"I don't think you're crazy."
If I wanted to pinpoint when my journey began, it would be with those five words, spoken by a friend sitting across from me as we talked over coffee.
When I say "began," I don't mean, obviously, when I first got sick. That was, depending on what incident in my timeline I saw as significant, years before. Or decades. Or something congenital that had been lurking all my life, waiting to emerge and wreck havoc. But it was also not the moment that I realized -- truly believed -- that what was wrong with me was not all in my mind. That would not be for months -- almost a year later.
Still, that was where it began. For more than a decade before, I had lived with the fact that I was crazy. I had accepted my craziness. Embraced it. Owned it. In that way, I had accepted the fact that I suffered from a mental illness, that it was not my fault and that I had a responsibility to control it. In the same way my husband had no reason to feel ashamed of taking medication for his high blood pressure, I had no cause to feel ashamed that I took psychiatric meds. In fact, it would have been irresponsible for either of us not to do so. I could even have a sense of humor about my illness, joking to my husband when he became obsessed by some little insignificant detail, "Yeah, I'm the one with OCD."
This is not to say that my mental illness was something I shared with the whole world. Being a shy, introverted, quiet and, above all, private sort of person, it was something I had told only a small handful of very close friends and family members. Yet, I found myself telling someone who I had not really spoken to in years. We had been good friends years before but had drifted apart, as people do, reconnecting because he owned a business I was thinking of hiring. But he is the sort of person to whom people tend to tell things they wouldn't ordinarily, so I found myself giving him the basic outline of my story.
"I don't think you're crazy," he said.
"That's because you don't know me well enough," I joked back. Little did I know that, as time went on and I slowly revealed more and more of the details of my descent into mental illness, he would only become more convinced that what I saw as purely psychological illness was truly something else. But at the time, having felt me out only a little bit, he nudged me only a little bit. "You were always a bit neurotic," he said, "and have always had some social anxiety, but I don't think you're crazy."
Later, when I finally had in my hands a blood test that confirmed that, no, it was not all in my head. When I could say: here is a number that says I have an identifiable disease that is doing terrible things to my brain and my body. When I had had my faith and trust in the medical profession as a whole completely shattered to the point where I almost wished I had never been given all the knowledge he had given me. At that time, I asked him, "How did you know I was sick?" I don't know, he told me, but it was obvious. "I knew by the third time I had seen you."
I know people who are such good friends that they just walk into one another's houses without knocking. I am not a person who could ever be comfortable doing that. My own privacy is so important to me that, even when I knock, I worry that I am interrupting or being a bother. But that day, with a quiet, almost imperceptible click, he opened a door. Just a crack. Just enough to peek through and see him on the other side, ready to lead me on a journey that I am still not sure I ever wanted to begin. But which he knew I needed to.
And it began with just five words.
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I Don't Think You're Crazy
Blog entry posted by vamah, Sep 14, 2013.