Wednesday, October 20, 2010

the stranger

do you ever feel alone?  i mean, really.  i know the stupid commercials about depression and anxiety where they're like 'do you ever feel alone in a crowded room?'

but do you?  have you ever actually been in a room full of people and felt completely alone?  have you been sitting around the dinner table with your family and felt like there was no one there?  have you sat on the couch watching television with your significant other and felt like they weren't in the same room as you, or even on the same planet?

do you ever think that everyone is going to leave you eventually?  not just through death or moving away or normal things like that.  but that everyone you have shared anything with is going to desert you?  friends that you've shared good times and bad with.  significant others that you've shared the deepest, most intimate parts of yourself with.  parents who seem to love and support you.

the friends will eventually give up on you and stop returning your calls.  the significant others will eventually get fed up with your bullshit and leave.  the parents will throw up their hands and finally say 'i don't know what to do anymore' and ignore your cries for help.

anxiety and nervousness are healthy for many people.  if you didn't worry about walking down the dark alleyway, you wouldn't be aware of the bad things that may happen.  you wouldn't know that you even NEED to protect yourself in any way.  many people perform well with deadlines, or pre-test nervousness.  they are natural human feelings and we all experience them.  if someone tells you 'i never worry' then they are either lying through their teeth or they're a fucking robot.

for some people, anxiety and nervousness are crippling.  they wake up worrying.  they spend their day worrying.  they worry themselves to sleep.  they write an email and obsess over the tone of it.  they pick up the phone to return a call and repeatedly put it back in it's cradle, trying to map out the multiple ways the phone call could go in their head so that they are prepared for every eventuality.  they dive into a panic if their significant other calls to tell them they'll be late with no excuse other than 'work'.  they compulsively check that stoves are off, doors are locked, bank accounts have not been hacked into, the phone has a dial tone, the cell is charged, the surge protector is on and not under a pile of dust which could potentially cause a fire, the can of gas in the garage for the lawn mower is not in danger of spontaneously combusting, and the guy across the street is not peering in the window casing the house.

for some people, anxiety goes hand in hand with obsessiveness.  they may count things.  the steps between the couch and the bathroom.  the seconds while peeing.  the heartbeats while waiting for water to boil.  words on a page.  vowels in the words.  just the letter 't'.  spaces.  prepositions.

on the same page.

you would think that people who are obsessive and anxious like this, checking and counting and rechecking, would be terrifically focused.

you would think wrong.  they may be very focused on SOME things, but they can be terribly scatterbrained on other things.  they may never remember to take meat out of the freezer.  never check the mail.  never pay that one bill on time, even if all the others get paid in time every month.  no matter how many times you tell them to turn off the computer, they will never remember.  and when you point it out to them, they may say 'oh, right, thanks - i forgot' but inside they are screaming in frustration.

on the outside, they may seem like pretty normal, slightly eccentric people.  when you tell say 'i'll call you back later' they say 'okay' but really think that means that you hate them and never want to talk to them again.  they might seem a little ditzy, when you say 'i thought we made plans for this saturday' they'll say 'oh, you're right - i'll forget my own head next!' and laugh, when inside they are shouting at them self about how stupid and unworthy they are.  they may be able to hold a job, make dinner, take care of their family, keep a house clean, drive a car, and appear to be a productive member of society.

they are not.

we all have a face that we hide away forever, and we take them out and show ourselves when everyone has gone - billy joel, 'the stranger'.

i don't think that billy was talking about being crazy in this song.  but these people that i'm talking about, these anxious, nervous worriers - this describes them.  they wear one face, a mask, when they are with other people, interacting in the world. trying to be 'normal'.  and they hide their real face.

no matter how much you know about mental illness, no matter how much you think you know your crazy loved one, no matter how much you think you can understand or empathize or love or care for or whatever -

you will never see that face.

UPDATE: to the person who unfollowed my blog within hours after i posted this blog, i feel pity for you that you're too delicate of a flower to see the disgusting, dirty shit that is mental illness.  if this is the case, i'm glad you unfollowed me, asshat.

OR i feel empathy for you if you're too delicate to read about the disgusting, dirty shit that is mental illness because you too are suffering.  if that's the case, please come back and take the journey with me.


  1. How did you know that I was thinking about these things in psychology?! I just had a total deja vu moment and I was going to post something similar to this. Now I'm not sure what I'm going to post anymore...I'll think of something!

  2. I used to feel like that a lot. Not as much nowadays. I'm not sure why though.

  3. @adorkable - i actually thought about getting my degree with a focus in psychology, then realized it would probably just make me crazier. and you should post it anyway!

    @fickle - drugs? i hear tarzipan helps.... not that i would know anything about that. o_O

    but seriously. some people kind of outgrow their compulsions and shit like that. some people get so good at dealing with them that it's like the issues aren't there anymore.

  4. um, i kinda got a little freaked out reading this because i was like "hey... why does she keep talking about me?!"
    so. thanks for writing it. i'm going to make my husband read it right now, because you totally explained it so perfectly.

  5. @jess - thanks. it's not easy to explain, and it's even harder to understand for people who aren't batshit crazy. or moderately sane :D