Thursday, December 09, 2004


Trying not to be Crazy is like not looking in a mirror before a first date. There are impulses pressing on your skin like the needles of a cactus and ignoring them is hell because the suppression of such powerful urges makes you feel like you’re going to explode. Sometimes, I think that when Crazy people put their hands over their faces, it’s not because they are in despair, but because they are trying to cradle this rabid animal within that wants to spring out and destroy everything that the sane part has created while the Crazy part was asleep.

Crazy is an addiction. It alienates the people that love you and draws the destructive, parasitic types closer. It becomes your only friend and a false sense of self. You can’t see anything but Crazy. It’s the blanket over your eyes, hiding the terrified, sane child beneath it, cowering and afraid.

After you learn to control the Crazy, you look at your life, which makes it extremely difficult to care about controlling the Crazy in the first place. You look at your friends, your family, indeed your entire reality like a person who comes out of a basement after a storm to find their house intact but strewn with intimate belongings. Underwear on the lawn, photographs sprinkled on the floor, broken glass in the kitchen. You hardly know where to start cleaning up but you know for sure you don’t want to pick up the photographs and see the faces of the past, because they will remind you of every moment of erratic behavior and every time you slapped the faces of the people who tried to gently nudge you from beneath that psychotic, ratty little blanket.

I read a lot of things that other people write and they jokingly refer to themselves as schizophrenic or psychotic, as though insanity is a funhouse mood and they’re just along for the ride. But if you really are Crazy, the difference is that it is less like a funhouse and a lot more like a dilapidated slum in the middle of nowhere, with graffiti and beer bottles and peeling paint.

I look upon sanity as an achievement. It is a source of pride for me to walk down a hallway and not freak out because there are people on either side of me. I think that people who find their way out of the maze of psychosis deserve some kind of award. I want to tearfully thank the Academy and all the people who made it possible. I want to be smug with self-satisfaction before all of the people who encouraged my self-destruction and watch them avert their eyes because my newly (relative to the years and years that I was a basket case) sane eyes can see right through their holier than thou bullshit. For everyone else, I mostly want to swing my arms wide and say “Behold!” because they should have seen this place before I cleaned it up.

People that I meet who are still wading hip-deep in the sludge of Crazy ask me “what I did”. Did I take medication? Yes, I sure did. It only made things worse. Did I have therapy? Yes, but therapists are often glorified phone psychics. They lead you down paths that are completely irrelevant just to keep you on the telephone and keep the gravy train chugging away but never going anywhere. The fact is, while other people might have had a hand in exacerbating a pre-disposition for erratic thoughts and behaviors, you can’t give it back. It doesn’t go away. For the rest of your life, every now and then, dark figures will loom in your doorway. You spook easily. You’ll feel your mind slipping away sometimes and you have to lasso it back in. Quite simply, you have to work around it. You just have to look at Crazy as a series of orange cones in the path of your life and navigate carefully to avoid them. If you hit one once in a while, don’t kill yourself over it. Just try to pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and hope that no one noticed. And if someone tries to push you down, remember that one of the few guilty pleasures in life is seeing the look of dismay on the faces of a people who know that they've screwed you over but not beaten you.

What made me think of this was a book that I read called “Running with Scissors”. It’s by a guy named Augusten Burroughs and it’s a memoir about his life. I listened to an interview with him on Fresh Air and what struck me is that he was so happy to have had a normal relationship with a normal-but-somewhat-eccentric guy for a very long time. He was so happy because this guy was kind of a grounding presence, which is what every recovering psycho needs. Prince Charming for Crazy people doesn’t come to the rescue as much as he places a reassuring hand on your shoulder once in a while in a gesture of good faith and trusts that your Crazy will never be as important to you (like it once was) as he is.

I know that all insane people can’t pull themselves up by their bootstraps. Brain chemistry can be a bitch. But for the ones who were coaxed under the blanket by child molesters or abusive parents: you really can find your way out. After the clouds dissipate and you’ve mostly cleaned up the messes that you made, you start to realize that swimming upstream once in a while is so much better than lamenting missed opportunities. You may not ever be “normal”, but one of the few advantages of insanity is that you were never normal and it probably led you down paths that people don’t "normally" take.

When I was Crazy all of the time, I sought a pill that would make me “normal”. But normal doesn’t really exist for me. If I had to work my way out of Crazy and have to spend the rest of my life having conjugal visits with it in order to have the perspective that I have, then it was worth it. Search my cavities all you want bitches, so that I can make a mental note of how your fingers lurked in my ass a second too long and write about it later.

I can't see it as a bad thing altogether. So what if parts of me never developed. I still have the sense of humor of a 12 year old boy. There was a story about freighters on NPR this morning and I laughed loudly and longly every time they said the word "Seamen".

Coveting the mundane is a hobby that Crazy people engage in, but what most people call normal, I call unenlightened. I have fun sculpting Crazy now that I am far enough away from it to use it as a scalpel and that’s really why I want people to know that they can do the same thing. The world needs more reality surgeons.