Genuine craziness

I´m realizing again and again that my sanity is a very frail thing. In the past ten years I´ve been trapped in three situations which were either an expression of my frailty or even played on it.

Here is the first one: Me believing I had repressed memories of childhood sexual abuse. This turned into the theory that I had DID.

What was insane about it:

1) This came out of nowhere. I had no reason to believe in it. Since I was a rather strange child I found plenty of odd or even worrying behaviors I showed as a kid, but I never checked for alternate explanations.

2) I was not open to challenges to this belief and I got extremely upset when anyone challenged it.

3) As a theory, it is impossible to disprove. If you have forgotten something, the fact that you can´t remember it doesn´t prove it didn´t happen. Your perception is not reliable. It is, in its essence, a conspiracy theory.

4) Even after I acknowledged all this, two years ago I suddenly fell back into this old thinking pattern and manically tried to prove something had happened to me.

This is scary. I mean it when I say “insane”. I wonder if this actually is some kind of…I don´t know. Mania? Psychosis? Delusion? I´ve looked into the build-up of this, and…oh god, the scary thing is that I often had episodes like these! As a kid, I was convinced that I had superpowers and that one day someone would come and tell me how to use these. I actually tried to prepare myself for this. And this carried on until I was about twelve. When I was fourteen I had a vision about a future dictatorship. I´m sorry if it sounds contrived, but I was actually told so by “the voices”. I had them since I was little and I always called them like that. I was convinced I had seen the future, I was looking for signs everywhere and I got very angry when people contradicted me. Again, I felt like I had to prepare myself. From one day to another, my sense of normalcy and my feeling of connectedness to my past was wiped out. Only when I didn´t watch it seemed to return. Like during family dinner. Or at school. Much of the time, though, I spent in a parallel universe where the future was already happening.

Here´s the thing: Until the abuse mania, all of these fixed ideas had dealt with the future. Therefore, it didn´t have as much crazy-making potential. No one can be sure what the future will bring, after all. I had no alternate conception of the future which contradicted the one I was fixated on. That was different when it came to the past. Also, when looking into the future I could imagine whatever kind of personality for myself without harming my current identity. “One day I will be…” is a relatively harmless game to play. It doesn´t hurt “right now I am” or “yesterday I was”. What happens, though, when you become obsessed with proving that in your own, personal past events have happened which, for all you know and can know, never have happened?

You stop believing in your memories. Your perception becomes your enemy. Your normal identity is not who you really are. Imagine you´re playing the “one day I will be” game and suddenly you start to believe that your future self is already there, hidden somewhere inside of you, and the person you know as yourself is some sick, crazy alien installed there by people who hate and abused you. A lot of popular psychology seems to come down to that, doesn´t it? Still, people seem to be able to hear such things without going crazy. They take that metaphorically. I took it literally.

Until then my normal identity had always co-existed with my craziness. I lived fairly much like a normal kid, that is I didn´t act on my loony beliefs in real life. They were reserved for alone times and daydreams, and, when I was younger, playing with other kids. When I was alone I would talk to these voices in my head and sometimes ask them to guide me somewhere so I could find something important. At other times I imagined myself as an entirely different person and interacted with real and imaginary others in my head. And by the way the past tense is a lie.

When I started to have fixed ideas about the past instead of the future, though, the craziness started to actively attack my normal identity and my sense of normalcy. My sense of normalcy included, after all, my belief that I´d had a happy childhood and a good family and that I was basically sane. That may all be true or not: It was, at any rate, something I could always come back to. Peace of mind. Something I felt sure of. What happened now, though, was that after years of peaceful co-existence and mutual ignorance the abyss stared at me.

How could this happen? My abuse mania started a few months after I had received the fatal letter from Lola. And…here´s the thing. The reason I had abandoned her was in no way rational. I had abandoned her because I was preparing myself for the dystopian future I´d had that vision of. I was sucked up in a fixed idea. There are probably a couple of good reasons why a sort of troubled 15-year-old would abandon a person who had never been a good friend in the first place, but this was none. You don´t abandon a depressed friend because you believe you will have to fight against an evil dictatorship soon. The harm I had caused her I had caused her because I was busy marveling at an abyss inside of me. Fighting imaginary wars in an imaginary world. How was that even possible? That wasn´t…ME! Not the me that I knew!

I´m realizing now that what was destroyed, what broke back then was my sense of normalcy. Or my sense of identity. The co-existence of sane and crazy lost its equilibrium because my craziness had caused harm in real life. I did not know I was crazy then. I simply did not understand myself. I couldn´t grasp what had happened here and how I could have done such a thing. That sounds like I felt tremendous guilt, but in a way it was worse. I didn´t know what to think of myself anymore. All the damage was done right that moment, and everything else just followed.

It´s a terrible realization, but in a way I´m glad for it. It is, paradoxically, the first time I even come close to being able to tell that story without feeling like I´m somehow lying or constructing something. I tried very hard to find an explanation for what I had done, but the only explanations that came close to the truth were terrible. I looked for motivations as to why I had been so obsessed and the best I came up with is that I wanted to be a martyr and that I had envied Lola her status as the queen of darkness in our group. That, as I realize now, would have implied a level of emotional involvement with her state and the group which I probably never had. Still, I used it as a stick to beat myself with for years.

