Bringing up Crazy


My most intense memory is of the time that I was pinned down by a handful of fully grown adults and jabbed with a sedative-filled syringe while they thought I was having a psychotic episode. To be fair, I was flailing, inconsolable, and my eyes were rolling around my head. I’ll give them that one. This is followed closely by the time I was wrapped up in a pseudo-straight jacket and carried like a human burrito to a van that took me to a building with a large, supervised padded room where I was sequestered for god knows how many hours. In that padded room, I decided to sing to my neighbor who was also locked away for reasons unknown to me. I forget what I was singing, but I do remember being told to stop, refusing to stop, and maintaining, in my mind, that I was keeping up a peaceful protest against “the man” (or, in my case, the men in the white coats). Then there was the time that I kept scratching myself and I was forced to wear medical mittens that Velcro’ed to my hands and left me feeling inhuman.

This all happened when I was fourteen. Fast forward and I’m almost thirty, living on my own, and working on a post-grad degree at a prestigious university. To people who haven’t known me my whole life, I probably come off as a perfectly average, even sane and well-adjusted adult. That is mostly true, most of the time. But even if I’ve outgrown a lot of my crazy, I remember. These scenes, and dozens others like them, resurface unbidden at truly random moments. I can be riding the subway and a smell will remind me of a particular hospital stay, or I’ll be in an English class and talk about a troubled writer will jolt me into a vivid memory, or an Ambien ad will make my mouth taste like charcoal.

I’m always torn between wanting to divulge my whole story and wanting to shut it up tightly, keeping it locked safely in the recesses of time where it can no longer hurt me or anyone close to me. What I worry is that there is another person out there experiencing similar situations who could benefit from my untold stories. I know that I was always comforted reading Sylvia Plath or Kay Redfield Jamison or books like “Girl, Interrupted.” Knowing that you’re not alone in your experiences alleviates some of the psychic strain that they can inflict.  I am an avid devourer of memoirs by lady-writers—most recently Jenny Lawson, Carrie Fisher, Caitlin Moran, and Rachel Dratch—for precisely this reason, I think.

Even though this will be difficult, I’d like to follow in the footsteps of the ladies who’ve paved the way, in hopes that somewhere, sometime, someone scouring the Internet for a glimmer of hope, an echo of experience, will find my stories and know that they are not alone.

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