To those feeling themselves slipping into madness

This is part of a series of letters to those who may feel lost. Sometimes when we are down, discovering something in the mailbox is just the thing.

It reminds us that we aren’t as alone as we think.

Today I write to a young man who feels like he is losing his mind, and it’s making him crazy – because it’s inconceivable to him that he could actually be crazy.

Let’s call him Adam.

question mark6Dear Adam,

What is real?

Lately I would imagine that has become a question you’d rather not ask, because you aren’t really sure of the answer.

Scary, I know.

One of the hardest things is trying to find the words to explain it to those around you.

You know inside, even though you don’t want to acknowledge it, that something is very, very wrong. But you have told yourself that if you just give it some time, you’ll work your way through it.

And it will get better.

Kind of like a cold.

Or a broken leg.

I wish it could be that simple, but it’s not. Here’s the hard truth:

This isn’t going to just go away; most people won’t understand that something is really wrong until it’s too late and something bad has happened; and all of your natural instincts to fight it are pretty much going to make it worse.

anger2

Reassuring, right?

So, what’s a guy to do?

It kind of sounds crazy, but accepting that you are a little crazy will, in the end, make you less crazy.

Let me explain.

Your demon needs a name. It’s pretty hard to vanquish a foe that hides in the shadows anonymously. So, you need to shine a light on what you are experiencing, learn all you can to understand your own personal species of mental illness, and find someone you love with whom you can laugh.

That last part is actually pretty important.

mirrorFear, anxiety, and panic are your worst enemies.

They are flammable fuel on the fire of mental illness. Things will rapidly grow exponentially out of control if these are your fallback emotions.

I’ve learned over the years that it really takes two to manage the emotions which will fill your journey of mental illness: you, and that loved one who will laugh with you, but never at you.

On those days when differentiating between what is real and what isn’t, it’s okay. They can.

And you can trust that.

You’re going to run into people who will expect that by taking a few pills, things will be back “under control” and then all can get back to “normal.”

Sorry, but that’s just not going to happen.

medication2First of all, the medication comes with gross side effects, and you will have to find that fine line where the cure isn’t worse than the disease.

Secondly, the pharmacological solutions will only be truly effective after you have maximized the behavioral and psychological tools. It’s hard work, but you can do it.

And finally, things will never be “normal” again, at least not as they were before.

But that’s okay too.

Because “normal” was only “normal” for those around you. These well-meaning friends may want things to return to the way they were, but you and I both know that the quiet and unnoticed slide into madness isn’t a “normal” we’d wish on anyone.

Understand that there is hope: you can move forward and create your own brand new “normal.”

Instead of this being a cold or a broken leg, think of it more like losing your sight, or hearing, or ability to walk.

Yes, one of your abilities is gone and will not be coming back.

Mourn its death, grieve, and move on.

Because the body and mind being what they are, you will find other senses and capacities strengthened in ways impossible before.

smilingThis will help you to know that it’s not as scary as you thought it once was, you won’t worry as much about what may or may not come tomorrow, and you can enjoy a quiet calmness today.

And through it all, don’t forget to laugh.

Yep, I know it kind of sounds crazy, but accepting that you are a little crazy will, in the end, make you less crazy.

Trust me.

Greg

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