For all of us, and when I say “us” I refer, of course, to those who society might describe in terms less than entirely flattering, for example, “laughing academy graduates”, “strange rangers”, “those who dance to the beat of a different marsupial”, and of course, “Followers of Lord Whackadoomious”, to cite only the most widely circulated, familiar to schoolchild and senior citizen alike, there comes a time and, speaking from experience I assure you it is a time one remembers
Self-diagnosis - Funny in the Head
Like many other mentally ill people, I include a handful of sane citizens in my inner circle of esteemed friends. I don’t do this because I like them, I don’t do it because I think they have anything to offer me, au contraire mon petit fromage, I do it because my slavish devotion to a facade of political correctness dictates that I must pretend to believe that sane people are as good as folks like us. (This is nonsense, of course. These Wonder Bread and mayonnaise chomping chumps have been denied the advanced education in life’s rock hard realities mental illness affords and consequently must be tolerated with patience, good humor, and condescension as they muddle through their Romper Room existences.)
Have you heard this one already? Three clinically depressed high-jumpers walk into a bar. They lower it. I’m kidding of course. Then again, I’m not kidding, (as always), because if there is anything that will help today’s mentally ill individual survive the three-ring-circus of psychological torment and emotional Armageddon known by that deceptively sweet euphemism – the holidays – it is lowered expectations. Why? With every layer of tinsel, every rehashed Christmas chestnut mangled by Beyoncé, every eggnog-infused martini, every promise of no money down and no payments for the first seventeen months, every drug-addled midnight greeter at Walmart scratching his most recent tattoo, every ill-considered fax at every office party, and every other cliché of Christmas cacophony and tintinnabulation comes the rising tide of truly ho-ho-horrible inevitability – the hopes, the joys, the fears of all the years, reindeer and pain dear – that Grinch-ish thief of all that is merry; expectations.
Let me preface this by saying that I’m a strong advocate of what is called “talk therapy”, whether conducted with a psychiatrist or psychologist. Today’s mental health care community likes to throw pills at problems because insurance companies prefer it that way – for obvious reasons - but real mental health recovery occurs over time as the result of a careful blend of professional guidance, pharmacology, and personal will, labor, and fearless commitment. Talk therapy, when done properly, is the greatest emotional and spiritual adventure anyone could ever embark on. Compared to talk therapy, the much-discussed boating expedition of Columbus was simply a hop, skip and a splash down to the corner newsstand for a pack of smokes. But, it is dangerous and scary, and only works if the traveler is in the hands of a skilled guide.
I entered the damp basements of Alcoholics Anonymous many years ago, and found a new, immeasurably superior, way of life. I won’t belabor this point, and I certainly won’t try to sell it to you. But I will say it worked for me and continues to do so. Everything about it surprised me, which was annoying, because I don’t like surprises; I’m the kind of person who likes to believe he has it all worked out, (especially when he doesn’t), which I suppose is part of the reason I ended up there in the first place. One of the biggest surprises of all was the amount of humor. Indeed, the process of having your perspective adjusted almost always improves your sense of humor.
Mental illness is a vibrant, evolving discipline that is never the same two days in a row. The skilled professionals in our midst are continually wrestling disorders and syndromes to the ground, subduing them, and teaching the rest of us how to deny them a second chance. But, to paraphrase Zig Zigler, “Every time a window slams shut on your fingers, a trap door to the basement opens.” In other words, mental illnesses are leaving us all the time, but new ones are always emerging to take their place. Indeed, without a steady stream of newly minted mental illnesses producing an endless succession of chat show guests, virtually all TV hosts would be unemployed. While the traditional wellsprings of mental illness may still be relied upon, forward thinking psychiatrists, pharmaceutical companies, and tattoo parlors are looking to social networking – dubbed “social nutworking” by insiders – as the greatest growth area for psychological disorders in years to come. Here are just two of the newly minted mental disorders resulting from our cultural obsession with water-skiing squirrels.
I’ve been getting my mail in Cookoopantsatopolis for a very long time now, and the fact of the matter is, I like it here. The people are nice, you laugh a lot, it’s never boring, and, frankly, you have experiences unavailable elsewhere. Another thing. My fellow Cookoopantsatopolis-dwellers are special, they have been through astounding trials and voyages which have given them depth, soul, and character. Now, I don’t mean to suggest that Cookootoplians are better than square white bread eating mayonnaise-loving Johnny and Jane Lunchbuckets; but I wouldn’t stop you from saying so. I guess my point, assuming I have one, is that we all must struggle to know who we are, accept who we are, love who we are and enjoy being who we are. This goes double for Cookoolians who have had to endure harsh judgment not merely for what they do, but for their very being. I Just Want To Be Normal As you move through the various levels of recovery, you may begin to identify with “normal” people, you may even start to believe there is something desirable about being one of them. If left unchecked, this slippery slope will dump you on the doorstep of Squaresville, man – in peril of losing your identity altogether. Don’t let this happen to you! Be on the lookout for these warning signs.
If you’re “funny in the head” like me, you’ve had to learn how to self-regulate – that is – evaluate your own behavior to determine whether you’re merely “in a mood” or riding the downtown express to Cookoopantsatopolis. Outsiders cannot understand, to them the answer will always be obvious. We know better. Frequently the dividing line between eccentric and incarcerated is only a few shades of gray, and one doesn’t even notice the point at which fun has turned into funkachunkabagooboo. To help all of you out there cursed with the responsibility of being one’s own strictest supervisor, I have devised this simple quiz which can be self-administered whenever needed. If you answer “B” to more than 5 of these questions, you’ve been boodoogelized and should get help as soon as you retrieve your clothes from the dishwasher.
It has been said that - an expectation is a preplanned resentment – and since the holiday season is built upon wave after wave of rosy, grandiose expectations it is reasonable to imagine that an avalanche of resentments ready to sleigh you cannot be far behind. This is particularly true for those of us who every day unwrap that most bizarre of all gifts, commonly referred to as mental illness. As ever, your friends at Funny In The Head are here to help.
WARNING: This story contains graphic descriptions of a world without Santa. As regular readers of Funny In The Head know, I am a firm believer that unflinching honesty is at the heart of all emotional well being, mental health, and peace of mind. Ignoring reality is not the best way to heal one’s inner child, and so, the day comes when we all must face [Spoiler Alert] the death of Santa Claus. Losing a beloved authority figure is like a roundhouse punch to the solar plexus, dealing with it is rough. Here, for your comfort and joy, are the Seven Stages Of Santacide, and how to deal with them.