So…craziness. I was faced with something that wasn´t me. Was too loony to be me. I didn´t know what to think of myself anymore. Then followed the next onslaught of craziness that did harm in real life. The abuse mania. If I may use an analogy once more: I feel like someone who turns into a were-wolf at times, kills the people he loves and then wakes up and wonders how he could ever do such a thing. It´s not just guilt, it´s just that he is completely puzzled by his own motivation. There is no tangible reason why he would do something like that. What else is craziness if not this?

I tried to explain my abuse mania in similar ways as I had tried to explain my abandonment of Lola. I needed to play the martyr, I couldn´t cope with the fact that my needing to play the martyr had harmed Lola (that is: I couldn´t cope with the depth of my guilt), and therefore I made myself believe I´d suffered even worse a fate than Lola. I tried to admit this to myself a million times, but it never brought me relief. I don´t know if the truth really sets you free or if we choose to believe that whatever makes us feel better is the truth, but this particular “truth” never did anything for me other than make me feel miserable and stuck.

If I´m really crazy, then I mustn´t look for typical “neurotic” explanations for my behavior. Such explanations could be repressed guilt or envying the victim. If I´m crazy then the crack in my sense of identity I experienced is not disappointment in myself or the narcissistic injury that comes from defeat, nor is it simple shame over something you did wrong. If there is no way your actions could make any sense, then you can never redeem yourself. Understanding why we did something wrong helps us forgive ourselves. Or at least we try to arrive at that point. We forgive ourselves when we have developed some kind of compassionate understanding for ourselves. If you are insane, there´s nothing to understand. There was no psychological, understandable reason for what you did. Just neurological ones. Without psychological reasons for your actions, though, the narrative of your life breaks down. You can no longer tell your story. You don´t know what exactly you did when you cannot say why you did it or what you felt while doing it. It´s the first time I come even close to being able to tell this story. By acknowledging that I´m not in control of parts of my mind.

I´m not sure if knowing this makes me sane. Can I prevent such episodes from happening by knowing they tend to happen to me? My experience says no. Actually this thought causes me a lot of distress. It is painful, tedious and certainly crazy-making in itself to constantly watch your mind. It´s how I responded to my two outbreaks of craziness (dystopia-mania, abuse mania) for a while. I tried not to slip into daydream states. It was one of the other two crazy-making situations I wanted to talk about, but somehow I doubt I´ll manage to do that now.

The thought of exercising constant control over my mind scares me shitless. I can´t do that without stifling my intellect. Besides, like I said, it´s a form of crazy itself. And not the fancy kind of crazy.

It´s a great relief to just say: “I don´t know why this happened!” By “this” I mean my obsession with the future overriding any concern for my best friend. There is no particularly good explanation for it. No psychological explanation, that is. I´ve never been the kind of person who fights to dominate relationships or get more attention than her friends. I usually accepted the subordinate position without protest. I never questioned, often hardly even realized it. Explanations that play on me being motivated by narcissism and thirst for attention are vastly out of character with my usual behavior in relationships. Also, I´d have to have known what I was doing on some level. At least I should have been able to feel a need for attention. But in fact I withdrew from the group as a whole and only stuck to a friend who, to some extent, shared my obsession.

There is no psychological reason for my behavior. Does this mean that I get back my normal character? That I don´t have to make this event part of my narrative and identity?

It actually seems like the sanest thing to do. “I wasn´t myself.” It´s a loaded sentence because we´re used to hearing it from wife beaters. Like I´m trying to avoid responsibility. The truth is that I´ve been trying to take responsibility for almost ten years now and that it doesn´t work! I don´t… In order to feel responsible for it I´d have to know what exactly I did there and why. But I don´t! I tried to tell the story in a way that absolves me from guilt and I tried to tell the story in a way that makes me fully responsible. And neither story did anything to help me understand what happened and make sure it doesn´t happen again. And what those stories had in common is that they played on psychological explanations. An “I´m not guilty”-story could look like this: “She was always mean to me and I was troubled, too, at that time and she didn´t take it seriously even though I was probably only feeling so bad because I was abused, too, and by a much closer relative!” The other kind of story went like this: “I saw she was depressed but I was angry because I wanted some attention, too, and I couldn´t bear that she was more of a victim and therefore more deserving of attention, so I abandoned her!” The truth is, unspeakable as it seems, that me abandoning her had hardly anything to do with her and our relationship. Therefore, I cannot even blame it on her bullying, even though this, other than my “abuse”, did happen for real.

I don´t think there is a reason why those insane states come over me. At least not a psychological one. Maybe, in some ways, I´ll always be broken, there´ll always be sanity and craziness. I don´t think anymore it´s “a personality thing”. Maybe one day I´ll be tested and it will turn out I have schizophrenia or whatnot, and then I´ll have to try to integrate that knowledge into my self-conception, but at the moment trying to integrate things I did while under the spell of such a fixed idea into my identity is trying to make sense out of nonsense. If I still haven´t found any psychological explanation after ten years, despite my openness to the most shameful possibilities, then maybe there really is none. This rings particularly true since as soon as I admit to my craziness I feel like I´m finally telling my story right.

But….and this almost makes me want to cry – could it be that if those were genuine episodes of craziness, that is, something neurological I´m not responsible for, could it be that my actual character is not that bad? If no selfish, petty, aggressive wish motivated these episodes, if those episodes weren´t caused by feelings, or only by feelings pertaining to the fact that I have such episodes, then they don´t really say anything about who I am. Then the person I am is just this sad, humbled human hacking these words into the keyboard, and is that person really so unlikeable?






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