It's who I am, and I stand beside it


To the editor:

Judging by the decidedly cooler temperatures of the air streaming through my bedroom window, I would have to concede that summer is coming to an end.

There is very little debate on that one.

What has been milling through my mind this morning is the catalog of my diagnosed mental illnesses.

As best as I can tell, they fall into two general categories.

First, there is my old standby and long-time nemesis, severe obsessive-compulsive disorder. I have long known that I hold a lifetime membership in that society.

Second, and possibly of somewhat more recent origination, is the fact that I am afflicted by schizoid affective disorder, bipolar type. I’ve read up on it recently, and I meet all the qualifications. This, too, the literature claims can be treated and managed, but not cured.

All together, it is enough to make a guy throw up his arms in the air and weep. Oddly enough, however, I feel no despair.

My positive outlook may be ascribed to a variety of factors besides a fundamentally optimistic outlook on life. I, for one, am of the opinion that having survived the worst of these conditions I have, strangely enough, come out ahead.

In ways that are not easily quantified, I just must have learned a thing or two about the human condition, and as a guy who aspires to be a writer, it has given me grist for the mill. It has given me something to write about.

I spent many years with a wonderful doctor who also never tired of returning to the big picture, the qualities that really make a person, of which he often reassured me I was well-endowed. The wonderful man spoke about being a decent person, and the fact that “once love starts flowing, it can flow like Niagara Falls,” and the broader hope that, over time, I might become “responsible for my own self-esteem.”

He viewed our time together as a journey toward these positive goals.

That same doctor never tired of reiterating that life is a series of individual days, which I had the power to see as a glass half full. If my diagnoses, as impressive as they sound, have given me the potential to reach out to others in a meaningful way, that is indeed a blessing.

Of late, I have been more inclined to view the illness as but one part in an increasingly full like as a volunteer English as a second language teacher. But still, I don’t wish to run from it.

It is, in fact, who I am. And I will stand beside it.

Josh Greenfield

Josh Greenfield