Welcome to the first installment of this series of posts to explain Crazy to Normals. Well, at least my brand of Crazy. Full confession: most of this is totally self-serving. And like the rest of this blog, it’s a lot of me just journaling. Actually, I should revise my overall intent of these posts. Remember when I said it’s almost impossible to explain mental illness to those who don’t suffer it? Well, that is still true. I could use a bunch of analogies to explain it, which is the method of most tell-all books about mental illness. But in the end, those are still just metaphors. It won’t be the same thing as living it.
Perhaps my goal is to get a lot of this crap off of my chest. It speaks in circles in my head causing such a cacophony that it’s sometimes impossible to concentrate. The posts that I have submitted before this one just chronicle the chaos in my head. But there is one other goal: To give all of us Crazies and any Normals a slightly better common ground for communication. And it’s not just “teaching” the Normals how to speak to us Crazies. No, the problem is on both sides. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been asked “Hi Leonard, how are you?” only to be flummoxed as to how to answer. Do I tell folks REALLY how I’m feeling? Because that can be a trip down a very dark tunnel. I usually falter a bit before responding with a shrug and something like “I’m here I guess.” [actually it’s kind of fun screwing with people who know I have mental health issues by pretending to be really, I mean REALLY nuts. They get really uncomfortable and awkward until I let them know I’m just bullshitting them. Good times]. The point being that I would posit that we all have no ability to talk to each other, Normals and Crazies.
I live in Seattle where I’m convinced half the city has some form of mental illness, and the other half just haven’t been diagnosed yet. Seriously we’re all just hoping that Jeff Bezos will build another one of his biosphere balls, only this time over the entire city. Then bathe all of us in artificial sunlight. We could call it Amazon Stay. But I digress. My point is that you’d think we would have figured out communication amongst all of us Crazies and (supposedly) Normals a little better.
All of this came out of my own discussions with people very close to me, both friends and family. After the initial shock of learning I had completely quit my career, I would inevitably hear the question: WHY? In the first few months after my “retirement” I would answer with a hem and a haw. I’d evade the truth, blaming physician burnout, or saying I just needed a change. (This hemming and hawing is the subject of one of these upcoming posts by the way).
Finally, a few months later, I started unabashedly admitting I was suffering fairly crippling depression. And this was the point when I realized I just couldn’t explain myself and my depression, nor could my friends and family truly understand me. My mother is a classic example. I don’t know how many times I’ve had to explain, “No, mom, I don’t know why I’m so sad all the time. It’s the Depression. No, I don’t think just getting a new job is going make me feel happier.”
The other reaction I would get is “My God, I had no idea.” Now the possible reasons for this are two-fold. Either I’m extremely good at acting and hiding my disease, or maybe, just maybe we as a society have so very little real understanding of mental illness. Hell I was guilty of this towards my own damned self as I let myself not recognize depression for some 20 or so years.
Oh look I’ve just written almost 650 rambling words and yet said very little. If you’re a Normal you’ve gained no new insight into mental illness. If you’re a fellow Crazy, you’re still waiting, popcorn in hand, for when I start to explain said Crazy.
Ok, promise, I’ll be a bit more direct in the upcoming posts. Stay tuned.