Love & Sex Magazine

All in the Head

By Maggiemcneill @Maggie_McNeill

All in the HeadTo the casual observer, I seem to be a remarkably healthy specimen; I’m well-formed and well-proportioned, with above-average muscular development, excellent bone density, good skin and exceptional looks.  My cognitive  functions and reflexes are far above the norm, my memory is nothing short of awe-inspiring and as long as I don’t get stupid about it, I can pretty much eat what I like.  Some of that came naturally, some was the result of years of work on my part and some of it was the combined result of medical science and money (lots and lots of money).  But what’s invisible to the casual observer is that I also suffer from a number of neurological disorders, including chronic depression (since the age of 9), ADD, mild OCD, insomnia, orgasmic dysfunction, a host of anxieties, and vertigo so debilitating that I literally get dizzy if my head isn’t at least a pillow’s height above my heart at all times (if you’re ever around when I put on my shoes, watch how I do it).  Some of these (such as the insomnia & anxiety) have worsened due to the whips and scorns of time, while age has taught me tricks and workarounds for dealing with some of the others (such as the ADD).

But “workarounds” is all they are; they no more mean the problem is “solved” than a limp means the limb one favors is “cured”.  Take my vertigo, for example; in everyday life I can avoid triggering it as long as I don’t make any sudden motions, spin, look down while moving, lie flat on my back, go to see an IMAX movie, watch images that flash or jerk quickly, try to move in any way but very slowly & carefully while drunk or high, ride in the back seat of a car, ignore the warning signs of a sinus headache, fly in an airplane, or remain vertical when I start feeling even the slightest symptom of dizziness.  Sometimes it happens anyway due to some sickness or mold spores or whatnot, but for the most part I can avoid the dizziness, vomiting, temperature dysregulation, hives, tunnel vision and other exciting and glamorous effects by simply avoiding the things that I know will precipitate them.  Of course, this doesn’t mean the vertigo is “cured” any more than a peanut allergy sufferer can be said to be “cured” because she made it through a week without dying of anaphylactic shock by avoiding anything which might have potentially contacted peanuts; the disorder is merely managed, not cured.  Naturally, having to avoid so many activities and movements other people take for granted is frustrating and annoying, so as I’m sure you can imagine I have over the past four decades tried every goddamned thing which has been suggested as a way to cure or at least mitigate the problem.  And you know what?  The same goes for everyone who suffers from any neurological, mental or emotional disorder.

And that’s why most of us, especially those of us who are older, often get so irate when well-meaning and seemingly-reasonable people make “suggestions” about how to “get over” these issues.  If a disorder has obvious physical manifestations, like blindness or epilepsy, nobody thinks one can “learn” to “get over it”.  But if it’s something that results in changes to behavior, such as vertigo, insomnia or Seasonal Affective Disorder, suddenly they assume it’s all in the mind and can be learned away by the “right” kind of thinking, meditation, affirmation, health food or some other mumbo-jumbo woo; if the person they’re making these “helpful suggestions” to is older than a teenager, this is highly insulting to the sufferer’s intelligence as well as dismissive of their problem.  DON’T YOU THINK I TRIED ALL YOUR MAGIC PASSES & HAPPY THOUGHTS 30 FUCKING YEARS AGO?All in the Head  And it’s even worse for those with mental illness; at least my vertigo produces tangible, observable puke.  But people with clinical depression or a personality disorder can no more “snap out of it” than I can “snap out of” an attack of dizziness and vomiting.  Even those who do understand that such issues aren’t merely bad moods often think that A) there’s a med for everything; and B) that side effects aren’t a consideration.  But neither of those is true; there isn’t a medication for every condition, not everyone responds well to meds that work for others, and side effects are sometimes so bad they outweigh the benefits and the sufferer decides it’s better not to use them.

What it all boils down to is this: unless you’re a medical or psychiatric professional skilled in the treatment of a particular condition, and a person who suffers that condition asks for your suggestions, DO NOT OFFER THEM.  Not even if the sufferer is complaining in front of you.  Not even if whatever you’re going to suggest worked for your Aunt Matilda.  Not even if you think that positive thinking can grant any power from telekinesis to survival in a hard vacuum.  Just don’t.  And if you refuse to take my advice and do it anyway, don’t get all butthurt if the recipient of your fucking Hints from Heloise blows up in your face.


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