By Rosie Smith, @rosiefolksongs
Looking back in Anger
When I was diagnosed with bipolar, I was shocked by the fact I didn’t feel angry. I was confused at finally being able to call myself that, to describe my own experiences for what they were. But I wasn’t angry. I figured it would come with time.
Two months later and its finally here. The absence of any answers to my questioning, namely why I deserved this diagnosis now, since I couldn’t understand what had changed since I was sixteen, has given way to rage. It’s a good sort of rage though. Healthy. We so often look at anger as a solely destructive emotion, but here it functions as a righteous indignation. All I can think about is this little girl who used to be me, desperately trying to get help from services and being turned away. Being told she was just a hormonal teenager who didn’t understand life had natural ups and downs. Every time I tell that story again to someone new, I’m struck by the condescension of it. What gave them the right to treat an intelligent, perceptive teenager as a stupid little child?
Still, what good is my anger? I know its only a healthy force when you use it to do something, and I don’t see what there is for me to do. I’ve nowhere to channel it. Art is too small a scope for the rage. It’ll need to be broken down into bite sized chunks before I can write an angsty song about it. No, this is the kind of anger that requires change. But what change can I affect? My attempt to complain about my recent mistreatment by services yielded little, as I was effectively told that that was the system, and it couldn’t be changed. What would anyone care about a tiny encounter nearly ten years ago?
But it goes so deep for me. I can draw a straight line from that dismissal to being abused by my ex. When I couldn’t speak of my mental illness to anyone else, what else could be expected but that I became totally under his power? And yet, there’s no way for me to process that feeling. I cannot lay the anger I feel at any one door, so I can’t expect anyone to take responsibility for it. Whose responsibility is it, the mental health of a young child, set on what now feels like an inevitable path towards abuse? And yet, I can’t help but look back and ask, if I had received appropriate care then, how different would my life be now?
The weight of that dismissal will always live with me. The burden of asking; how many others were treated so poorly by Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS)? It won’t go away. But at least I can live with it now. I have medication that actually works, for the first time in my life. No therapy or practical help from the CMHT, but I’m used to that. I’m tough. And now I’m doing better, I can spend all the energy I was using to survive, on thriving instead. But I will always be angry too, and I’m glad of it. I never want to stop being angry, because knowing I deserved better isn’t a feeling I’ve often felt. I treasure it. My anger is my self-respect.