Q & A: How can I tell if I’m mentally disturbed?

Without knowing why you’re asking, this is very difficult to answer. You need to provide more details to receive a more accurate response.

There’s two ways, generally speaking, to consider being “mentally disturbed”. You might think of it as “interior vs. exterior dialogue”. Sort of. Here’s two really extreme examples.

Let’s say Joe’s family is part of a cult. Having been raised by this group, Joe has been told from birth that acting against this group in any way, disobedience in any fashion, indicates that he’s mentally disturbed. As he grew older, Joe starts to question some of the actions of the group, and is immediately condemned as being mentally disturbed. Is he really? Or is his natural inclination for logic and reason simply kicking in, telling him that the situation itself is insane?


Fred is walking down the street. Fred appears “normal”, he acts like everyone else. But as he walks he sees a dog and wants to kick it. It’s just playing around, barking, acting like a dog. It’s not aggressive. But there’s something about it… Fred seriously wants to kick that damn dog. But he does nothing. He simply continues down the street, though he’s angry that he couldn’t kick the dog. Is Fred mentally disturbed?

The point I’m trying to make is that your inner voice might be a good indicator to answer your own question. Joe has been told he’s disturbed, but logic will hopefully assure him that the problem isn’t his – the problem is external. His environment. Fred, on the other hand, may be self aware to know that his internal impulses aren’t in his best interests which is why he doesn’t act on them. Hopefully someone going through something like that will seek help before impulses get the better of them.


Q & A: Why are mentally disturbed women allowed to have children?

I’m Bipolar I in addition to having Asperger’s and a few other things. Years ago I made the decision to never have children. It was a more merciful decision than putting them through what I’ve endured.

I made the correct decision logically. I made the correct decision morally and ethically. Emotionally I MISS MY KIDS! The kids I never had, but planned for all my life. Who doesn’t want a family?

I have a lot of self discipline when it comes to such matters, but there were times when it was nearly impossible to resist the urging of my biological clock. I think most people carry on without being diagnosed, or if they have a diagnosis they hope their kids will be lucky enough not to get it. Or they don’t have the mental capacity to have that conversation – in which case biology will definitely win.

Another thing to consider is the social pressure women are under to have kids.  Take a question like this one, for example.  I have identified that I am Bipolar I / Psychotic.  I’m also Autistic.  Looking through my blog you’ll see that I also have degenerative disc disease as well as borderline personality disorder.  This is the perfect recipe for someone who should NEVER EVER have children.  And yet I always receive comments when I post about this.  The fact that I made a deliberate decision not to have kids is deeply offensive to many people.  The comments range from gentle “you might be surprised how much you love having kids!” to utterly hostile “how can you be so selfish!  By not having your children you might as well have MURDERED them!!!”  

Wow, and they say I’m crazy…


I’m a bipolar woman. Can I marry and have children? Would a normal man accept me as a wife? Would my children be bipolar too?

I’m a bipolar woman (among other things). When I was in my 30’s my biological clock kicked in hard. For a while all I could think of was having kids. I even named my would-be children (hint to anyone reading: NEVER do this.) Before I could act on that impulse I thought long and hard about what I go through every day. I asked myself as honestly as I could 1. would I want my kids to go through this? 2. If I’m having a bad day, who will protect my children from their own mother?

I found a “normal” man who loved and accepted me enough to marry me. I divorced him and I never had children. I consider both to be acts of love.

Q & A: Why do some people seem to glorify having mental illness/issues?

Your question is too general for a specific answer. But the tone of it reminds me of another question. “Why do gay couples talk about being gay?” My answer is the same to both. Because “normal” people treat anyone outside that norm as weird. The only tool available to bring understanding, to combat that “weird” factor is to talk about it. The moment “normal” people stop thinking about anyone who is different as “weird”, there will no longer be a need for conversations like this.

Q & A: After someone recovers from borderline personality disorder, how do they then look at the people they went from idealizing to devaluing?

“Recovers”. That’s an… interesting idea. To the best of my knowledge, having had it for a few decades, I’m not aware of any recovery process. You don’t get over being Borderline. There are ways to deal with it more productively once you know what’s going on, but it doesn’t go away.

That being said, I can share a heartwarming story! When I was at my worst I drove every single person in my life away from me. Two years later I knew what was happening and that gave me a more rational set of tools to work with. So I gathered my courage and decided to contact one of my former best friends. I wanted to let her know, at the very least, why I behaved as I did toward her, and to apologize. She deserved that at the very least. To my enormous surprise she not only accepted my invitation to talk, she suggested that we meet face-to-face to have that discussion.

That was 16 years ago. Not only are we still best friends, we’re now a very solid romantic couple (it surprised the hell out of both of us, believe me!). We’ll celebrate our 14th anniversary this year. I’ve worked hard to maintain a more lucid frame of mind. She’s worked hard to deal with all the times I don’t win that fight.

It’s possible to rebuild some of the bridges you burn as a Borderline. But you need someone pretty incredible working to rebuild from the other side.

Q & A: Why doesn’t my 18-year-old daughter understand math?

“No matter how many times you explain it, she still doesn’t understand. She can only do basic multiplication. I’ve ended up yelling at her, lost my patience, and hit her. What’s wrong with her?”

Here are some basic facts about me that may help you understand your daughter better.

