Two hours going over issues of severe dysfunction resulted in a diagnosis that changes my entire treatment plan. Not only will the change in plan completely transform treatment, but the current mode of treatment has, in fact, made the issue much, much, worse.
The words “type 1” and “rapid cycling” were used. My disordered sleeping patterns marched in lockstep with what he’d come to expect. A number of other markers came to light, but the “oh!” he exclaimed came as the precursor to an explanation of severity for which neither us foresaw.
Towards the end of the assessment he asked how I was able to have a successful career in the Navy for 15 years, if I had been experiencing “all this?”
I sat for a while with his question. I rolled it around in my head, wondering at it. Instinctively, I wanted to say “because I had to.” That answer, however, was only a symptom of a greater wound.
I said, “sir, I am an expert at masking. I am deeply in tune with the unspoken language of others. It troubles me how accurate my assessment of a person’s current state, and the outside influences affecting that state, often are. I developed this skill from a young age, where I—a child—was responsible for the moods, actions, and reactions of the ‘adults’ in the home.”
I said, “my sperm-donor would fly into a fit of violent rage at anything that disturbed him. A noise unintentionally too loud, a distraction from the endless hours spent pretending to be the pilot he never became, or simply words he didn’t like would drive him to unpredictable violence. I spent a long time afraid for my life.”
“His attention” I continued “when it wasn’t violent was often cruel. He belittled us, shamed us, bullied us—and if we protested, violence would accompany cruelty.”
I told the doctor, “I had to learn how to read people for my safety, and for the safety of my younger siblings. I had to mask and not bring the adults my worries, my hurt, or my suffering. That was not what parents were for—it was the job of the child to carry the burdens of the adults—or so they had taught me.“
Finally I said, “this is why I am good at knowing how to provoke and draw attention to myself. It was the only tool I had to protect my siblings when the monster stirred to life. It is the reason I am quick to react when I see the defenseless being harmed by the dumb and powerful. It’s why I am quick to come to the aid of the defenseless because I can bear the hurt and the pain. I can give them opportunity to seek safety…
“…Honestly, it is what made me especially good at what I did in the Navy.”