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
When I sat down to write Invisible Driving in 1990 there was no way for me to know that this simple act of literary recklessness would hurl me down a path of mental health advocacy ultimately culminating, 22 years later, in the conclusion of this sentence. Such is life in the land of Whackadoomious. Prior to writing the universe’s first bipolar memoir, I had labored valiantly to keep my mental illness under cover, hidden from the pitchfork-wielding town folk who welcome the mentally ill with the same enthusiasm they shower on seven-year locusts. Going public as a bipolar bear gave me what I call “confession Tourette’s” – I went from “lips are sealed” to bipolar blabbermouth. Essentially, I wanted to educate the public as much as possible and, I dared, even defied, any of them to look down on me. I had a surly honking attitude back then. In time, I actually came to a point where I condescended to square shooters because – without mental illness as a teacher – their life experience was, quite frankly, inadequate in comparison to mine.
Like it or not, mentally ill people need to find employment just like everyone else. This leaves many of us wondering – precisely where might a mentally ill person slip into the workplace undetected? Indeed, what kind of jobs are mentally ill people even capable of performing? Well, the answer might surprise you! Obviously, even the most seriously impaired in our midst are qualified for positions in The State Department, House Ways & Means Committee, Senate Sub-Committee For Overseeing The Oversights Of The House Oversight Committee, and Halliburton. But, beyond the rarefied world of insider politics - where nothing consequential occurs and receiving money simply for demonstrating the ability to appear busy while basking in incompetence and indolence - is a world of real labor, populated by skilled professionals accomplishing meaningful tasks. It’s true!
According to a recently released survey conducted by The National Association of National Associations, your choice of vehicle may be telling the world a whole lot more about you than you think, in fact, it might even reveal what, if any, form of mental illness hounds you, dogs your every step, and accounts for ruff patches in your life. Ashton Frampton, spokesman for the HMMA (Heavy Mental Motoring Association), which sponsored the study, put it like this. “While automobile ownership is not proof of insanity, we have noticed that many different forms of mental illness track closely with specific cars. To start with a very simple example, every Hum V owner in the study was plagued by delusions of other people’s grandeur.
As Tiberius said to Caligula, “It is better to be feared than to be loved.” You history buffs out there will recall that Caligula took these sage words to heart and ruled ancient Rome with a flamboyant accent on intimidation. Was Caligula crazy? Frankly, it’s too soon to tell. But one thing is certain, in fairy tales, foreign films, comic books and ballads – crazy is way scary yes indeed. Even bad guys – (guys so bad they would tear the tag off a mattress – so thoughtless and cruel they would blabber away at the top of their lungs in a crowded Starbucks – so insensitive to the fate of our dear mother earth they would purchase and drive a Hummer!) – are frightened by the whackadoomious among us. Speaking as a card-carrying resident of Cookoopantsatopolis, I am here to tell you that all of us have been overlooking a significant strategic opportunity! Instead of feeling contrite and embarrassed about our disabilities – (or “differences” if you prefer) – let’s flaunt them! Naturally we would all prefer to be loved for who we really are, but candidly, will that be happening soon? I thought not. So, in the interim, let’s find ways to make fear of the mentally ill a wedge in the door that opens up into social acceptance.
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.
Those of us who fit the description “mentally ill” face exceptional challenges when it comes to networking, career advancement, and interviewing techniques. Johnny All-American Lunchbucket probably never had to explain away that year in a Turkish prison to a horrified Human Resources executive. And yet, for the likes of us, that is not even an exceptional challenge. The mentally ill – (extra-normally enabled) – job seeker needs to be ready with plausible explanations for suspicious terminations, demotions, and outstanding warrants. Honesty is always the best policy, but, bear in mind that when you are talking about intergalactic chess tournaments played in five-dimensional swimming pools, your interviewer simply isn’t qualified to understand you. There is a fine art to crafting alternate explanations that might conceivably be true and satisfy your HR representative’s need to fill out a form that will never be read, or even touched, by anyone else. It is your responsibility to make yourself easy to hire, and one of the ways you do this is by discussing your past in terms that do not fill prospective employers with dread.
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.
For days I have been tormented by blinding headaches, merciless nausea, recurrent waves of despair, and an overwhelming premonition of impending doom. At last I have discovered the source of my torment. The 2012 presidential campaign has officially begun. I am writing today from the New Hampshire hamlet I inhabit having just come back from voting in the nation’s first primary election. Returning home after exercising the franchise so many take for granted I had what people like me refer to as “an aha moment” – which is to say, I stumbled across an original thought. This is it – mentally ill people are uniquely qualified to redeem the unsightly quagmire we refer to as American politics.
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.