Except it’s been there all along: his diagnosis.
This evening, for the first time, I shared this series with someone – who wasn’t a friend or family – and acknowledged that it was written by me. The share came as a result of someone looking for more information about a diagnosis. The diagnosis that Mr. Juniper has.
Since then, I have been drinking peppermint tea, browsing Facebook, and wondering quietly to myself that maybe the time has come to share Mr. Juniper’s diagnosis. I swore some time ago that I wouldn’t, that his diagnosis is private and personal. And yet. The suggestion was made that perhaps it would benefit others in the search for knowledge, and Mr. Juniper gave me his blessing to share.
As I ponder whether to break open the shortbread (confession: I always keep shop-bought shortbread on hand in case of visitors or evenings that are of a shortbread inclination), I wonder why I feel such anxiety over whether or not to share this piece of information.
The diagnosis, that grouping of letters, doesn’t change what I have written over the past years. His diagnosis came years before I began to share my caregiving experience. I want to say that he is the same man, regardless of the diagnosis, but he isn’t. The diagnosis allowed us a chance to move forward. His diagnosis unlocked information and provided explanation. Mental health spans humanity, a few keywords don’t hurt when trying to figure out which parts are especially significant, amongst the billions of other brains out there.
My hesitance comes in part from one easily identifiable point. The negativity surrounding the diagnosis. I have spent years trawling the Internet and books for information and answers, and I can see why some people have reached the conclusions that they have. I’ve seen the statistics; they aren’t pretty. There is a fine line, if there is one at all, and it is in fact a line and not a straw I’m grasping at, which separates fact and feeling when it comes to this diagnosis. The facts are true and real. The experiences of individual people in their own perception are true and real. The cold blunt instrument of diagnostic criteria often pale in the heat of warning tales people are desperate to share. Somewhere in the middle, I have often found myself trying to draw knowledge from both sides and bring it together into something of use to us.
We are one couple. Dealing with one case of this diagnosis. Amongst millions attached to the same label and many combinations of the criteria required. Sometimes I have questioned how accurate those diagnoses are but then I remember my focus has to be Mr. Juniper. That Mr. Juniper’s experience of mental illness is as unique as his DNA. When seeking solace and information, I have had to work hard to keep in mind that every experience is individual. It’s difficult. Very difficult sometimes.
In the back of my mind, I have wondered what people would think if they knew what Mr. Juniper’s diagnosis is. I have wondered how it would affect their perceptions of what I have written. Our experience may not fit with common perceptions but our experience is our own, it is individual and it is valid. When our beliefs and approach clash with the opinions of others, I have to step back, take a deep breath, and say, “So be it.” Mr. Juniper’s time with his diagnosis has shown me how much suffering there is for the lack of real help and support. That pain is real.
The tides are changing, I think. I see more people sharing their experiences with this diagnosis. I have no desire to invalidate the pain and difficulties endured by others. I have wanted to see more balance. Even if it is in small numbers, it has been so difficult to find other experiences that are like ours, and there are times when I have felt very alone. The Internet, the libraries, the information available is vast and yet somehow has often been far from satisfactory.
It is with many years and the fortune to have wonderful professionals in our lives that Mr. Juniper can be on a positive path. I don’t know if recovery is in the future. I’m not sure what recovery is now; I had an idea some years ago but life has a funny way of changing things. I know he is on a positive path, I hesitate to call it healing. I know my husband, who has a diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder, struggles – as he puts it – to understand how I put up with him. Maybe one day the planets will align and he will. Until then, here’s to not being alone with mental illness. I’ll get the shortbread out and pop the kettle on.