No excellent soul is exempt from a mixture of madness. No great genius has ever existed without some touch of madness. – Aristotle
You're remarkable, you know that? Really incredible! I love you.
Last Friday, I had a bit of a meltdown here. Writing about Mad Pride Week 2009 plus the madness of my life right now, got the better of me. Over the weekend, I slept. That's the foolproof antidote for my madness. Meanwhile, several comments came to me here from Katharine and from my buddies on Facebook. In myriad ways, you bolstered me. You knew how I was feeling. You were with me.
This morning, I awoke to discover the most beautiful gift from Carolyn, who often comments here.
She knew instinctively how overwhelmed I was feeling and shared some charming and very wise advice of her mother's.
"A plate is wide, and you can pile it quite tall, but eventually you have to eat what you put on it," Carolyn wrote. "But when you put something on your plate remember for whom you are eating it. Make sure you save room for dessert – just for you, just for enjoyment. If you don't have room for dessert, you put too much food on your plate to start. Always save room for dessert."
She's right. Lately, I've been skipping desserts – just gorging on the main courses. The serious problems some of you share with me here – by email directly to me – the main courses of your lives become main courses for me. I take them seriously – to heart and to mind. I digest them and dwell on them. They upset me because I can identify with you and because I want to help.
I am, however, no therapist.
Just a fellow traveller on my recovery road, like you. With my own fine madness. We all have "a fine madness" of our own – all of us! Forget any "psychiatric" diagnostic label. We all struggle with ourselves, with our inner lives and dreams and desires, with who we are and what we want out of life, with who we want to be! With our realities and fantasies.
The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the skies... – Jack Kerouac. A gift from my friend Gianna.
It's understandable that with anything that can be classed as "crazy" – emotional trauma, mental illnesses, disorders, disturbances and distresses, with the dualism of mind and body (non-existent, if you ask me – we are whole), with health and well-being, with madness – for no reason, there is a human history of humiliation and disgrace, even guilt. Why? Difference. Perhaps being too different. Being different isn't easy. I think it takes courage and often people think it's madness when it's not. There's safety in numbers. In conformity. Being different is what changes the world. Pioneers are dreamers, lots of people think they're mad, too! But where would we be without the inventors, the explorers, the Mad Men and Women.
Madness goes back to Biblical times. Madness is written on human history from ancient times. Madness and its social background in the Old Testament.
Today, when everyone wants and needs to fit in, it's natural, understandable, to want to speak in whispers about these mad issues. To talk quietly, not out in the open or in the comments to this blog. To send me personal emails, to spill your stories and demand anonymity. Perhaps, here, at Coming Out Crazy, you've found the first perfectly safe place to let all your frustrations and fears come out. To me. Many of you have expressed that very sentiment many times. You feel safe, here. And you are. Entirely and completely. I am a journalist and I protect my sources. Nothing you write to me privately will ever be repeated.
It's understandable that you feel you want to tell me your whole life history of emotional anguish and mental distress, or the history of your family's struggles and sufferings with mental illnesses or madness. It's natural not to be able to see the light of hope. The act of writing an email to me is therapeutic, healing, especially if you've never shared it with anyone else. It's like writing in a diary, reflecting, journalizing. Getting it all out. Unburdening yourself. It feels good.
With one major difference. I read your stories and often, almost always, implicitly or explicitly, you ask for advice and request a reaction. Some feedback. You share your burdens with me. I begin to shoulder them with you.
It is, however, unrealistic to expect me to be your personal therapist. I can listen to you and read your missives, and at the same time, feel for you. Yet, I cannot offer advice. Good therapists don't give advice. They help you to find your own path, hear your own voice, discover your own answers. That's good therapy. With time and work, you can begin to peel your own onion and explore the layers of your life and psyche. And learn more about who you are and why.
You can learn to accept yourself. To like your uniqueness!
So, I am going to continue to read your emails to me, but at the same time, I'm going to continue to implore you to share your concerns and your life stories and your wisdom and your humanity with our "Coming Out Crazy" community. That's what we're all about. Community. Shared goals. Shared concerns. Shared solutions for the greater good.
You are not alone. We're all human. We're all equal. Not the same, but equal. No one is perfect. That's what the word "human" means.
And there is hope in sharing. In learning about each other. In discovering that what you fear about yourself is not unlike what all us fear or have feared ... and have learned to accept about ourselves. Even like about ourselves.
That's compassion. Better still, empathy. A word I prefer. It means we've walked in each other's shoes or each other's footprints on the sand.
I have lots of quirks. Weird quirks. I get excited and raise my voice. Sounds like I'm yelling, but I'm really just emphasizing. (That's also because I have a serious hearing loss and wear hearing aids. I cannot always gauge my own volume because I can't hear myself.) Ask my darling soul mate husband Marty about my quirks. He lives with me and loves me like I've never been loved before. (And I'll tell you a secret. He has lots of quirks of his own! And I love them as much as I love him. They're all part of his very own uniqueness. They make him the man he is! I'm not interested in perfection. I think it would be a bore.)
Forgive me for becoming unhinged a bit last week. Sometimes the world can be a bit too much for me. I'm terribly sensitive. Always have been. That's my nature. But I can recover by cuddling my little dogs and Marty. And by taking naps in the afternoon.
Let me end with another gift, again from dear Gianna.