This is what crazy feels like for me. Maybe you can relate.
Crazy. It’s an ugly word. No doubt, many will chastise me for using it. Let them come. I’m not describing someone else. I’m not describing mental illness. Crazy is how I feel, and no other word comes close.
Let me clarify my use of crazy in this post. Crazy is not a diagnosis, for there is no such thing. Mental illness disorders have names, and crazy isn’t one of them.
Crazy is also not a label. It’s not okay to call someone crazy unless it’s in a fit of laughter and someone is unusually funny. Otherwise, crazy should never be a label.
Instead, this post is about crazy as a feeling. Crazy is an emotion, a deep internal turmoil, a nightmare land outside of reality. It’s a piece of bipolar disorder, depression, and so many other mental illnesses.
I’ve tried other words: conflicted, turbulent, scattered, etc. Nothing else comes close. Each is only a part of how I feel. They’re the lone cow spinning wildly through the air in my mental tornado.
Crazy is the 200-mile wide, category 5 hurricane, spouting dozens of tornadoes. Lots of cows are flying. Crazy is Mr. Hyde going on a rampage because he feels driven to violence. It’s stepping off a merry-go-round, spinning at light speed, but solid ground does nothing to stop the spin inside.
I’m a positive guy. Most days, you’ll find me cheering up others with my smile and gentle words. I promote positivity, even creating a blog and club centered on the topic, but sometimes crazy wins out.
This is how I feel when crazy descends upon me.
Crazy is not caring — about anything. It doesn’t matter if you eat, go to work, or smell like you spent six weeks in the bottom of a gym bag. Nothing matters. Nothing. Anything you might have cared about goes out of the window because crazy doesn’t care, so now, neither do you.
Crazy is believing that everyone in the room is talking about you. It’s knowing that you are the punchline of all the jokes even though no one’s telling any.
Crazy is knowing you have to see the door, so you know what’s coming. It’s getting up nine times to check you locked the door because you know tonight’s the night a prowler will break in. Crazy is seeing the monsters in the darkness, even when the rest of the world can’t see them.
Even on my best days, crazy is still there. It’s the red wine stain on the white lace tablecloth. It’s the foot-long gash in your dad’s 1965 Mustang. Crazy is the night that comes whether wanted or not and the hunger pangs that nothing can quench. It’s the growling monster with 10-inch fangs who only sleeps when he decides it’s time.
Anxiety sounds like an innocent problem. People think of it as nervousness like that experienced before a blind date.
If only it were that simple.
Instead, crazy with social anxiety is the dread that you’ll invite me to your dinner party. It’s agonizing about disappointing you and crafting believable excuses to have ever ready. It’s doing breathing exercises for two days before coming to your BBQ, whether there are five or 500 people there.
Crazy is picking apart every conversation, turning each word over like scattered rocks, convinced you buried something vital beneath the surface.
Crazy with anxiety means fearing to leave your house. It’s skipping getting items you need from the grocery store because you’re afraid of going there.
Who needs deodorant when it means facing the world outside? Crazy says you don’t.
Crazy makes driving torture, with every mile feeling like walking a 100-foot high tightrope. White-knuckled hands grip the steering wheel, and you drive on, because your family needs you, but every second makes your heart race.
Crazy is playing the worst-case-scenario game during every free second of your day. It’s knowing the toddler is going to fall down the stairs when no one else notices there is a staircase. Sometimes you get there in time. More often, you don’t.
Crazy means staying awake at night and holding your breath whenever a loved one travels. It’s knowing that every telephone call is the worst news and that no one will be there to pick up your pieces when you fall apart.
Crazy is the voices, the endless noise inside your head. It’s the words you said and the 900 ways you could have responded. It’s the gloom-and-doom cheerleaders pointing out your every flaw. Crazy is the chorus that sings of your worst mistakes and the secrets you can never tell.
Crazy is an endless noise playing in your head. It’s like radio static from 100 stations, all playing over each other. It’s a rush of thoughts that makes your head throb in pain.
“You have low self-esteem,” some tell you, tilting their head to the side. They imagine it’s a choice to feel this weak.
Crazy is the worthlessness you feel and the certainty with which you know no one loves you. Crazy is an unshakable feeling that every punchline is about you and that your very presence makes everyone else uncomfortable.
Crazy is believing it all should end, that quitting is the only choice. It’s knowing you are the worst thing in the world, and that everything would be better without you.
Crazy is knowing your mind is lying to you, but not being able to silence its speech. It’s the constant struggle to separate reality from the strange world in your head. Crazy is spending days wondering if either world really exists.
Crazy is questioning everything, because if you can’t trust you, who can you trust? If your own mind can lie to you, then everyone else must, too.
Crazy is an ugly word — a word I hate. No one should ever use it to describe another person, but it is the way I feel.
I am not crazy, but I feel crazy. It’s an intense emotion, similar to grief wrapped up in nausea and dancing with fear. It’s an endless headache and exhaustion only the crazed can understand.
Crazy makes every day tough, but it’s not my master. It’s the oozing boil on my back, but not my puppet master. Crazy is my enemy, but I’m a skilled fighter. I know how to beat him back and hold him down, but he stays with me. Crazy is my tattoo and shackled chains.
As awful as it is, crazy relents. It subsides at times and lets you come up for air. You can make those breaks last longer by doing the right things, following your treatment plans, and pursuing positivity.
Surviving the crazy monster means confronting him. Acknowledge that he’s there and how he makes you feel. Accept the ways he fights against you, but never forget you’re stronger. Crazy can pursue you for decades, but every day you choose to live, you beat it.
Not a Choice
I don’t want to be crazy anymore, but it’s not my choice. I take the right steps — take my meds, eat healthy meals, and get plenty of rest — but crazy stays with me. It’s the secret I keep behind the smile on my face.
My powerful contender is always just below the surface, so every day I fight. You must fight, too.
You may feel crazy, but you’re still here. Always remember, you’ve already survived 100 percent of your worst days, so crazy isn’t taking you out today. Let it snarl and show its teeth, but then choose to live.
If today you are fighting the crazy, then know you’re not alone. We wear our masks, tell our jokes, and keep our smiles for the world to see, but so many of us understand. We hide our feelings to keep our crazy quiet, but on we fight every day. The crazy will subside again.
Until next time, keep fighting.
This story first appeared on Medium on August 6, 2022.