23 January 2012

Depression Sexism

"It's okay to cry" has been the refrain for the last 20 years. Of course, then there have been loud voices belittling those of us who are not stone cold stoic round the clock. I'm depressed. I don't have much of a self-image as a man. I can't tell you how much I appreciate hearing that I'm right to think so little of myself. It does wonders for my progress getting over this inconvenient show of weakness you find so uninteresting. Thanks for that. Yeah, I get it: I'm not a real man. Never was, never will be.

I had a rough weekend. I made the mistake of putting myself in a situation I should have known better than to enter, and it set me back several steps on my progress toward feeling stable. The short version is: I should not be in a bar, or any social setting where it will be made clear to me how entirely little regard there is for me. It's okay, I'm bad at mingling anyway. But it hurt being overlooked and ignored just the same.

Sunday night, I fell into a funk and had a minor freak-out. I felt entirely worthless and scared. I didn't feel like anything that I had tried to believe in about myself the last few months actually mattered. It's the first time I've felt like that in months. I did not feel suicidal, though, so I don't think anyone reading this needs to hit the "Panic" button or anything. I felt lonely. I felt like my future was bleak at best, and that my well-meaning friends have merely tried to mollify me into forgetting the truth about my situation.

I think the key reason for me feeling so marginalized is that I've made the decision to bail on therapy. I met the therapist once in December. All we did was go over her generic new patient in-take questionnaire. I didn't really get to even address much that had been on my mind in the last few months since I was discharged from Our Lady of Peace--and these are the things that are important to me right now. I've been left to fend for myself the entire time; what role has therapy even played for me throughout this trying time? None whatsoever, frankly. What the hell good has it done me to face my world falling apart without that kind of professional help?

I was, of course, hopeful that it might prove helpful going forward which is why I wasn't going to allow that sense of getting by without it stop me from giving it a chance to help me. But then last week, I received a bill for December. I had cancelled my 14 December session with the psychiatrist (I only see him for medication refills) because my guts hurt too much for me to make it. I was in bed that morning in pain and I know when my whole day is shot, so I called pretty much as soon as the office opened. My appointment wasn't until nearly seven hours after I called. They billed me $25 for a late cancellation anyway.

Really? I have Crohn's disease. The effect it has had on my life is the whole reason I became so depressed this past year in the first place. And you're going to stick it to me like this anyway? Thanks. I appreciate the message, which is clearly that I am a source of income. I'm a statistic. I'm a condition. I'm a second-class citizen. "You've got a chronic, incurable disease that makes it impractical for you to make and keep appointments? That sucks. Yes, we're here to help you feel less worthless. Here's a bill for not helping you. It's your fault, you know, not ours."

I cannot afford to take the chance that I'll get stuck with $25 charges and only periodically actually get in to see someone...and I'm even less inclined to roll the dice given that so far, they've done nothing for me. I reset myself in OLOP. I can get prescription refills from my general practitioner...who, by the way, is understanding about my health condition and the impact it has on my ability to make appointments.

Some have insisted I should appeal the $25 cancellation fee. I suppose I would suggest the same thing. "Stand up for yourself," they say. "Give the therapy a chance to help," they advise. I don't want to stand up for myself; not to the very people I'm supposed to entrust with my emotional care. If I have to fight them, and they're supposed to be key allies, then what the hell is the point? Don't give me that "It's nothing personal; it's just business" defense, either. Their business is extremely personal. If they want to make money without being involved with people on a personal level, then they ought to have chosen something other than helping people with their innermost mental and emotional states. They forfeit the right to hide behind "It's just my job" by the nature of their line of work.

It may seem I've gotten off-track from the suggested focus of this post being about sexism. As I previously mentioned, I had a rough weekend the last few days. I continued my texting relationship with a new friend and I went out Saturday night with an old friend. Both had upsetting days, for different reasons. Both are young women. I'm quite sensitive to their concerns. At the bar Saturday night, I saw how several different guys treated my young friend being visibly upset: They tried to ply her with "Aw, it'll be okay"s and drinks, and when her mood didn't immediately lighten and she didn't become slutty, they lost interest and moved on to other women at the bar.

We talk about how demeaning it is to not allow a man to be weak, but what we forget to discuss is how we also marginalize the emotions of women by clinging to the misguided notion that it is in their nature to be "emotional." There's a view that we ought to patiently indulge a woman and wait for her to "get over it." It's insulting, frankly. A woman is entitled to be overwhelmed, hurt, angry, sad, insecure and/or lonely without it being because she has ovaries. Those are legitimate feelings to have and they deserve to be recognized as more than nuisances to be waited out. Oh, and guys: She's not sobbing in public because she wants to fill a White Knight role play fantasy. She's sobbing because she's upset. It's not an invitation for you to try to make her forget her pain by indulging your lust.