There's a lot of debate, in our kinky little corner of the worldwide web, about kinky people who have mental health issues.  What kinds of problems they cause, how to keep them from destroying the mood in kinky venues, whether or not D/s (and the structure that often comes with it) can help a person with mental disorders, whether or not they should be involved in kink or dominant/submissive relationships... The thoughts and opinions, as with just about every topic of discussion, are all over the place.

Why does this matter to me?

I have mental health issues.

I've been in and out of therapy since I was about sixteen.  Mostly because my parents knew there was something wrong, but couldn't figure out what, and really didn't know how to handle me anymore.  When I was twentyish, the small-town police where I lived had me committed to the mental health unit of a local hospital for suicide threats.  Later that year, I admitted myself because I ran out of my meds, my psychiatrist was out of town, and not even my regular MD would sign off on a refill, which caused a massive panic attack that leads to suicidal thoughts and threats.  And not far into the next year, I attempted suicide for the umpteenth time (and the last), got caught by M's ex-fiance (my then-best-friend), and was committed again.

I don't have a set-in-stone diagnosis.  None of the therapists or psychiatrists I've dealt with have been able to agree on one.  A few things that have been mentioned are bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder, anxiety/social anxiety disorder, chronic clinical depression, and AD(H)D.  One doctor mentioned the possibility of me suffering from schizotypal personality disorder, but I've never really put much stock in that.  I mean, yeah, I'm a little on the paranoid side, but I think my paranoia fits more with the definition of anxiety disorder than SPD.

I don't know how much, if any of it, is actually something I suffer from.  When professionals can't agree, it's really difficult to make that determination based solely on my own perception of my mood swings and crippling panic attacks.

And that is the biggest problem I have with the mental health profession.  So many mental disorders can only be diagnosed by spending time with the person and seeing how they react to different stimuli.  And many people with mental health issues, myself included, are amazingly proficient at putting their best foot forward when they feel the need to. 

Especially

me.  Because growing up the adopted child of a Southern Baptist military man from Texas, and a United Methodist Yankee with money, everything's all about appearances.  And having a child with emotional issues is a sign of bad child-rearing, not a mental health problem that should be treated.  Something to be humiliated by, not helped.

I haven't attempted or threatened suicide since the last time I was committed in 2002.  I won't lie and say I don't occasionally have thoughts.  But they are few and far between, I never act on them, and they usually occur when I'm overwhelmed, and overstressed, and can't figure a way out of it.

It's hard to determine what the change in my ability to control my mental state was caused by.  Too many factors are in play.  Like the fact that the last suicide attempt was a serious wake-up call, and proved to me that the relationship I was in and out of for six years was unhealthy for all parties involved.  Or that I met M, begged for/accepted his collar, and suddenly had a rather rigid structure that I hadn't had since I was a child.  Or the fact that I'd spent about two years in and out of mental health institutions and out-patient therapy.  Or that I quit all the recreational drugs I was using, seriously reduced my alcohol use, and started paying attention to triggers and learning how to deal with them.

All of those things could have contributed to my sudden semi-stability.  Or none of them could have.  It's just not possible to know for sure why I'm doing so much better than I was in my teens and early twenties.  Maybe I just grew up!

I'm not perfect by any means.  I mood-swing like it's nobody's business, and go into deep depressions where I can't get out of my own way and have at least one severe panic attack a month.  But I'm getting better without any help from the mental health profession.

(Disclaimer: I am not suggesting anyone try to handle mental health issues on their own.  I know that there are good professionals out there and that they are able to help some people.  I just have yet to find the one for me, and I've pretty much stopped looking.  Please do not take my experience and apply it to your own situation.  It could prove to be damaging to you and those around you.)

If I'm to be honest, I'd have to say that a lot of the common stereotypes about people with mental health issues irritate me.  Granted, some of us are completely off our rockers, and we should absolutely be seeking consistent, strenuous professional help, if not inpatient care.  I'll give you that.  But the truth of the matter is, they are the exception, not the rule.

If you were to meet me on the street and have a conversation with me, no matter how long or short, you would have no idea that I have problems keeping myself on an even keel.  Hell, I have friends I've known for years who wouldn't have a clue that I have been in and out of psychiatric care since I was sixteen if it weren't for the fact that I'm pretty up front about it.

Most of the time, I'm coherent, stable, able to participate in an intelligent conversation.  I take pretty good care of myself.  The only hygienic thing I skip from time to time is shaving my legs, but I think a lot of us do that.  It's so time consuming!

No one ever feels endangered by my presence.  In actuality, I've been told that I have a calming, soothing effect on people from time to time.  And even when I did go into blind rages, coming out with no recollection of what I'd done (hasn't happened in eight years), I only ever hurt myself or my own belongings.  I never turned my anger on anyone else.  Even the person who caused it.  Well, until I started fighting back.  Refusing to take the abuse lying down.

To be honest, I'm not entirely sure who to be angry at.  The fact of the matter is, I caused at least half of my problems growing up.  I've always been my own worst nightmare.  And when there's no one else to blame, it must be that I'm a shitty person, so I direct the anger at myself.

Until recently.  Recently, since I've found a man who will shoulder the blame that he's owed, I've directed the voice of my anger at him.  I still reserve the physical expression for when I'm alone.

Over the next post or three (I've got no exact direction with this series, just some idea of where I want to end up.  So it may be all over the place, and if so, I apologize.), I'll tell you what it's like for me, on a day to day basis, how the structure in our relationship works, how the issues affect our relationship... I hope, if anything, this series helps others out there like me.