22 April 2014

Kick the black dog (a long personal post, but hopefully also useful to other people).

[The poster will be in the next post. I felt that I should write this, and then Easter got in the way.]

I really enjoyed PyCon 2014. But I never loved PyCon 2014 with an all-consuming passion. And this is well.

I was sometimes tired at PyCon 2014. I was certainly tired as I came back home from PyCon 2014.[1] But I was never tired and sad beyond anything in this world at PyCon 2014, or after. And this is very well.

I had a couple of worries at PyCon. I never panicked uncontrollably and without a cause. It was a good feeling.

I loved not being exhilarated but enjoying my time. I even loved being under the weather or worried, because I was a bit down but not crushed. It was well, it was so good.

I'm bipolar, I've got bipolar disorder.[2]

Not so long ago, I was in a really bad place. It took more than I expected: I felt better in August, but I overdid myself and I got stuck back until Christmas. But around Christmas it looked as if things started falling into their place.

Now I'm managing.

I still have to be aware at all times: stop alcohol that moment before; if you're tired above that level go straight to bed and call it a day; if you start laughing that uncontrollably keep an eye on yourself, even if you're watching Some Like It Hot. Learn to find that that, push it and yourself but not beyond that, don't take it badly if you get it wrong. Take your medications, morning and night.

But I'm managing. As in: I've never been better in years.

I'm just a bit torn between enjoying reading books[3] and being able to follow what happens in TV series[4] even more because I know how much the mind can be in a terrible state, and being quite scared because I know how much my mind didn't realise the terrible state in which it[5] was.

As far as work is concerned, I'm just happy. OK, no: I'm worried about the Years I Wasted Being Ill, as usual.[6] But I'm so happy. If I managed to stay afloat during that time, now that I'm well I feel that I can do so much. So healthily. So well.

A whole conference, and I'm just tired because of some work, jet lag, a bad flight and two days preparing what turned out to be a fantastic almost-seven-hours-long Easter lunch for eight people.[7] Never happened before. It's going to happen again. I can't wait.

And (no spoilers, but) I have projects. Things to work on. And I can do it. No, I'm not setting the bar too low: I'm counting my blessings.

Because I've been lucky, blessed, whatever you call it. I had support from many people and from the system (thanks, NHS). I didn't have many sources of stress that others may have; my medications don't give me terrible side effects[8]. But, in the end all that matters is here: I'm well. Not so bad, at least. (I'll be better as soon as I'll overcome the bagnacaoda[9] leftovers.)

So, here's the Attempt at Socially Useful Part of this post:

  1. Mental health issues are bad
  2. Don't even try to deny it
  3. As in "think of the children with cancer,[10] you're just being difficult, get over it"
  4. But they're not invincible
  5. Even when they're incurable, they are (often) treatable
  6. But you have to do something about it
  7. As in avoiding the whole "medications and doctors are evil tools" thing
  8. So, try to get help
  9. And, if you can, remember to fight for people that aren't able to get help
  10. Like people that cannot afford to see a doctor
  11. (Yes that was a hat tip to free health care)
  12. And if you have a mental illness, remember that
    1. You are not alone
    2. It's not shameful to be ill
    3. (My grandmother never said that someone had cancer. She just said that someone had "a bad illness." As if there were good illnesses.)[11]
    4. Yes, it's bad
    5. But you can fight it and win
    6. Because it's not you, it's it
    7. No matter what it puts in your head
    8. And I'm here, cheering for you

Done.

Although, if you want to continue the discussion in the comments or drop me an email - feel free.

Now I should really study Django. The tutorial by Tracy Osborn at PyCon was really illuminating.

And I should write something to deal with footnotes in my posts, I guess.

Footnotes

The title is a reference to how Winston Churchill used to call his depression. Which proves that you might win the Battle of Britain but not completely overcome depression. Sometimes one has to settle.

[1] Consider that the journey back home included: a US border control agent calling the paramedics because I had all the symptoms of a heart attack; said paramedic being French-speaking and not knowing the word "spleen," as in "I don't have a spleen"; signing a form to get home as soon as possible; three hours on the tarmac; back to the gate; a change of route so that I could avoid New York, that was shut down due to bad weather (the guy behind me in the queue looked incredibly like Theon Greyjoy from Game of Thrones); yet another wait; a flight with a lot of turbulence; the worst food I'd had in a while; a four-year-old screaming in my ears for about five hours out of the seven when we were in the air; a mother of said child that acted as her four-year-old were as incontrollable as a six-month-old baby, so much that the flight assistant (who bore a striking resemblance to the director of Torchwood One from Doctor Who) gave up telling her to keep her boy still and seated for landing.

[2] Note on ableism/disability rights/that-sort-of-things. "I've got bipolar disorder" or "I'm bipolar": the issue is complex. How much the mental illness is part of your mind, and how much of your mind is part of you? And even if it isn't: how much an experience such as a mental illness defines someone who has dealt with it? I'm OK with both phrases, but be aware that it's a minefield.

[3] The Lord of the Rings (appendixes included); Harry Potter (all seven books, crying like a baby); God Believes in Love - Straight Talk about Gay Marriage (by Gene Robinson, one of my heroes); Redshirts (by John Scalzi, and you should read it because it's beautiful); The Importance of Being Earnest (which has some absolutely hilarious subtle gender-swapping moments I didn't remember); Il corpo non dimentica (by Violetta Bellocchio, it's available only in Italian - so far; if you read Italian I wholeheartedly recommend it: it's amazing, and I'm not saying it just because I know the author), Marvel: the Untold History (I'm still in the middle of it), Young Avengers written by Kieron Gillen (my welcome-back-home gift from my own best husband in the world).

[4] After a thorough rewatch of Buffy and Angel, Fringe.[4.1] Next: catching up with Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and maybe Mad Men from scratch.

[4.1] If I ever get my hands on an unlimited amount of money, I want Nina Sharp's stylist to design my outfits.

[5] "It"? "She"? If I'm "she" shouldn't my mind be a "she"?

[6] And anyway I'm telling the whole story (or at least a good part of the story) of my 20kg medical record in instalments in this great web magazine (in Italian; but if you read Italian...).

[7] Hey, the title of this blog is not just a random quote from Grace Hopper.

[8] If you've ever watched Silver Linings Playbook[8.1]: the scene in which the main characters compare the side of effects of psychiatric medications embarrassing everyone at the dinner table rings so true to me.

[8.1] Good film, and it's amazing how it's able to tell a story about people with mental health issues avoiding to fall into stereotypes. (I won't expand or I'll never finish this post.)

[9] Bagnacaoda: Piedmontese dish. It involves garlic, anchovies, butter (a lot of butter), oil (a lot of oil). But, you see: it's eaten with vegetables (dipped in the "bagna"), so it must be healthy. Right? I can give the recipe in the comments, if you wish.

[10] And as a "cancer survivor" I can guarantee you that cancer patients are less than amused to be used for your inspiration porn.[10.1]

[10.1] You should really read the article I just linked.

[11] As JK Rowling (via Albus Dumbledore) says: "Fear of a name only increases fear of the thing itself."