Toys in the attic
I am crazy
Truly gone fishing
They must have taken my marbles away”
— Pink Floyd, “The Trial”
I was informed, not long ago, that I was not allowed to refer to myself as crazy. The reasoning was that crazy people don’t really know they’re crazy, therefore, by stating this fact, I wasn’t actually crazy. My response to this, although never actually verbalized (I’m crazy, not stupid), was “Fuck you, that’s bullshit!” The idea that if you think you’re crazy then you must be “normal” is antiquated and it was thoroughly satirized in Joseph Heller’s Catch-22. Also, I went over 40 years without ever suspecting I was crazy, so I guess I’m trying to make up for lost time. I’m also, as I’m sure you’ve noticed already, very glib about this. Humor is how I deflect and cope. And expletives; I use those to cope, too. I use them a lot.
A couple of days ago, on Facebook, I posted a link to a blog by Natasha Tracy. She blogs about bipolar disorder and mental health and includes a great deal of information about dealing with the symptoms of bipolar. Her blog is called Breaking Bipolar and is incredibly informative. The particular link I shared on Facebook was about how bipolar people view themselves. Are we crazy, or simply sufferers of mental illness?
Ms. Tracy wrote that she called herself crazy and, by virtue of the Random House Dictionary, concluded that she was correct. I tend to agree. I also agree with her statement that bipolar disorder is a brain disease. It’s not a condition or a way of thinking. Even though there is no physical evidence of bipolar (you can’t see it on an x-ray, MRI, or CT scan, it is an actual, diagnosable disease. In fact, on the severity scale, it ranks right up there with schizophrenia (Woo hoo, I’m near the top! I rock!). Although the actual cause of bipolar isn’t completely known, one fact is my brain suffers from a chemical imbalance which causes me to swing from severe depression to hypomania and back again, like a very not-fun rollercoaster. Just to clarify, hypomania is characterized by racing thoughts, insomnia, grandiosity, irritability, and engaging in pleasurable activities to the point of tremendous, horrible consequences. These swings can last anywhere from a few days to a few months, especially if I’m not taking my medication (which I’ve gone off of a couple of times and it was very, very stupid decision each time). I can also experience hypomania and depression at the same time. That ride is the very not-fun rollercoaster multiplied by infinity. That can last from a few hours to a few days. Bottom line – my brain is sick. Bipolar is a chronic illness that cannot be cured, only managed. Through a combination of therapy and medication I am able to hang on, albeit tenuously, to some sense of being average. I refuse to use the word normal. There is no true normal. Fuck normal. Therefore, the fact that this is a real disease which makes me unpredictable and occasionally uncontrollable, means I am, in the true sense of the word, crazy.
The worst part of being crazy is not only do I know I’m crazy, but I recognize the up and down cycles and there is nothing I can do to prevent it. They can be triggered by nothing specific at all. When I tell someone I’m depressed I often get the response, “Well, everyone gets depressed,” which, for the record, is one of the worst things to tell a bipolar person; the worst being, “Just get over it.” Tell that to a cancer patient and see how that works out. There is nothing specific that I am depressed about. To quote Stephen Fry, “Depression isn’t a straightforward response to a bad situation, depression just is, like the weather.” So my response when people ask me why I’m depressed, or upset, or holding back a flood of tears is simply, “I don’t know.” It’s the nature of the disease and I have to ride that very not-fun rollercoaster to the end. It’s all part and parcel of being crazy.