What it’s Like, Being Crazy

I’m asked now and then what it’s like to be “crazy”.

I don’t mind the term. In fact, I use it myself out of a desire to redefine the term and begin to own it instead of feeling angry about the word. I tend to do that with a lot of things. Fag, dyke, bitch, cunt, whore, slut, crazy. I have been called all of those things, and I will gladly claim them all over time. This particular post, however, is about being crazy.

Part of the problem with Cyclothymia is that my crazy comes in many forms. Cyclothymia, for those uninitiated, is a form of bi-polar syndrome, but rather than having extreme mania or depression, I vary more but on a lesser scale. Instead of going on mad shopping sprees or spending a week in bed, I’ll impulsively buy something stupid onlie or sleep an extra three hours. It’s harder to see, harder to define, and harder for people to understand because it doesn’t come at the same level of extremes. On the plus side, that means that I don’t have extremes to navigate. On the minus, people don’t perceive necessarily that my reactions are a result of my mental health, and think that I am just being rude, negative, or inflammatory.

Another disadvantage of Cyclothymia that I have found is that people disregard a reaction when it is out of proportion with reality. Not simply that they think I’ve overreacted, which is true, but that they totally disregard the whole sentiment because the extremity of my reaction invalidates my initial problem in their eyes.

Living with Cyclothymia is like spending every day of your life on a pendulum. If I am very, very fortunate, the pendulum stays in a slow and steady sway, barely deviating from “the norm”. If I am not, something taps the pendulum and I swing wildly to one side toward rage, excitement, depression, artistic energy, crying jags, or suicidal ideation. Those who do not live their lives on that pendulum do not know or understand how unstable and uncontrollable it can be. A single comment can reduce me to devastated tears, or send me soaring into glee. One professor can convince me that I should change my major because I’m so amazing at it, and another can send me crashing into unbelievable lows by telling me that my work wasn’t up to my usual standards.

How does this affect me? The real question is, how doesn’t it affect me? Because it would be a much shorter list.

Here’s an example. This is one we all run into at least once a year, if not once a month or week, depending on how social we are. Someone we know, distantly or closely, acts strangely toward us. Curious, we talk to a mutual acquaintance. The acquaintance says, “Hon, I don’t think she likes you very much. Don’t worry about her/him.”

That very situation has driven me to hide in my room for two days in the past.

I’ve also gotten better at reading my own overreactions. Since my diagnosis almost two years ago, I’ve become more understanding of when and where the pendulum hits me, and while I can’t stop reacting to it, I can choose how to show my reactions and how much to let them affect me. Knowledge really is power when it comes to mental health. Acknowledging my flaws in this particular regard has done wonders toward beginning to get control of how I act and react.

Someone asked me today how my childhood sexual abuse has affected my life. I am a big believer in the idea that nature and nurture play a part in the development of mental illness. I am also firmly of the belief that I would be much more sane today had someone not come into the world of my childhood and forced sexuality on me in a degrading and humiliating way. I don’t believe that it’s a coincidence that my misdiagnosis of ADHD took place a year after the abuse.

To live on a pendulum is to always fear the thing that will set you off balance. Imagine going through life fearing every minute that a classmate will curl her lip at your sweatshirt or tell you that you improperly cited a source. Imagine living with the knowledge that your creativity is not under your own control, and that you are possessed or exanimate with it, but never simply allowed to create because you want to. That is what being crazy is like.

They say that the definition of insanity is to do the same thing over and over again and expect a different result. I think the definition of insanity is to live unaware. So here I am, blogging my way to sanity.

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~ by oniongirl13 on April 13, 2009.

4 Responses to “What it’s Like, Being Crazy”

  1. A pendulum. Exactly.

    • I’m glad that my comparison resonates with you as well. It’s been difficult to put to words, and I’m really glad that you felt it worked for you too.

  2. I sometimes wonder why more of us that have survived childhood sexual abuse aren’t crazy. I can’t know what you are feeling but I can offer you sympathy and support with my words. Thank you for sharing your difficult journey with the world. You will help others in your sharing.

  3. I call what I go through the new normal. Normal for a child who has been abused like I have.

    I think that you are very brave to share so much. Thank you.

    Kate

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