It is well known to all of my closer friends, and to the luckier of my acquaintances that I am completely out of my mind. The problem with insanity though, is that it is only the more contrived, cartoonish mental illness symptoms like hallucinations (both auditory and visual) that warrant any kind of humourous consideration. Borderline personality disorder, depression, or even something as hilarious as bipolar manic depression is rarely the subject of a half-decent standup routine.
I think that there is something deeply frightening about most mental illnesses, and I think that the fear grips those who flirt with those feelings more than those of us who swim in them. For me, a lifelong struggle with bipolar disorder, as well as a smattering of various and sundry other types of nervous pathos has always possessed a real humourous quality. My life is made a lot easier when people are able to laugh with me at the problems that I occasionally deal with.
I once had a very close relationship with a woman who dealt with a psychosis so bad that she had intense hallucinations which led her to serious personal harm. I was always so scared of her hallucinations but she would always laugh about them. It baffled me but she told me that laughing about things like that was the only way to keep from despairing about it.
There’s a lot of debate about the line between sanity and insanity. How much of our accepted ideas of reality are cultural inventions? I wish I had an answer. But I know that my whole life I’ve felt lucky to be intelligent and perceptive as well as insane. Those two qualities are the only things that save me from a best case scenario of utter social isolation, or a worst case scenario of a lifetime in an institution. I do my best to observe the behaviors of people I think of as normal and sane and try to base my decisions around them. It’s not easy, second-guessing every decision, not to mention that some of the people I try to weigh my actions against (Aiden, Mary) are at times as insane as anyone else.
Over the years, I’ve probably been at least partially under the care of upwards of ten mental health professionals in various capacities. In the 8th grade I was mandated to speak with the guidance counselor for half an hour at the end of every school day because certain teachers were disturbed by the poetry I was writing. Looking back on the poetry I wrote in the 8th grade, I think they should have sent me to an extra English class rather than a counselor. There were bigger problems in my life at the time than thoughts of suicide. A lack of style, forced rhymes, and the overall Evanescence/Creed vibe of my poetry was a much bigger problem.
When I was 14 I had a psychologist tell my Dad that he had to remove every sharp object (knife, scissors, &c) from the house. We never went back to that psychologist. When I was 16 I saw a shrink for an extended period of time that was very tall and went out of his way to curse so as to make me feel comfortable, like he was down, or something. I liked him a lot and I felt like I was disappointing him when I told him I was still crazy, so I pretended to get better gradually and then stopped seeing him. I wasn’t better then, I’m not better now, and really I’m not sure I even know what “better” means.
I’ve covered in a previous post that I was institutionalized for one serious suicide attempt, and I also was once before for a cry-for-help type thing.
I think that my all-time favourite encounter with anyone in the mental health industry was when I had to have a psychological evaluation for court to determine if I was a person who was in general prone to violence. The process cost me a month’s rent and consisted of a face to face interview with a shrink and then about five hours of bubbling in answers on various personality tests. I couldn’t really tell at first what separated these tests from the kind you take online for free. Then I realized the difference: these tests were costing me hundreds of dollars.
I received a formal evaluation in the form of a four page letter. Some interesting tidbits from it:
“Insight and judgment were observed to be above-average.”
“His social relationships may be unsatisfying for him due to their superficiality and lack of intimacy.”
“…he may not view societal rules to be as readily applicable to himself as to others, and he may flout convention more than the average individual.”
“His emotions may be volatile, mercurial, and somewhat shallow.”
“….he is much more prone to be verbally aggressive, sarcastic, or critical of others than most people…”
I think all these statements are fairly accurate.