I’ve never been one to embrace limits, but in the past few years I’ve learned that doing so is a matter of maintaining emotional stability.

Recently, I was asked to accompany my best friend to his sister’s. I hesitated because I’d been subjected to three incidents of hair-pulling in a 48-hour period by his teen-aged niece, who has autism and cerebral palsy. The last “attack” brought on waves of panic and shakiness, symptoms of my PTSD. I was so anxious about returning that I had three panic attacks in one week. It had been decades since I last felt a panic attack.

But I went. I should have stayed home. My friend should have stayed home. In short, our trip was abbreviated for a number of reasons and we headed home just as fast as we could. In trying to explain to my friend’s sister, a nurse, why I didn’t feel comfortable being around her daughter by myself at this time, I disclosed that I had PTSD and Bipolar Disorder Type II. I even told her that I don’t tell people about my diagnoses because of the tremendous stigma attached to them.

Wrong strategy. Instead of understanding where I was coming from, I was told to “…take your scared sissy injured little ass back to WVA and hide.”

Ouch. Never expected that from a nurse, especially in a text message! I mean, you have to think what you want to write, then type it, then hit the send key. It’s more complicated than just blurting such nastiness out of your mouth without thinking.

This happened two weeks ago. It’s taken me the full two weeks to start to feel like myself again. About a week ago, I was so upset that I could not eliminate the shakiness and fear that I did something really stupid. I took too many prescription pills – not as a suicide attempt, but simply to escape from the awful feelings that were consuming me day after day. As I type this, the fear and shakiness threaten to return.

I never expected such a horrid barrage from someone who has said she likes me, a nurse no less, a mother with a special needs child. But it’s not the first time I’ve been surprised by stigma showing its ugly head in someone who should know better. I’m sure it won’t be the last.

But this is the first time it’s happened when I have such an awesome support team in my life. And that has made all the difference. Like other times of crisis, I sought the assistance of my therapist. He was very helpful. This time, too, I was able to share with my closest friend exactly how I was feeling, how much I hurt, how unexpected this written assault was. He listened. He’s someone I have learned to trust my soul with. And, for my part, I’ve learned to communicate a lot better. His antidote? A ride through the snowy mountains with our new RTV. Perfect medicine!

I’ve given a lot of thought to my relationship with his sister. And I’ve come to the conclusion that, for my mental stability, I need to steer clear of her. I have no problem staying behind when my friend visits his sister; I want their relationship nurtured, not extinguished. For now, she’s not good for me. Maybe some day she won’t be so toxic to me, but I plan to proceed with caution!

Sandra is a 58 year old living her childhood dreams in the rural mountains of West Virginia. Farms, cattle, log cabins, old barns, awesome neighbors, she is finally in her element! Sandra has three grown children scattered across the United States who’ve seen her at her best and at her worst and still like her.

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