Sanity

Immediate apology: this is not about going crazy.  It’s about getting sane.  I know that’s less interesting.

But: some people like to read about how sanity can return.  Especially the currently insane.  If you’re not insane, and think you could never be, or that no tough, clever person could ever go crazy, then you can stop here.  And if you think insanity is sexy and exciting, like Van Gogh was sexy and exciting, you should go read some poetry by some dude on acid.  Or try cutting off your ear.  Enjoy.

After several months of antidepressants,  my panic attacks and anxiety have settled down.  I dropped back to worrying, only occasionally, that I might get crazy-anxious.   Normal-anxious is like oh, I’m worried about these bills.  Crazy-anxious is like, oh, God, the walls are pressing in.  It’s definitely hard to understand if you’re not, you know, insane.  Six months ago, I never would have believed it.

It comforted me to refer to myself as insane, as sick.  It suggested that I could get sane, and well.   I have.  (Knock on wood.)

I told an old friend, “If I had done drugs with you back in the day, this wouldn’t seem so scary to me.  I would be used to having my head messed with.  It wouldn’t scare me so much.”  He agreed that this was a great loss.  My previous experiences with mind-altering substances weren’t good preparation for psychiatric drugs.  Because I am a ninny.

The first drugs that messed with my mind were actually for migraines.  One induced my first official panic attack.  Then, with another, I had that oft-mentioned “thoughts of suicide” thing.  Yeah, that’s unpleasant.  At least the tone of these thoughts didn’t sound like me (even crazier, right?).  So I felt sure that it was a side effect, and not something I’d brought to the party.

After such unpleasant experiences, I had to be in a lot of discomfort to try another drug.  It took months of wrestling crazy-variety anxiety for me to voluntarily add the anxiety of ingesting new chemicals.  I thought taking antidepressants would mean I was weak and crazy.  Well, I was weak and crazy.  Before and after I took the pills, I obsessively read about them.  I realized, to my chagrin and to my amusement, that you can’t really believe any of those drug reviews because they’re all written by crazy people.  Especially the reviews of anxiety drugs!  If leaving the house could scare me silly, how do you think I felt about pills from a bottle covered with stern official medical warnings?

(Aside: I love the website crazymeds.com , which is irreverent to the point of crudeness.  It’s the only place I found descriptions and explanations on this topic that left me wry rather than depressed.  Sample text: “If you’re in shock about or trying to understand the whole overwhelming deal of medications and being classified as some flavor of mentally interesting / mentally ill / batshit crazy, or want to know what this site is all about, just keep reading.  I know, the meds suck donkey dong.)

“The worst thing in the world would be to know that you were losing your mind,” someone told me.  “Not really,” I said.  “Been there.  Done that.”  Accepting you’re sick in the head, getting brave enough to be labeled as sick, and take scary pills.  Ugly clouds.  Two small silver linings: I have huge new empathy for the mentally ill (many of them are way worse off than me), and I’m no longer afraid of losing my mind.  Been there.  Done that.

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3 thoughts on “Sanity”

  1. You’re braver than I am, Liz. I still haven’t gotten to the point of being able to blog about the knothole anxiety tried to pull me through. If it helps, know that those crazy thoughts are not from you, they’re just of you. Somehow we’ve tapped into a corner of the brain that doesn’t like being poked, so it’s sending out a bunch of false messages that feel real.

    I gave my false voice a name. He’s called Bob. Bob likes to cause trouble whenever he can. Most people who read this won’t have a clue what I’m talking about, but that’s OK. Just know that you are stronger than Bob (or whatever you want to call him/her), and if you stand up to him, he will lose the control he has over you.

    One last thought: you’re not insane, just neurotic. It’s like the difference between being from Trenton instead of Newark. You may be bad off, but not that bad off.

  2. Thanks. Much appreciated. It did set me off to write about it, that is, I suddenly was thinking about it a lot more, which I didn’t enjoy. But I feel like if I don’t put it out there, I’m somehow supporting the idea that mental illness is shameful. Once I’ve written it down, I don’t have to own it the same way. And I feel grateful to all the writers who have been honest about their weaknesses and struggles over the years. So I want to pass that kind of positive energy along.

    It’s true, I’m definitely more neurotic than insane. It’s probably unfair to the literally insane to even call myself that. But I have a flair for the dramatic. And in some sense, that’s me throwing up my hands to say, “Fine! Whatever! So I’m nuts! Who cares?” Which is both horrible, and a great relief. Acceptance is the hardest part of all of this for me.

    Say hi to Bob for me! Wait, no, don’t. I’m more into the animal metaphor. I thought of mine as a hamster. Constantly freaked out for no good reason.

    1. Don’t sell yourself short. You didn’t ask for your mind to turn itself into a funhouse filled with distorted mirrors. All those people out there who’ve never had to spend one day doing battle with their internal demons–they simply have the luxury of placing a stigma on us. But make no mistake, we are warriors. And every day we successfully tell Bob to shut the hell up, or keep our hamster locked in its cage, that’s a day we can claim victory. I don’t know about you, but my sanity is something worth fighting for, and this internal menace has taught me to appreciate it for the gift it really is.

      Stay strong Liz.

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