Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The crazy

Over the last week I've become more aware of something that I've simply been calling "the crazy." I know that it's an indelicate way to talk about mental health, my own or others'. But in conversations with friends lately, "the crazy" seems an apt label for those compulsive, irrational, anxious, even destructive thoughts. I don't know how to use it in a sentence, exactly. Do I catch the crazy? Does it latch onto me? Is it more about the crazy within speaking up and drowning out those better parts of me that want to see the good others and myself? Or is it merely the product of being in a messed up situation/a broken world? I don't know.

What I do know is that lately I've stumbled into periods in which I'm gripped by a terrible blinding resentment, when I fixate on the inevitably dismissive/contemptuous/resentful/spiteful conversation about to take place or event about to occur. Like in Union station, coming back from a fantastic visit with friends in Philadelphia, wondering whether the folks with whom I'm staying would be angry that I missed the regional train that goes right by their house. And, of course, this wouldn't be the case-- they even said that they wouldn't mind picking me up from the metro station before I left. But the crazy had grapped ahold of me and I had to sit in a stall in the men's restroom to calm down enough to think through what was going on inside of my brain and my heart.

And then, when I was sitting on the Metro, having called and confirmed that I would be at the Springfield/Franconia metro station, I got this terrible tightness in my chest and the waves of self-resentment started. That's how it seems to go with me: All of the pent-up anger towards others flows out first, and then like the tide it rushes back over me so that I'm angry at myself for letting myself get so goddamn crazy. And then I start analyzing all of my mistakes, all of the ways in which I miss the mark. Sitting on the train, slumped in the seat, my heart was aching and I realized that I wasn't breathing.

These days I try to ride out the waves of crazy, knowing (having faith, perhaps) that they will eventually subside-- either my episodes or those of the people around me. Part of the riding out means changing my situation in the ways that I can, and so I pulled out the book I was reading by Anne Lamott and flipped through to find the story about stumbling our way towards grace. I mean, all of them are like that, but I found that one that I was thinking about in particular ("The Muddling Glory of God"). "That's me, trying to make any progress at all with family, in work, relationships, self-image: scootch, scootch, stall; scootch, stall, catastrophic reversal; bog, bog, scootch." I would read some Anne Lamott, and then take big, gulping breaths of air-- enough air to remind me that I wasn't drowning (physically, at least) and enough air to undo some of the tightness in my chest. Breathing out was accompanied by this relieved chuckle-- "ha ha ha, isn't this ridiculous? But I'm soooo glad that I'm breathing again, so I might as well laugh a little."

I'm trying to eat healthier and got more rest (uh huh...), and I know that I should be making time for exercise and prayer. Maybe that would create some room for the Spirit to enter and sweep some of the crazy out of my head and my heart. Or maybe Spirit would come in with some all-purpose cleaner and clean up the shit that is stinking up the corners of my brain, along with the craziness that might be festering in that shit.

So that is what is on my mind. Only a couple weeks left before my Lutheran Volunteer Corps housemates will meet me and we'll determine how each of us is doing with that wrestling match between our selves and our craziness. Hopefully they won't mind my brokenness. Maybe good vegetarian cooking will make up for it. Oh, and grace. Somehow, grace will probably arrive on the scene, even if it's less than spectacular and more bog, bog, scootch.

[Creative commons photograph from coincoyote]


  1. Katie L. ThompsonJuly 29, 2009 at 9:57 AM

    ...sitting on the toilet always helps me, too.

  2. I totally get what you mean, Ben. It's so easy to get caught up by the actions of others and the little things that just overwhelm you in the world. When I was in New Orleans, I found it was a lot easier for me to tap into my joy than it is now back home- I'm struggling very hard to bring it out again so I can find a place where I am at peace with myself and my life and avoid "the crazy." The best thing I've found so far are the times I've looked to God- yesterday when I was in a foul mood- I stuck in a Lost and Found CD- and when I found one that really appealed to me (Nothing can separate us from the love of God), I listened to it over and over and over until I could sing it at the top of my lungs and just remind myself how LOVED I am by GOD. I'll keep you in my prayers for all your endeavors. : )

  3. Oh honey, I KNOW what this is like... it comes for me with every big transition now. Yes, all you can do is ride it out, pray for grace and thank God for the days when that feeling doesn't sweep over you. Yes, getting rest, exercise, praying and reading the Psalms all help but for me they don't take it away totally when it comes. Just know that you are not a) alone or b) crazy even if you feel very much so. :^)