Therese Borchard has a terrific new book out, BEYOND BLUE: Surviving Depression & Anxiety and Making the Most of Bad Genes. The following excerpt is reprinted by permission of the publisher, Center Street, a division of Hachette Book Group, Inc, NY. Copyright 2010. All rights reserved.
Some people are born with jagged edges—restless and discontent with volatile moods and intense emotions—explained author and professor Kay Redfield Jamison in an essay broadcast on NPR’s This I Believe series. And others emerged from their mothers’ wombs with smooth lines and unbroken skin, grounded and peaceful. These Mr. Rogers types find contentment in the smallest and simplest of things (a bowl of instant oatmeal, a green cardigan sweater, a goldfish swimming to the surface to eat crumbs), while the Michael Jacksons among us—the creative but combustible artists—sit down to a gourmet feast at a five-star restaurant, only to bolt to the restroom three minutes later in a panic attack as their food gets cold.
That would be me.
Hi. I’m Therese. I’m a manic-depressive, an alcoholic, and an adult child of an alcoholic; a codependent, a boundaries violator, and a stage-four people pleaser; an information hoarder or a clutter magnet, an Internet abuser, and an obsessive-compulsive or ritual performing weirdo; a sugar addict, a caffeine junkie, a reformed binge smoker, and an exercise fanatic; a hormonally imbalanced female, a PMS-prone time bomb, and a sexually dysfunctional or neutered creature; a workaholic, an HSP (highly sensitive person), and, of course, I’m Catholic. Which could possibly explain some of the above.
To most eyes I look normal, and I can behave normally, at least for two-hour intervals. No one would guess my insides to be so raw, or suspect that I was twice committed to a psych ward, was suicidal for close to two years, and considered electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) after the first twenty-two medication combinations failed. Then again, the more human beings I interview Barbara Walters–style, the more convinced I am that everyone struggles. There are just many layers, varieties, and degrees of strains inside the human psyche.
The difference between me and most of the civilized world is that they don’t publish their insecurities, irrational fears, personality flaws, and embarrassing moments online and in print for everyone, including their in-laws and neighbors, to read.
Why on earth would I do that?
It has something to do with the twelfth step of most 12-step support groups I’ve attended, which is nearly all of them: to share my experience, strength (if you can call it that), and hope with others in order to secure some sanity for myself. Or, to use the language of the existentialist Søren Kierkegaard, the twelfth step is about getting cozy with our true selves, becoming “transparent under God” and vulnerable before others in order to form a bond of communion with those persons experiencing similar struggles.
There’s nothing short of stripteasing that could get me more transparent under God and naked before readers, some of whom can be pretty mean—take the lady who called me a “bitter, complaining, self-serving, whiny white woman,” not that I memorized her words—than writing my blog, Beyond Blue. Every day I write, Full Monty style, about my very imperfect recovery from everything, I expose all sorts of moles and cellulite patches to the public.
And you better bet there are ample freak-outs behind the scenes. I obsess in the shower about what I should have left out. And I can’t press Send without at least one good round of second-guessing about the Beyond Blue post in which I disclosed an ugly memory or an unbecoming quality of mine . . . jealousy, hypocrisy, and rage come to mind.
But then I’ll get a note on the combox of a Beyond Blue post like this one from a reader named Wendi: “Thanks for being so open. I’m standing at the edge of the black hole, trying so hard not to fall in, and your courage and your vulnerability are inspiring me to keep going today.” And I know it was the right thing to do, even if I’m walking with my tail, or computer, between my legs. Her sentiment makes risking public rejection and ridicule worth it, and encourages me to put myself out there yet another day.
More on Therese's book in future blogs.
Are you a mental health grunt? The spark, the glue, that everyone depends on but nobody ever thanks? I have five copies of Therese’s terrific new book, Beyond Blue to give away, and it’s a no-brainer who they’re going to. Tell me your story. See Calling All Mental Health Grunts for details.
Purchase Beyond Blue from Amazon