I had a flashback last night. I was standing in line at the drug store waiting to pick up a refill of the Lamictal, and I got an overwhelming feeling that those around me knew. They had to know that I was crazy; and picking up my crazy meds. The sign was back; the one around my neck that said “WARNING, CRAZY MAN”. Not a pleasant experience at all.
This has happened before.
There have been times I felt like this all the time. It was strongest when I had just gotten out of a mental hospital; I felt so different from everyone, and isolated in my madness. How could they not know? For the most part, there are never any physical signs that indicate my problem. Most of the time there is no evidence anyway. Depending on my medications and my state of mind I can get the shakes. And when that happens, my balance gets off and I have a tendency to stutter. It was kind of funny once. Someone asked me to go to an MS Support group with them, and I was shaking and stuttering like crazy. And I was asked when I had been diagnosed with MS. I mean absolutely no disrespect to those suffering from that horrible disease, nor do I imply that what I have is any worse. My heart goes out to anyone who has to endure that. But at the same time, it was disturbing to me that my symptoms were that noticeable.
There was that ‘I’m Crazy” sign again.
I’ve been more aware of my illness in general lately. Yes, my outward appearance has remained strong. But as I’ve admitted, I am seeing the signs of an increasing mania. I am addressing this with a medication change, and so far it seems to be helping. It’s too soon in the change thought to know for sure. But my Therapist knows, and we’re working on a plan to bring things back down. (But not too far down I hope!)
It is such a vulnerable feeling when you feel like your illness is so exposed. It’s almost like I’m naked in public. It’s easy to imagine that people are watching you, and talking to each other about it. “Watch out for him, he’s crazy!” And you know that the pharmacy clerk knows what the medicines you’re picking up are, so they DO know. And the looks on their faces must just confirm what others are noticing. I don’t feel paranoid… it’s almost like a shame. The stigma of this illness can be great, and I feel the weight of it pushing me down.
It makes me crazy.
This is such a difficult disease to deal with. Not only are there the symptoms, but there is the perception too. Of course that is not real, that no one could really know. I suppose it’s really just my perception of myself. My illness does separate me from others. Even if it’s only in my own mind. I’m different. I feel broken. I’m substandard.
I’m not normal
My therapist asked me in our last session what makes me a good person. And that list is actually a fairly long one. I AM a good person, and I have a lot of positive attributes. When things are going well, you won’t meet anyone more caring and supportive than I. I’ve been a great boss, and have done much to help people who have worked for me better themselves and get to better jobs. Other opinions matter and consideration of new ideas is always something I try to do. Respect is always given. All is good, particularly when I’m healthy.
But I’m not healthy.
My mind is warped. My thoughts are strange and my obsessions are overwhelming. Behaviors I have are excessive, and the consequences as a result can be dire. My depressions are beyond belief in the intensity of the despair. I’ve totally lost control in a mania, and tried to end it all on more than one occasion. I’ve been hospitalized more times than I can recall. Whether up or down, I’ve caused much pain to others and destroyed meaningful relationships. I’ve most likely done untold damage to my body with all the powerful medications I’ve taken over the last 35 years. Addiction is so often a part of this illness, and I am no exception with my own. Sometimes my opinions of myself are so grandiose and self-important; other times I’m not worthy to live.
Let’s face it. I do a good job at hiding my illness and maintaining in the real world. But the truth is, I’m crazy. I’m a sick man, and I do sick things. I’m twisted and bizarre. My behaviors are beyond extreme. Maybe I present myself to be just like everyone else, but just below the surface lurks the beast that would so frighten and disturb others. As severe as it is; as strange as I behave; as crazy as I am, it must be obvious to the rest of the world. They must know.
How could they not know?
Read the sign… It’s hanging around my neck.