What to do (and what not to do) when you find out you’re crazy

Once I was crazy,
and my ace in the hole
was that I knew that I was crazy.
So I never lost my soul…

Paul Simon
“Ace in the Hole”

Let’s say that it is early on a weekday morning–4 or 5 a.m.–and you are lying in bed, being roiled in and out of sleep, because you have put your significant other through hours of intense, difficult conversation only to come to the conclusion, eventually, that much of what you worried about for weeks and months and perhaps years is based on your own mental turmoil, your own flawed inner gyroscope. In short, you realize–again–that you are crazy. Though this conclusion is not new, you find it particularly dispiriting this time, because you are in the midst of trying to sort out significant life choices for yourself, which could involve significant life choices for your significant other. And you cannot help but wonder about the soundness of those choices, or the emotional impetus behind them. In the aftermath of this discovery about yourself, you might make a list to help you grope toward some sense of what to do next. Recognizing that you have no mental health training whatsoever, that you know nothing about how the brain works beyond what you’ve read in magazine or books, and beyond what your (by definition) diseased brain tells you, your list might look something like this:

  • Resist the temptation to disappear into a hole (such as the sort of cave you might make using sheets and pillows on your bed). Whatever advantages the hole might offer are overcome by the fact that it will not make you appear any less crazy.
  • Resist the urge to run away to Nicaragua and become a peasant on the street. You wouldn’t like it.
  • Along similar, but slightly less drastic lines, resist the temptation to quit your job for fear of your craziness being discovered. You may well feel deeply ashamed of it, but chances are your employers by this time either can’t tell or don’t mind.
  • Resist, for now, the temptation to have yourself institutionalized. That option isn’t going anywhere, so there’s no hurry.
  • Resist the temptation to surf the web endlessly, mindlessly, just to take your mind off of how crazy you are (unless, of course, that’s how you have arrived at this blog post).
  • Recognize that your being crazy doesn’t mean you are wrong about everything. You may continue to be highly functioning. You may even have keen insights that others fail to recognize. The problem, of course, is that you have no idea *which* of your thoughts or insights are the sounds ones, and which are the random synaptic firings of that chemically imbalanced organ known as your brain. What emotions and feelings and judgments can you trust? What values? What observations? What deeply felt beliefs? If you are a black male in the early decades of the 21st century, these are not hypothetical questions. Many things you feel to be true sound deeply suspect to large swaths of your fellow countrymen and women. Really, could they be right? Really?
  • Resist the temptation to endlessly question everything.
  • Resist dwelling on the damage you may be doing to your partner, children, or other loved ones. I know, this can be difficult, particularly if you were raised Roman Catholic. But in your condition, dwelling will cause you to want to *do* something, and doing something can lead to even crazier consequences. Because, yes, it is possible for you to become even crazier than you think you are now. For this reason…
  • Do nothing irrevocable. In particular…
  • Be careful of what you say and how you say it. In the long run, communicating what you are going through may be helpful. But at this particular moment, what you say (or, for example, write in a blog post) may only serve to confirm your craziness and ultimately be used against you in future legal proceedings.
  • Resist contemplating future legal proceedings. Instead…
  • Find some simple, ordinary, beautiful object (poem, image, piece of music) or act or product of nature and attend to it. Just take some time to experience it. Do this as often as you need to feel even a little grounded.
  • Make something small and intricate.

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