I joke around about losing my sanity sometimes. But like most jokes, there’s a grain of truth in there that makes it funny. It’s kind of like how sometimes I tell my kids I’m gonna have a stroke if they don’t settle down. I mean, I actually *had* a stroke, and I still come out with that one, second nature. But it’s been almost five years since the stroke, and the kids don’t panic about that anymore, I think.
Now if you ask me right out, I don’t think strokes are funny. I don’t think mental illness is funny. I joke because it keeps me from crying. I joke because it’s a beacon in the fog, and I could use the light.
From time to time, other people have tried to own my sanity, to define it for me. No, not the “experts” – they actually keep telling me I’m as sane as anyone else (which, you know, isn’t that reassuring). But I haven’t always been able to believe in myself. Rational me says “It’s okay, you lost your temper/swore at someone you love/told the dog you wanted to stab him with a fork. You are a good person, you’ve never hurt anyone on purpose, in fact you’re haunted by the memories of those people you’ve hurt even decades later, and that fork thing was pretty funny under the circumstances.” Rational me is… rational.
Irrational me has trouble making sense of stuff, and typically tries to blame me for everything. When someone says you’re crazy, everyone wonders. Even you. And the fact remains that I have hurt the people I love. However you define it, this stuff isn’t easy. I do suffer from depression sometimes. And I have trouble with expressing anger. I do it wrong often. It’s a fairly new thing to me. The mere idea that conflict is, or can be *normal* is really only about seven years old inside my head. Thank you therapy. And only six years ago I learned that anger is just a feeling, and it’s okay to feel it, even if you can’t list a perfectly acceptable reason. I learned that yelling doesn’t mean you’re unstable. It means you’re mad. I learned that working things through is really healthy, and running or storming away is not. And I learned that apologizing means you’re strong (unless you apologize for breathing, a habit it took me a couple years to break).
Depression, bipolar, borderline, ADD – these things aren’t personal failings, they’re just something we’re born with or injuries we’ve sustained. Getting help when you think you might need it is a sign of incredible strength and bravery. You don’t have to suffer alone, and you don’t have to beat yourself up. You can get help, answers, and support. Everyone deserves those things. Even you, even me.
I’ve had a lot of crazy thrown at me in my lifetime. And I need to accept that I always will. But for now, until I hear from experts and friends alike that I need to worry, I’m going to try to trust myself. I know my own crazy pretty well. I’m working on the things that need work, and I really am sorry to everyone I’ve ever hurt. And of course I’m sure I’ll hurt someone again. Screwing up is normal too. Anyway, if you hear me joking, please joke along, and if I need it, help me up, and I’ll do the same for you.