know, my awesome personality, I use the Toast Test.

See, Greg has a very specific way of buttering his toast. First he takes the teeniest, tiniest bit of butter — a modicum of butter — an particle of butter — on the very tip of his knife and spreads it on a speck of toast. Then he studies it. The layout. The structure. He does a mathematical analysis of the next spot to put butter. Writes algorithms. Considers the best foundation for laying the next fleck. He conducts a study. He publishes his results in a peer reviewed engineering journal. He builds computer models. And then he takes another teeny, tiny bit of butter and applies it to a new granule of toast. Then he repeats. And repeats. And repeats ad infinitum, scritch, scritch, scritching that butter onto the toast. It takes days to butter toast. Weeks. Veritable years, I tell you. Whereas I do nothing annoying ever. The way I butter my toast is a model of grace and efficiency.

Logical Beth believes people should be free to butter their toast however they like. Reasonable Beth believes this is an inalienable human right. Rational Beth believes we needn’t come to marital or household consensus on the Correct Way to Butter Toast, nor do we need to Belittle Those Who Do It Wrong, even if they do it really, really, really wrong. Sensible Beth believes we Live and Let Live and We Love Each Other, Always, Anyway, even if we have different Toast Convictions, and, in this way, we shall not smother each other with a pillow.

Pissy Beth believes none of these things. Not a single one. And Ragey Beth feels the scritch, scritch, scritching inside her skull.

The Toast Test, see? When murder-by-pillow feels like a super reasonable alternative to witnessing the buttering of toast, it’s time to up my meds, friends. Or past time. You know… WAY past time.

Unfortunately, Greg hasn’t had a hankering for toast in, like, FOREVER, so I’ve been pissy but I have NO WAY TO KNOW whether this is a flare-up of the mental illness or just my darling personality.

I suppose I could simply ask Greg to make himself some toast, but I think he might do it quickly and with suspicion, so it kind of ruins the test.

In conclusion, there have to be ways OTHER than toast buttering to play this game. WHAT ARE THEY? Is it mental illness? Or is it just my personality? I’m on a need to know over here…

Delightfully yours,