In 1975, my psychiatrists had a “Eureka” moment. They decided I no longer had schizophrenia.
This was enouraging. That year, I was planning to apply to Ryerson’s School of Journalism.
Imagine a reporting student with “a psychosis marked by withdrawn, bizarre and sometimes delusional behaviour, and by intellectual and emotional deterioration, also called dementia praecox.”
That’s how my 1966 edition of The Random House Dictionary of the English Language, defined “schizophrenia.”
I was mighty happy to hear I didn’t have it.
It never felt like me, anyway.
Those fellas down at The Clarke Institute of Psychiatry just jumped ship. One day they believed I had a “thought” disorder. Then, bingo! They decided I had a “mood” disorder.
They called it an Affective Mood Disorder, but it was also known as Manic Depression.
That “label” didn’t feel right to me either. The “depression” part.
I knew all about mania. I’d had several manic episodes.
I’d stopped sleeping and my mind started racing. Then I didn’t need sleep. The delusions of grandeur started. I’d spend hours at my typewriter creating brilliant prose which turned out to be brilliant ghibberish.
I would progress to psychosis, madness, insanity. I'd lose touch with reality and soar. Up, up and away. Like Super Girl.
Locked away in The Clarke, nothing could bring me down except a drug called Chlorpromazine a.k.a. Thorazine a.k.a. Largactil.
Nicknamed “the chemical lobotomy.”
But clinical depression? Sorry. Never been there or done that.
Still, that label “manic depression” those Clarke shrinks gave me, stuck!
For 15 years.
It changed names. Became bipolar disorder. Still never felt like me.
Then I met Dr. Bob. He came to understand why I hated my label, so he designed one especially for me. A designer label.
He said I had a “unipolar mood disorder with vulnerability to mania.” Perfect.
A little unwieldy, but it fit.
For another 15 years.
Then, on March 22, 2005, my mother read a story in the New York Times by Benedict Carey, headlined –– “Hypomanic? Absolutely. But Oh So Productive.”
“I thought, this sounds like Sandy,” she told me.
My mother should know.
Hypomania is one of nine bipolar spectrum disorders, but way over to one side. It’s exuberance. Living with passion.
Dr. Bob agreed, “But it’s very rare.”
If there must be labels, we all deserve our own designer labels.
No two people have identical minds.
Psychiatric drugs are mass produced to treat psychiatric disorders, not individuals.
The tragedy is that without good “talk therapy” and only drugs, you’re treated like a generic person instead of the unique human being you are.