The other morning a friend messaged me worried she was going crazy, she and her family had just moved across the country for her husband to begin his residency which left her home alone with multiple kids, one of them a small baby.
“I keep thinking maybe he’s cheating on me. I’m paranoid. I want to go through his phone and his email and I’m just sure something is wrong and it makes me cry and act completely irrational.”
“Yep. That was law school for me.”
“Wait, so this is…normal?”
“For me it was.”
Poor girl was convinced she was the only one who had ever thought her husband was doing something besides what he said he was doing (a fairly common occurrence, especially during graduate school or medical residencies.)
The good news is most graduate students and medical residents really are so insanely busy they barely even have time to sleep, let alone have an affair.
Here’s what I realized at the end of our conversation: everyone needs to be able to voice their crazy without judgement, or it will in fact drive them crazy.
For a long time I never told Cody the truth about the things that were going through my brain, whether it about him having an affair during law school, the dark thoughts during pregnancy and postpartum, or visualizations of self harm during an especially rough patch of depression. Without being able to voice the thoughts in my brain, they slowly ate away at my sanity until I felt as though I truly was going crazy.
Writing things out has helped me the most, no matter what I’m going through, I know I’m not the only one feeling a particular way — and the comfort that can be found in “Yeah? Me too.” is better than any amount of therapy or medication.
Here’s the tricky part, finding people who will listen to your crazy without judging.
We’ve probably all lost a friend or two after telling them some deep, intimate truth about ourselves.
It hurts to tell someone you think you can trust something personal and have them react in a judgmental or condescending way. What’s worse is when they take your insecurity and use it against you, or spread it around as gossip.
It’s happened to all of us, and it sucks.
While there are people out there who lay all their crazy out on the table for attention and self-satisfaction, most people just need to put their thoughts into words and have their words be heard by someone else. They’re not expecting you to fix it, they just want you to listen.
Cody and I are to a point where I can tell him anything that goes through my brain and he just listens, no matter how crazy. He doesn’t try to fix it, he doesn’t try to commit me to a hospital and he doesn’t think any less of me. He understands that part of recovery for me is talking about all the terrible things my brain tells me.
The other night I ran my finger along a vein and told him, “This is the one I’ve thought about cutting the most.” It doesn’t mean I was going to do it, or that I’m doomed to become a cutter — it was just a thought that had been disturbing me and by speaking it out loud it lost its power.
My brain is full of words, full of thoughts, and overflowing with ideas — as long as I can keep them streaming out steadily, either through writing or speaking, things stay pretty steady up there. It’s when things get clogged that problems begin. So many words and thoughts build up that they begin to choke out my ability to handle day-to-day tasks.
Had I not told Cody about that vein it would have clouded and blocked the other thoughts lingering behind it — and it would have magnified until I shut down.
There is such a stereotype around self-harm. That those who do it, or even talk about it, are emo loners dressed in black, desperate for attention — which is probably why a lot of people simply don’t talk about it. But therein lies the problem, let’s say from the outside you’re a 30-year-old stay-at-home mom with two little kids and a fondness for Diet Coke. You go to playgroups, you do service work, you like watching reality TV. But you also have un-managed or undiagnosed depression, either because you don’t believe depression is a real disease or you have been shamed into believing depression is not real. One terrible night you think about harming yourself. Maybe you think about driving into oncoming traffic or taking every pill in the medicine cabinet and chasing it with a bottle of whiskey. Let’s say you don’t do it for whatever reason, the thought is there and it will continue to tap at you, eat at you, and bother you until you say something (or do something) about it.
You finally decide to talk to your husband about it and he loses his mind, convinced you are an unfit mother and he verbally berates you for even thinking about being so selfish. You cry and cry wondering what is wrong with you as you sink into a deeper depression.
You talk to a trusted friend about it, she says you must be crazy. She has no idea how to handle you, you’re clearly too messed up to be friends anymore and she stops calling. Later you find out she’s told everyone at church about how insane you are.
Now let’s say you divulge the same thoughts to your husband, but this time he is understanding. He takes you in his arms and says “I had no idea you were feeling this way, that must be terrifying. What can I do to help?”
You talk to another trusted friend, she says “Oh, honey, if you only knew the amount of times I’ve thought about driving into the cement divider on the freeway. But I haven’t yet, and neither have you — so that’s something. Let me take your kids for the rest of the day so you can take a nap, you must be exhausted.”
I have experienced both, and I can tell you I much prefer the second reactions.
I’ve never expected anyone to fix my depression, but I do expect compassion — even if someone doesn’t understand exactly what I’m going through.
I don’t know what it’s like to lose a child, have cancer or be homeless — but I do know not to be an insensitive butthole when someone voices their own struggles, especially when it is clear they only want to be heard. (Now, to be fair, we all know those people who turn every moment into ‘WOE IS ME’ and it is tiring. I move right past those people, I just don’t have the energy. I’m not talking about those people. I’m talking about the generally pleasant and optimistic people who are sometimes struck with pretty terrible situations and just need to be heard, even if it’s just in a Facebook update.)
Hopefully this helps someone, I felt like it needed to be written — either for someone struggling to understand the importance of being heard or someone who has a hard time just listening and is always trying to fix things.
I hope you have someone who listens to all your crazy thoughts and ideas. Being human is so much easier when you have one or two of those people around.