Wednesday 28 January 2015

Let's Talk. Not About Boats.

"...and I hope you are having the time of your life..."
                                                 -Gnarls Barkley"

*Deep breath*

This is an… interesting... day in Canada- this is "Let's Talk" Day, a day designed to open dialogue about mental illness and destigmatize crazy…
...sponsored  by a telecom company, a national corporation in an industry where it sometimes seems like the customer service staff and telemarketers are trained to drive you batshit crazy.  

     Anyirony,  Let’s Talk Day has been revered and reviled and retweeted throughout it’s short history, but this year LTD seems to  be at a tipping point- people WANT to have the conversation.

So, Let’s Talk.

*Deeper breath*

Hi, I’m Brian and I’m crazy. 

I’ve been crazy for over 30 years…but it took me at least 25 of those years to figure it out.

See, sometimes when you’re crazy, crazy seems normal, because it’s all you know.

And that is one of the reasons to talk.

When I was a kid, because no one ever talked about crazy, I thought EVERYONE felt like me.  I thought that everyone wanted to sleep all the time. I thought everyone felt like throwing up every morning on the school bus.   I thought that everyone felt they were a completely useless failure and never did anything right.  I thought everyone found it so damn hard to make even small decisions. I thought everyone felt every failure was a huge disaster, no matter how minor, and every success was a statistical blip, no matter how major.
I thought everyone was always on the verge of either anger or tears.

I thought that everyone wanted to die.

Crazy is thinking that everything bad that happens is "luck."

And everything good that happens is "luck."

And unable to care either way.

The fucking insidious thing about crazy, at least my crazy, is that I functioned, and occasionally functioned very successfully, on a daily basis…

...and thus, I must not be crazy.

     Because crazy is obvious, right?  Crazy is on the news, in the papers, in the hospital, in the morgue…

      Ergo, ipso facto,  I must not be crazy.

     So, I sucked it up, dealt with it, walked it off, lived with it, and worked around it, because…

…we didn’t talk about it.

     When I was up,  I was really gawddam UP- I was unbeatable.
I wasn’t just king of the hill, I was King of  KickAss Mountain.  I got the awards, earned the bonuses, bought the toys…

….But, when I was down, I was REALLY down.

    The attendant mood swings were epic and often ugly.  Happiness was rare, but anger was a  running theme.  I was mad at everybody, everything, and myself, and I could never quite figure out why.  That anger saddened me and I really didn't like me very much because of it.  Hell, since we're being honest, I hated me.   I loathed me and the impact of me on those closest to me.  No one deserved a dose of "me", and I couldn't figure out how to fix it.

   But, I could fake the fuck out of being "normal."
  I could force a grin onto my face, and shake hands and slap backs and make small talk and write the exams and go to the dances and parties and, later, close the deals and give the seminars, and write...

  ...and it took a toll.
     As time passed the ups became fewer and the mountains more like molehills, while the downs became more frequent and valleys became abysses…
But up or down, it was so. damn. much. WORK.
And that work got harder every year… and then every month…and then every week… and then every day.

     Every morning, for over eight thousand mornings, I found a reason to get out of bed, and then a reason to get dressed, and then a reason to go to work, and then a reason to work and then a reason to…

    I got through the day by breaking my day down into a survival to-do list, and I got through it by finding reasons to tick off another list-item, and then another, until I got near the end of my list or the end of my endurance and could fall into bed, exhausted, but unable to sleep….  and I always had to remember to find a reason to be happy. 
Every day.

… and then I started running out of reasons.

   And death began to look really, really, attractive.

   I was lucky.  I have a wife who loves me in spite of, or maybe because of, my craziness.

   We had The Talk.

   She made The Appointment.

   I got The Prescription

  And we get through it every day.

  Because we had The Talk.

   Life is no longer so much damn work.

   And being happy is no longer something I have to remember to do.
   Now the anger is an emotion, not a pulse. I am no longer low-key angry about everything.

   Now, I am angry, and happy, and sad, and all those other emotions, in balance, not out of proportion.

   There are still Bad Days, those days when Churchill’s black dogs scratch at the door. 

   But, there are far far, far more Good Days.

I’m Brian. 

And I’m crazy. 

And I’m okay with that.

Let’s talk.


  1. You know, there are worse things to be if you own a boat, Brian. Although all props to your missus for tolerating you spending so much time on the swing...
    I have a friend with a story much like yours, only far more extreme. He, being quite intelligent, if clearly compromised by rapid-cycling depression, came up with several strategies to deal with, what he realized in his more lucid or steady moments, was a crippling disease of the mind. He meditated, and did traditional practices of mind calming, and this held him together...barely...until he found a sympathetic doctor willing to literally lab-rat him until he found the chemical mix tape to which he could, more or less, dance. He has said "I used to cycle between 1 and 5, 1 being crippling, suicidal depression, and 5 being mania to the point where wanting to do everything meant accomplishing nothing. Now, I hit 2s and 4s."

    For him, this is an improvement and the difference between functionality and being locked in a room with soft walls. He is my son's godfather and I would not have it differently. Fair winds....

  2. . I experience these things to a lesser degree, and am able to tough it out, but it is exhausting sometimes. Just wanted to say there are those of us who understand, and wish you well in the struggle. Thank you for sharing your experience, and furthering the conversation

  3. I spent 30 years as a Police officer. I was shot at, stabbed, blown up in a bomb, and abused on a daily basis when all I wanted to do was help. That was not crazy.
    On retirement we sold everything, took the kids out of school, boat a boat and are sailing around the world on next to nothing. That's not crazy.
    Living on land with possession obsessed people who would walk over you and your granny to make an extra buck. No that is crazy.

  4. Brian,
    Well said and the Bell campaign was super successful this year.
    What worries me is that we have not recovered from the damage to the medical support network that was done by the original Tea Partier Mike Harris when he was premier. He shut down hundreds of pshiatric beds and basically tossed the occupants to the street. (i think a lot live in Guelph) Despite their talk successive governments have not undone the damage to the mental health infrastructure cus doing so does not have the warm and fuzzies that cancer or children's diseases do.
    Hopefully over time the barriers will fall, inpart due to the Let's Talk campaign, but we will need to be vigilent and keep pressure on the politicos.