Monday, 17 June 2013

Embrace the Crazy

Through my journey with mental illness, I think one of the hardest parts has been accepting who I am. When you are young, you want to fit in, especially as a teenager. Conversely, you want to stand out and get noticed so that your peer group accepts you. Teens are miserable human beings. So few truly know themselves because so many will sacrifice who they are for who they want be friends with. It's an incredibly hard time. Looking back on my teens, and having raised a couple boys through theirs, it amazes me that any of us survive this time. It's shocking how judgmental and unaccepting teens can be.

When you mix in mental illness, something that is difficult to understand as an adult today let alone as a teen twenty plus years ago, I wonder how I made it through. Well actually I do know. I completely suppressed anything that was natural to me in an attempt to be normal. Yea, that didn't work. Just made it worse.

It wasn't until about six years ago that I decided to "embrace the crazy", as I like to say, and accept who I am. It took twenty years, but I finally am happy with who I am. I've accepted my mental illness. Like many other illnesses, I can't just wish it away. I've had to learn how to live with it. Part of embracing the crazy for me has been to be open and honest with others about who I am. I now refuse to hide who I am. 

That doesn't mean I walk up to strangers and say "Hello my name is Kay and I'm batshit crazy. Wanna do lunch?" There still is stigma. I can't wish that away either. However, I do have the power to educate people. After I've gotten to know someone a bit, I casually drop little pieces of info about myself to test the waters. Generally it's greeted with a bit of intrigue which then is my opening to start and fill in the blanks and tell my story. I've found most people will actually ask questions to better understand me rather than run screaming from the room. Who knew being honest with yourself and others could be so beneficial for all of us?

I never used to have acquaintance friends because I had such extreme trust issues regarding my crazy head. Not anymore. I have learned to stretch my friendship circle further than I could ever imagine. Now I don't tell every dark deep secret to every single person. I have my set of boundaries, but they have been pushed even further than most non crazy people. That's because of my honesty. I choose to not lie or hide my past from others. I can honestly say (pun intended) that I'm 99% honest. "Of course I love those plaid polyester trousers you sent me mom! They're awesome!" I think you can see where that one percent is necessary.

I know some people are gonna read this and try to call bullshit, but it's true. Don't believe me? Call my former coworkers of five years at the restaurant I worked at before I moved out of the country. Restaurants are gossip monging cess pools, but I was immune because my life was flopping in the wind for all to see. And you know what happened? They all learned to accept me just the way I was and actually looked up to me, although part of that might have been because I was twice their age.

So what about the people who didn't receive my hints about my past and my crazy so well? Guess what? I have the power to not hang out with them. I can just walk away. There's billions of people on this planet and the close minded are not on my list of friends. However, I have always kept in mind that perhaps they themselves have circumstances that make them reserved and untrusting. Maybe they have problems I know nothing of so rather that judge them, I simply let them be. We all have our skeletons now don't we?

I know a lot of people are going to read this and can't imagine living as openly as I choose. Hell, if you had told me way back when that I would be so open, I would have laughed in your face. And maybe living this openly isn't for everyone. But learning to accept yourself the way you are is and always will be the best way to survive this life. Like they say, you've only got one life, so you might as well embrace your crazy and enjoy it! Happy trails!