In gaining a deeper understanding of madness, we gain a deeper understanding of the core existential dilemmas with which we all must struggle, arriving at the unsettling realization of just how thin the boundary really is between madness and sanity. Rethinking Madness – Towards a Paradigm Shift in Our Understanding and Treatment of Psychosis. Paris Williams Ph.D.
Well this blog went dark for a week or so because of traumatic dealings with my daughter who is mentally ill and addicted to drugs. I sort of ran out of things to say and was starting to feel and sound unhinged, even to myself. As a result I went into hibernation mode. For a couple of days I was depressed and stayed in bed all day watching the entire 2 ½ seasons of Titus High Performance, a show that was on the Fox network years ago.
It’s a show starring Christopher Titus a stand-up comedian, and is loosely based on his life. He was raised by an alcoholic father and a manic-depressive, schizophrenic mother. He married a girl who also came from a dysfunctional family of Irish catholic alcoholics, the brother a burglar and a drug user, the sister constantly having babies by different men without being married, the younger sister selling drugs….you get my drift. One episode is a thanksgiving dinner that turns into in a food fight and escalates to a brawl and shootout and the entire family ends up in the emergency room covered with food, burns, a dislocated shoulder for Titus, bumps and bruises.
So anyway I watched this show to “ground” myself, as in I’m not the only one with an insane family of origin. Then the next day I started percolating into a rage of “I’m sick of this shit, I can’t take anymore.” I was so angry that I was shaking. I ended up screaming at the dishes in the dishwasher. “When all the dishes are clean there is no place to put anything!!!! We have too God damned many coffee cups!” Mr. Husband caught the tail end of this when he walked into the kitchen and I turned to him and yelled “STOP BUYING COFFEE CUPS!!!!” That just made his day, lemme tell ya. All he had really done was to cook a wonderful 4th of July dinner. So sorry Hubman, really I am.
In this down time I read a bunch of books about dysfunctional families, substance abuse, etc. There are many different perspectives on these issues. Then main thing I take away is that I’m not alone in this struggle and I don’t have to put up with unacceptable behavior from anyone, including from my children.
When I get extremely stressed out I tend to turn in on myself and get quiet and hide. Fortunately for those around me, I don’t turn actively psychotic and start throwing rocks at the neighbors or burn down the house. But inside my head there is all kinds of freaking and shrieking going on. I get stuck in a loop of repetitive thoughts. Things like what I’m going to say to my daughter next time she calls, and blah blah blah. It’s absolutely crazy making and exhausting.
The thing I realized is that when this happens I become physically and emotionally paralyzed and just sit there staring into to space or at the TV. Being a writer and budding artist I decided to sit down and try to get this out of my head and onto paper. That was an interesting development. I tried to draw a sort of combination infinity sign or yin yang. What I discovered was that I was having trouble making the 2 sides connect, how odd. But then I started writing in all the things going on in my head versus all things going on physically. When I was done I had a graphical representation of what was going on in my head. The revelation was that the mental side of the drawing had tons of stuff in it…fear, guilt, anger, frustration, apathy, boredom, while the physical side had not much of anything except ills such as a headache, stomach ache, neck pain and so on.
That’s when it hit me. God grief, I’m stuck in my head! I need to get out of here and start living in the physical world again. I need to get moving around and doing things again. I hate when I get stuck in my head. It’s like mental plumbing trouble. I wonder if there is such a thing as a laxative for my brain.
And no, I don’t mean the naughty kind of self-soothing. Sometimes it’s necessary to dig way down deep into your bag of tricks. And sometimes you just get lucky.
Hubman’s cute little blond spitfire of a cousin sent us a Christmas present in the mail. A tiny little Cyprus tree about 10 inches tall. I smelled it and something clicked in my head.A small glimmer of “mmm, that smells good, like a real Christmas tree” hope was born.
Another thing I did was drag out my favorite dysfunctional family Christmas movies. 1) National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation – with Chevy Chase and Beverly D’Angelo, 2) Four Christmases – Vince Vaughn and Reese Witherspoon, and 3) Mixed Nuts – Steve Martin.
Also, Mister Husband managed to lure me out of the house for the first time since we got home from the road trip, except to go to the drug store for refills. He bribed me with steak, OK. I can be had for a price, but you have to aim high! We went to Texas Land and Cattle steak house.
It turned out to be funny because our poor little teen-aged waiter, sporting a Robert Pattinson of the Twilight Saga hairdo, was a bumble fuss and spilled a tray of drinks on the people in the booth behind us. In an attempt to make him feel better, I told him about the time in my younger days that I spilled a tray with a pitcher of beer and 8 full glasses down the back of a guy wearing in expensive suit. Hubman left him a $20 dollar tip to cheer him up.
So I guess Christmas cheer can be had, but sometimes you have to work at it. On the way to the restaurant Hubman and I had the annual “do you want to put up the tree this year” discussion. I decided to negotiate this time instead of going along with it without ascertaining the specifics.
I asked him “define exactly what you mean by putting up the tree please. Because in past years it meant that I climb up in the nasty, dusty attic and hand things down to you, because you’re too big for the ladder or the hole in the garage ceiling. Then I get stuck with the majority of the actual decorating to boot.” I’ve given up asking how the stuff that was already there when I moved to this house 10 years ago got up there. I guess it was elves.
In past years after I climb down out of the attic, he assembles the giant electric tree with lights already attached. Thank you, God. I hate stringing lights, because it brings up child hood memories of getting electrocuted every year when testing them. This happened because back when the dinosaurs roamed the lights had real, made of foil, tinsel stuck in them and my mother was afraid to plug them in. So she gets her kid to do it instead, go figure.
Anyway, after Hubman assembles the tree, by his unspoken decree he usually decides his work done, goes in his office, shuts the door, and plays computer games. Leaving me to figure out what to do with the five thousand ornaments and various decorations.
Some are of sentimental value and some are complete junk and should be discarded. But no one remembers anymore which is which, so I can’t throw anything away unless it is obviously eaten by insects. It’s a daunting task and I immediately begin to harbor thoughts of either homicide or running away to another country, or both. I tried getting tipsy one year to do it, but it ended up a near disaster for both me and the tree. Although I did have more fun than the plastic tree did.
I’m not the seasonal decorating kind person. I would be happy with hanging a wreath on the door and placing a few cutesy pieces of Christmas deco on the fire-place mantle and call it done. So I decided to hold him too his desire to have a fully assembled and decorated tree and insist that he play fair and do his share of the tree decoration.
No coming down with the bubonic plague or developing a sudden allergy to Christmas ornaments! Also, this time I’m going to put aside all the junk that I think are candidates for disposal and enforce the “when in doubt, throw it out” clause. My version of the Santa clause.