Good stuff:

  • I have an IQ of 155.
  • I was reading at the college level in 6th grade
  • I have an instinctive understanding of Theoretical Physics that makes professors cry
    • Ask me about Imaginary Time!

Bad Stuff:

  • While I’m an excellent writer, I can’t spell
    • I can barely write in a legible fashion.
  • Until recently I couldn’t solve for X
    • I failed almost every math class I ever took.

Conclusion: I’m autistic.

When I was born they didn’t test girls for Autism, only boys. Asperger’s Syndrome didn’t become part of a wider understanding until the ’90s. I’m considered “high functioning” – I’m not stupid, but I simply can’t comprehend math formulas beyond the most basic, even though I can read books by Hawking and Penrose and understand them easily. Math symbols start to dance around and I can’t keep track of them all. Because of my high IQ my inability to grasp the basics was considered a character flaw – it assumed I was lazy. How could someone who loves science and writing not be able to do math or spell?  This was a message I internalized until it became a basic part of me.  My self-loathing is so profound it has crippled my entire adult life.

Don’t turn her into me.  Get your daughter tested. Save her a lifetime of frustration. Please.

Q & A: What are the most common cognitive biases in people who suffer from BPD?

BPD typically manifests in black / white thinking. There is very little gray area. It is good or bad. Right or wrong. You’re for me or against me, an enemy or a friend. Learning about “maybe” or “It depends” is difficult, if not impossible. Because opinions are definite and not an issue for debate, it tends to lead to alienation. Even people who agree with some of the ideas won’t agree with all of them, and will eventually be driven away.

Personally I’ve found this to be especially true when dealing with people. If I like them they’re not just nice, they’re WONDERFUL! Until I find the flaw. Then, typically, I’ll demonize them. This leaves the majority of the work in maintaining a relationship to the other party – often not only resulting in but enforcing the sense of alienation.

Q & A: If God is omnibenevolent, why do mental illnesses exist?

Let’s define mental illness first. There’s “normal” and there’s “everything else”. If you’re considered harmless by that which is “normal”, you’re eccentric. If you’re considered dangerous (to yourself or others), you’re “mentally ill”. Unfortunately, anything outside the norm tends to provoke fear, which is why (generally speaking) there are a lot of mentally ill people, and very few “eccentrics”.

Those the modern West defines as “mentally ill” were often considered gifted by older cultures. These chosen few had special insight which could benefit the group. Recently we’ve turned away from those ideas, classifying anything that isn’t of the herd to be dangerous. To be mentally ill.

Granted, this doesn’t cover all mental illnesses. But I don’t think you’re actually asking about mental illnesses so much as “Why does an omnibenevolent God allow cruelty to exist”. I can’t answer that one.

Q & A: How does comorbid bipolar disorder work for people with autism?

Interesting question! My first diagnosis was Bipolar I. When they finally got around to “no, really, you have Asperger’s” my initial thought was, “well, thank goodness I’m not actually Bipolar!” Ha! Isn’t it interesting that I can still be happily naive at 51?

Anyway, having them both gives rise to what I fondly describe as “The Beast”. Sometimes I’m asked if I have multiple personalities, because I refer to my diagnosis or symptoms by a name like that. But no, it’s simply that sometimes the illness takes control. At times like that the rational part of my mind gets the hell out of the way because there’s just no stopping it.

The main symptom of Bipolar – wild mood swings – are bad enough. When I’m manic I’m likely to lash out at others. When I’m Depressive I’m likely to lash in at myself. It’s always in the background. Asperger’s adds an extremely short fuse to the mix. I can be easily overloaded by the strangest things, like someone cracking their gum, or a shrill child’s voice. If I hear an animal in distress I can go from zero to 11 in about 4 seconds flat. The entire world seems like an overload trigger in the right circumstance.

Combined – you get the Beast. If I’m Manic and something triggers an Aspey emotional overload I’m likely to attack. Sometimes at random, but more often I’ll go for the (often) hapless source of whatever triggered it. It sometimes works in my favor – I’ve saved dogs from hot cars. I stepped into traffic to save a wandering flock of geese with such authority that drivers stopped to help me get them out of the road. But usually it works against me. I’ve been kicked out of tons of places, banned from a few of them. I got kicked out of college twice and never finished my degree, in spite of starting as a Sophomore and having a 155 IQ.

In Depressive mode I’m likely to attempt suicide. My hatred for whatever triggered the response wells up to the point where I simply must destroy something, if only myself. I’ve got quite a few scars from episodes like that.

For me, awareness is key to survival. I’m amazed I lived long enough to get to my diagnosis. Now that I know what’s happening, more or less, I can act as my own voice of reason most of the time. When that fails my support network kicks in and can usually calm me down or get me to a safer space.

Q & A: Do people think mental diseases such as social phobia or schizophrenia are just a state of mind that can be trained to be overcomed?

In my experience, yes. Most people equate mental illness with a character flaw. That’s in the best case. Worst case scenario they think mental illness is another description for a lazy liar. The problem is, of course, that in some cases they’re exactly right! Since it can’t be seen there are always people who will try to run a con, making it just that much harder for the rest of us (hey, thanks guys! Really.)

At my lowest point I considered going to the train tracks and sitting my legs across them, just so the idiots who don’t believe I’m disabled will FINALLY have something to look at! When I told my best friend she answered that anyone who thinks mental illness is a character flaw will look at a legless person and say “Get a job”. Smart girl! There’s just no winning with some people.