n my imagination, where I believe potentially that people are reading this blog, I hear a chorus of shouts saying “no, no, no, what the hell are you doing?” when they read this post today because contrary to the title and the mission statement of this blog, I feel for just a moment, bear with me imaginary internet friends, that I need to, gasp, be serious. In fact, as a matter of course, and probably largely in part due to my Catholic upbringing and the many years that I spent attending CCD (the equivalent of bible school for any non catholic), Wednesdays will be dedicated to seriousness on this blog which otherwise will be filled with the foolish, the outlandish and the absurd.
But let’s face it even God had Sunday, and while I am 85% sure that I am not some reincarnation of the Christ child, I was taught for many, many years that I was created in his image, so as a tribute to him Wednesday’s will contain serious subject matter.
Now don’t freak out, imaginary audience...I promise this will be less painful than a visit to the principal’s office, and I will still do my best to make the serious interesting, heartwarming, and of course, wherever and whenever possible funny, because honest to God, serious subjects often provide the most opportunities for comic relief.
That being said the lesson for today is about crazy people or more specifically psych wards. Recently, I’m not gonna lie because I am not ashamed and because I have no reason to be, I voluntarily spent several days on the psychiatric floor of a hospital, as I mentioned previously on this blog. For this, a lot of people seem to think they can label me “crazy”. Of course my natural reaction, and I think on most days its a good one, is to mock their stupidity and ignorance by feeding the beast, taking them to the circus and being the freak show it is that “they” think I am.
Some people might speculate that this is a cry for attention; others believe it is the true manifestation of a mad woman; but really i do what I do for several reasons.
First of all, because there is a certain liberation in doing the forbidden. Empowerment comes from the taking the world by the balls and saying “hey, I’m talking to you. Shut and up and listen.” Second, I march to the beat of my own drummer, always have, always will. What other people tend to assign as odd to me feels normal. Individualism in this country is said to be prized, but really we are a nation of followers. We must drink our coffee from Starbucks, read the books on Oprah’s book list, shop endlessly at Target, design our holiday settings a la Martha Stuart, and dress according to the predictions of In Style magazine for what is “hot” for the season. Ads and television proscribe a lifestyle; a “norm” and when someone rejects those “norms”, Americans have a tendency to describe them as weird. This is why we have a nation of bullies and intolerant assholes...I’m just sayin’. Third, when you act strange, you do have a tendency to gain attention. Where people make the mistake is to think that I covet attention strictly for personal gain. This is a misnomer. My real purpose in garnering attention is to bring to light issues that are ignored by a society easily placated with caffeine and vodka and mindless entertainment such as the Jersey Shore. I mean, you can’t be serious.
One such issue, the issue I want to discuss today is how psych wards are thought to be the holding place for the insane, and this is how people who suffer from anxiety, depression, and other alleged “mental” disorders become maligned, mocked and the target of ignorant attacks. A young woman just the other day said in an attempt to be vicious, “go back to the psych ward”, as if by telling me that she was confirming and condemning me as crazy. But I should like to speak today on behalf of people in treatment for mental illness everywhere when I say most of the time people in these places are not themselves crazy; they simply find themselves amidst crazy circumstances.
When I was in the hospital, for instance, I was not surrounded by your garden variety “lunatic” banging her head, foaming at the mouth, being strapped into restraints. Yeah there might of been one or two people who could have easily been reading off a hollywood script for seriously whack character, but by and large, the people that I met in the hospital where what I would describe as normal people who had just had the misfortune of getting the shitty end of the stick on more than one occasion.
There was a father struggling to raise several young children in the face of his wife’s untimely and unexpected death. There was a beautiful young woman traumatized by an unstable childhood that included incidences of serious verbal and physical abuse. There was a mother who was caring for a disabled child and that constant care was putting such a strain on both her and her marriage that it was literally driving her crazy. These people were not, for the most part, delusional or rabid or violent. They knew who the president is, Richard Nixon, just kidding, and what day and month and year it was that they were locked up in a place associated primarily with people who shuffle around in night clothes attempting to climb walls. Not that people who do things probably do not have a very good reason for doing so, but my point here is, these people were “normal”.
They missed their Starbucks, and their trips to Target, and they brought with them their In Style magazines and the books from Oprah’s book list. They were not “crazy” as even I had suspected because clearly I did not belong there, but they were broken down by tragedy and struggling to make sense of a world that so often makes no sense. In a word, they were human. Because though they did carry with them the objects of normalcy, they couldn’t use these objects to block out their human experience. They were, as I was, and still am, struggling to put the pieces of the puzzle of life together in some type of coherent fashion that makes sense and is meaningful. They could no longer function on autopilot: satisfied with what their next vacation would be, or what the sales on black Friday would be like or who would win the Super Bowl. These things still mattered somewhat but when you are touched by profound tragedy as each of us had been, it is impossible not to want to find something more meaningful and this search can often be exhaustive, without end or reward, and can literally drive you nuts. Which is why, as I say most days, I can’t be serious...at least not for the whole day, or not for a succession of days because honestly the world truly is a crazy place and sometimes the best way to keep your sanity once you realize this is to go with the grain of crazy instead of against it, all the while laughing knowing that, in fact, while you appear insane you are actually the opposite.
So I say to the girl who challenged me to return to the psych ward, as if she were condemning me to a life of crazy, the psych ward is not such a bad place. Its was actually filled with some of the most genuine and compassionate people that I ever met in my whole life. What’s crazy is that there is so much misunderstanding about human nature. What’s crazy is the way so many people function on autopilot living according to a proscribed lifestyle set out by television and the mass media. What’s crazy is that we are all supposed to be different and yet the trend seems to be to make everyone the same. And when you want to be an individual as dictated by our essential nature, people label you and judge and attempt to lock you up and medicate you into submission. Read 1984 people. That’s fucking nuts, in my opinion.
Now enough of the seriousness, tomorrow back to the bright side of things. I will discuss the benefits of acting stupid.