One evening about eight years ago, I decided I wanted to be a Sunshine Girl.
At 50 and five-foot-one, with some good air brushing, anything’s possible.
Wouldn’t it be ironic if The Sun’s token feminist popped up on Page Three, as the cheesecake symbol enraging so many women and titillating so many men?
I’d bridge the gender gap.
I got on the phone and called The Toronto Sun photo-editor and brokered my brilliant idea to him. Then, to Sun Media’s vice-president. I tracked down The Sun’s publisher on vacation. Finally, The Sunday Sun editor silenced me.
He wisely advised me to stop phoning people and take a few days off.
If anyone asked me–– no one did–– my eccentric behaviour made perfect sense.
People do strange things when they fall in love. The first time. Call it extreme infatuation.
Why? The object of my affections really existed. I wasn’t hallucinating. And he was in love with me, too. He saw no reason why I couldn’t be a Sunshine Girl. Maybe he was hallucinating.
Love is potent. So, yeah, I was a little high. You would be, too.
Dr. Bob had put me on a “drug holiday” for nine months. It hadn’t made any difference, until then.
Now, he wanted me in hospital and back on my mood stabilizer. It affects all my kidney drugs, so in hospital, my blood work could conveniently be done every morning at 6 a.m.
Infatuation is intoxicating. A great sleep thief. I hadn’t been sleeping. At all. Without sleep, getting a little high–– read manic–– is perfectly normal for me.
In his book, Solitude, the late British psychiatrist Anthony Storr writes about the necessity of sleep.
We spend a third of our lives asleep. Our brains need sleep. Depriving prisoners of sleep is a quick way to break them down. After a few days without sleep, the most “normal” of people begin exhibiting psychotic symptoms–– hallucinations and delusions.
Here is Storr’s most intriguing statement.
“It is also worth noting that many episodes of mental illness are preceded by periods of insomnia.”
Where’s the line between normalcy and insanity if the cause of hallucinations, delusions and other psychotic symptoms is the same–– sleeplessness?
Recently, I met a young woman diagnosed with bipolar disorder. She knows there is severe emotional trauma in her background. Sexual abuse. She’s blocked it from her memory. Good thing.
As 18, she was hospitalized after only one psychotic episode, triggered by sleeplessness. Prescribed Lithium and Tegretol, two mood stabilizers.
After a few weeks, she stopped taking them. Never told anyone. She was fine. Went on to finish university, marry, have a child and now she works in the mental health sector.
Ten years later, she tracked down her psychiatrist to tell her how well she was, without medication.
“You have a serious mental illness and must take those drugs as a preventive measure,” her former doctor sternly warned. This woman was shocked.
Once diagnosed, never undiagnosed. Psychiatric labels stick.
Maybe. It’s possible, isn’t it? Labels and the labelers can be wrong.