cra-zy

cra-zy
adjective
mentally deranged

At two distinct times in my life, I was non compos mentis, which in Latin means not having control of one’s mind.

Rest assured, I am totally compos mentis right now.

Yet every day I’m reminded of the agony of losing my mind. First off, people use the word crazy incorrectly. Each time, it reminds me of times of personal despair and anguish. Second, words like nuts, crackers, bananas, and loony are commonly used words that stigmatize people with mental illness. For me, they’re more reminders of the dark nights of my soul.

Work is crazy. The weather is crazy. That guy drives me nuts. That woman is bananas. C’mon, people! The English language is rich with alternate adjectives.

We need to stop using words that are harmful and make a conscious effort to refrain from using certain language.

Dr. Gail Saltz, psychiatrist and author, shares my beliefs. In her book The Power of Different: The Link Between Disorder and Genius she offers a suggestion to society:

“Stop shaming those who are in the struggle, and banish words such as crazy and nuts from our speech.”

Hurtful words have become common in today’s vernacular. I wish I could change the world, but I can’t. I can, however, make thoughtful word choices in my own speech, and hey, maybe I can influence one or two blog readers to change their way of thinking.

On Depression

Last week I posted a poem I wrote on anxiety. I used it recently,  in conjunction with the following poem I wrote on depression, to initiate a discussion on mental health.

On Depression

Depression is a shadow, following me in remission.
He appears through the bathroom door, like a deranged Jack Nicholson, as I take my daily medication.
He pokes fun at me on my way to the therapist’s.
He reminds me of his power, nudging me toward the infinite abyss.

Depression is a light, guiding me in remission.
He appears on a street corner, like a transformed Jack Nicholson, as I kiss the woman I love.
He laughs with me on my way to work.
He reminds me of his power, nudging me toward the endless beauty.

On Anxiety

I am afraid of rolling balls and prowling tigers.
They are all around me.
I cannot breathe.

Every day, a child’s ball rolls in front of my car as I drive.
Every night, a saber-toothed tiger prowls as I sleep.

I am afraid of rolling balls and prowling tigers.
They are all around me.
I cannot breathe.

Do I deflate the balls and attack the tigers?
Or do I accept them and let them be?
I want to breathe again.

The Evening My Wife Burnt My Heart

There was nothing out of the ordinary that night.

Mind you, there was a new dish on the table that night, but that was the new normal. My wife had been experimenting with meals since she had been on a new health kick.

The night’s dish was vegetarian tikka masala.

The tikka masala was a lot spicier than the food I’m used to, but I was hungry that night. It didn’t taste too bad. In fact, I went back for seconds.

It was about 30 minutes later when the pain started. My chest was on fire. I gulped down a few antacid tablets, but the fire continued to burn. It burned long and it burned bright. Death was a possibility that night.

“Was there garlic in that?” I ask.

“Yes.”

“Onions?”

“Yes.”

“Tomato sauce?” I ask.

“No. Diced tomatoes,” she says.

“That’s worse,” I say. “Spices? What kind?”

“It’s called garam masala.”

I look up garam masala: acidic and may cause acid reflux.

That evening, my wife— the heart arsonist—mixed in all the ingredients that contribute to my acid reflux and ignited it with a new, near-lethal weapon—garam masala.

“Honestly, I didn’t think you’d actually eat it,” she says.

“I guess I’ll know for next time, honey.”

Reader’s Digest and my Worrying Mind

My wife makes fun of me as I pick up the latest issue of Reader’s Digest.

“You’re so old.”

“But I like Reader’s Digest.”

“Yeah, that makes you old.”

I think about this claim as I adjust my glasses.

“And those silver rimmed glasses make you look old.”

I worry about looking old. I worry about getting old. I worry about my life. I worry about my wife. Is she going through menopause? I worry about getting cancer. I worry about fake news. I worry about the amount of trash piling up in our country. I worry about earwax. What’s earwax for anyway? I wonder why I worry and how to stop.

Anger Management Strategy from a 6-Year-Old

Like all parents, I was eating breakfast with my young children and quizzing them in the subject of mathematics.

There was one particularly difficult question that my 5-year-old son was struggling with. My 6-year-old jumped in and gave an answer. My son got angry. He stormed out of the room and started screaming and throwing things.

My daughter said, “Sam, you need to roll that anger into a ball and throw it out the window.”

I asked her where she learned that good strategy. She said her teacher.

I applaud those who have an awareness of their feelings and use calming techniques before they lose their cool. And I especially applaud the primary teachers who teach children these strategies.

Lego and Change

My 5-year-old son loves building with Lego, and for a 5-year-old, he’s pretty good at it. Sometimes, I’ll be staring at the instructions and he’ll already have the right piece in the right place. His mind sees how little pieces come together to make something whole.

My son recently had a birthday party, and of course, he got some new Lego.

“Dad, can you help me build this?”

“Let’s eat the birthday cake first.”

“Okay. Then can we build it?”

“Sure.”

We scatter all the pieces into an open container, open the instruction booklet, and start building. He’s very focused, but like most kids, his attention span is not very long. Sometimes, I look up and he’s no longer there. Other times, he’ll ask me to complete the creation.

The last time it was a dinosaur. Unlike my son, I don’t love building with Lego. Sometimes it’s painful locating a particular piece and figuring out where it goes. Anyway, after a little hard work I completed the dinosaur.

“Check it out, buddy.”

“Good job, Dad. Now let’s take it apart and build a different dinosaur!”

“But it took me so long to build this one! Let’s just keep it for a while.”

“No, Dad. Let’s take it apart and build something else.”

It’s then when I realize it’s not about the creation. It’s about the creating. It’s not about admiring the creation. It’s about taking it apart and creating something better. It’s not about constancy, but fluidity. It’s about building something with the pieces we are given and once it’s built, using the pieces again to build something even better. It’s about improvement. It’s about growth. And it’s about spending time with my son.

Losing Teeth and Change

My 6-year-old daughter was eating mint chip ice cream when she bit something hard.

My daughter had lost her first tooth.

It was an important milestone, but she was sad.

I asked, “Earlier you said that you didn’t want to lose your wiggly tooth because you were worried about how it might look.”

She said, “It’s not that, dad. I just don’t like change.”

Interesting, coming from a six-year-old. It reminded me of something my colleague said recently to students transitioning from high school to college, and I had my daughter repeat it.

With change comes opportunity.

Losing a tooth that you’ve had for most of your life is hard. It may hurt a little. It may bleed a little. You look into a mirror and things have changed. You may be sad. You may be scared. The gap is wide. The hole is deep. The wound is tender. But you’ve made way for something bigger, something better, something stronger. And when you realize it, you smile a little differently.

Speaking in HTML

<blog>

<personal thought>Sometimes I wish people would speak in HTML.</personal thought>

<explanation>It would make conversations less confusing for me.</explanation>

<elaboration>I would know when people are being sarcastic. Or when people are withholding the truth. Or when people are hurt. All their words would be tagged with the subtleties of human communication.</elaboration>

<point repeated>Certainly, interactions would be less confusing for me.</point repeated>

<counterpoint>But I suppose there would be downsides. Interpretations, ambiguity, and poetry would be lost…</counterpoint>

<pun>Lost in a fog that would be mist.</pun>

<insight>And we wouldn’t be human if we spoke in HTML.</insight>

</blog>