Now, THIS is crazy!

28 Jun

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It’s Father’s Day. I’m sitting with my Dad on the patio.

“How are you, Dad?” I ask.

“Not very good,” he says, looking down at his hands. I’ve never seen him this sad.

“Your mother rejected me,” he says and tells me, through tears, that my mother left him.

I start to cry, not knowing which is worse, telling my father that my mother died nearly four years ago or letting him believe she’s still alive and left him.

“Dad,” I say, as gently as I can, “Mom’s dead. She died almost four years ago. She would never leave you.” He looks up, confused. He’s confused nearly all the time now.

“You took such good care of her, do you remember that?” He’s trying. “She had emphysema and you took such good care of her. She was just too sick. We had to let her go, Dad.” I wonder if he remembers making the decision ending life support. He believes me. He believes and he’s sad, but he’s calmer.

I visit my dad every week these days, but I never know where it’ll be. Last week, it was Denver. He was waiting at his hotel, while my mother and grandmother shopped for houses. They’d come to Denver for a convention, something they did a lot. Traveling to conventions, that is, not traveling to Denver. He seemed anxious about buying yet another house, but he’d never really been able to say “No” to my mother. I told him I knew the feeling.

Another visit saw us in Hong Kong, having dinner with a group of executives my dad clearly didn’t like because they’d kidnapped me. Yet another visit saw us in Rochester at a bicycle factory. There was our visit in an undisclosed location in Romania, where my dad told me he was forced to sit on a minaret to escape the men trying to capture him in Saudi Arabia. Recently, my sister married the Shah of Iraq, so we have an Arabian theme going lately.

My dad’s delusions are nothing compared to the other residents. There’s the woman who gathers all of the baby dolls and stuffed animals and arrays them on a table. She dresses them all and sets them down to sleep then complains about how she has so many babies to care for. There’s the 105-year old woman who was once a singer. She still tries to sing but it comes out as screeching wails. There’s the woman who sits quietly and, when she catches your eye doesn’t say “Hello,” but “I’m afraid.” “Afraid of what?” I asked. “Of dying,” she replied.

It’s hard not to make the leap to The Snake Pit or One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest or whatever look-inside-the-loony-bin movie was popular in your particular generation. This, after all, is what crazy people are and do.

But I know better. My father and his housemates aren’t nuts. They have a terrible disease that literally eats at their brains, destroying the web that connects a lifetime of accumulated memory and leaving them with a stew of thought they continually try to make sense of.

No. They are not crazy; I am. At least, that’s what my society says. I have bipolar disorder; I am bipolar. I never know which description to use, so I use both. But no matter how I reveal my condition, I get a universal reaction, spoken or no. “That chick is crazy.” Someone even told me, “Wow. You’d never know to look at you!”

I suppose that’s a compliment; the self-harming, judgmental thoughts, over-spending and insomnia don’t show on my face. Of course, the medication helps. More likely, it’s an indication of how crazy Americans are about mental illness.

I happen to come from a family of crazies. Alcoholism, schizophrenia, drug abuse were things I learned about early. None of the crazies looked crazy. Well, ok, the schizophrenic lived in another state, so I didn’t see him very often and can’t really say he never looked crazy. Still, “you’d never know to look” at any of them that they lived with demons.

So, I don’t usually tell people I’m bipolar, though I’ve been doing it more often lately. Maybe it was the “you don’t look” it comment; maybe it’s my own growing acceptance. I’ve been more active in the blogosphere lately and the anonymity it affords makes it easier for crazies to hang out and connect with each other.

In America, you can pretty much tell who’s a flag-waving conservative by, well, the flags waving on their houses. I decided, some time ago, to take back the flag. This is my country, too, I thought, and hung the flag on our porch.

So, I’m taking back crazy. I’m a mom, a writer and a teacher. I have two great kids and the obligatory pets that go along with living in one of America’s most famous suburbs. I’m happily married.

This is what crazy looks like, people.

17 Responses to “Now, THIS is crazy!”

  1. Teri McCormick Hinton (DianBai mom) June 28, 2012 at 12:09 pm #

    Thanks for giving me the inspiration to claim myself, Janice. It’s an important lesson- especially for parents setting examples for our kids.

    • jmlindy422 June 28, 2012 at 2:46 pm #

      You’re so welcome, Teri. Means a lot coming from another DianBai mom.

  2. Lynn Zurowski June 28, 2012 at 12:17 pm #

    …and this is why I love you!

    • jmlindy422 June 28, 2012 at 2:33 pm #

      Wow, if I’d known all I had to do is admit to being nuts, I would have done it long ago. Love you back!

  3. Madame Weebles June 28, 2012 at 12:23 pm #

    I’m so sorry about your dad. But kudos to you for taking back everything. Own it, girl!

    • jmlindy422 June 28, 2012 at 2:38 pm #

      Thanks, Weebles. If I’m gonna own anything, it might as well be insanity!

  4. Lori June 28, 2012 at 1:41 pm #

    Wow. What a powerful post. Thank you so much for sharing it.

  5. nevercontrary June 28, 2012 at 7:44 pm #

    Your strength continues to amaze me.

    • jmlindy422 June 28, 2012 at 8:51 pm #

      Thank you so much. Very interesting and humbling. I generally feel like a quivering mass of useless flesh so the thought that I might amaze someone is pretty heady.

  6. societyred June 29, 2012 at 7:18 am #

    I only know you as a writer and you’re an amazing writer. The pieces of your life that you dole out are crystal clear and familiar. For me they sometimes bring about painful and comforting comparisons to my world. Thank you for taking back you. You can call it crazy if you like but know it’s a popular path.

    • jmlindy422 June 29, 2012 at 8:04 am #

      Thank you so much. What a lovely compliment! It’s been comforting to find so many others on the same journey.

  7. Mary Rayis June 30, 2012 at 11:56 am #

    J., I’ve known you a long time, and crazy is not the term I’d use to describe you. We are afraid of what we don’t understand, and we still don’t really understand mental illness. Thanks for being brave enough to be open about your bipolar disorder. Only through more openness will there be more understanding.

    • jmlindy422 June 30, 2012 at 1:17 pm #

      Mary, you met me in the first full flower of my disorder. Explains LOTS of risk-taking behaviors that got me in some pretty hot water. Thanks for being my friend through all of it, even in spite of the shower incident.

      • Mary Rayis June 30, 2012 at 5:53 pm #

        Wow, I don’t remember the shower incident. You’ll have to refresh my recollection over a glass of wine sometime!

    • jmlindy422 June 30, 2012 at 10:28 pm #

      Will do! Let’s make it soon.

  8. sukanyabora July 9, 2012 at 11:35 am #

    This choked me up. You are a strong woman and I have nothing but respect for you.

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