Life After Crazy – I. Emergency

Back in February, I went crazy. Mad, bonkers, off my rocker. I guess I shouldn’t have been so surprised. It seems like all writers are crazy in one way or another. How else would we be able to bridge the gap between mundane life and the vast expanse of the artful imagination? You can’t be normal and make up things for a living, let’s be real. I’d known for a long time I wasn’t normal, and that my experience of reality was very different from most people’s. Until recently, this wasn’t anything that caused me concern, or left me feeling uncertain about my own sanity.

Being insane was a wild experience for lots of reasons, many of which I plan to write about in more detail in other posts. I had to pick up where I left off with my life, but everything feels a little different now. I plan to blog about my experiences, both with going crazy, and with life afterward, under the title “Life After Crazy.” I figure if nothing else, it might be useful for someone else to hear my experience. Mental illness is not often discussed or handled well in this country, and many of the people who struggle with their mental health are otherwise normal people with normal lives. I plan to talk about my experience because if this happened to me– a relatively well-adjusted and healthy 26-year-old with a solid full-time job, a house, bills, cats, and regular life– then it could happen to anyone. Personally, I don’t find anything that happened to me something I should be ashamed of, and others shouldn’t either. The brain is an organ like any other, and prone to malady like anything else. My brain sent me on the ride of my life.

For a week or more, I hadn’t been sleeping well. There were a few nights I didn’t sleep at all. I felt overloaded with thoughts, but it didn’t feel particularly different than when I’m on a good creative streak, with my brain churning through ideas and complex plot structures for a few days at a time. On February 18th, I passed out in the shower. It didn’t last long; I seemed to come to and be fine within a few seconds. For the next few days, though, something was wrong. I couldn’t put my finger on what, but it felt like a tap had been turned on in my mind, and I couldn’t turn it off. For days, the flow of that tap picked up speed. Thoughts raced through my head; I could barely eat or sleep. If I wasn’t talking, I was typing or scribbling madly– anything to get the massive influx of thoughts out of my head. I went to work on Friday, then spent Saturday in the furious haze of trying to capture some of the things flying through my mind. It was a constant stream, and it all felt important, but there was no way I could record it all.

On Sunday the 21st, the madness peaked. As the day wore on, I became more and more lost in myself. By evening, I was gone. I was swept in a madness I will detail later, in which the outward manifestation was I ran naked through my house for hours, screamed at the top of my lungs, moved things around the house, threw things outside, trashed our home, and frightened my wife into cowering terror. As midnight neared, my wife called my parents, my parents called the police, and sometime later, three policemen arrived, put me in handcuffs, and walked me (in nothing more than pajamas pants and a thermal shirt) out into the night, into the rain. They didn’t pause to let me put on shoes. I walked down the wet pavement of my street, babbling and shouting endlessly. They put me in a police car, and took me to the emergency room, where I spent the night handcuffed to a hospital bed.

In my delirium, they took lots of blood samples from me, ran a CT scan, and probably myriad other tests I was too out of it to know about. Lots of words and possibilities were thrown around: maybe I’m manic-depressive, bipolar, epileptic, have dissociative identity disorder. I was later told by a psychiatric doctor I probably don’t have any of those things. Maybe it was because my white blood cell count was three times what it should have been due to asymptomatic infections I didn’t know I had. Maybe it was a delirium brought on by not sleeping for over 96 hours due to my chronic insomnia. Maybe it was because I hadn’t eaten anything of substance or had much to drink in nearly three days. Maybe it was stress because my job’s workload had been twice what it should have been for months, or because my landlady died at the end of January and my living situation was the definition of uncertain. Maybe it was all just a perfect storm of crazy, and I don’t have any serious mental disorders at all. Nobody knew then, and nobody knows now. The only thing that’s known for certain is that for about 18 hours, I was thoroughly out of my mind, and the next day I walked out of the hospital on my power, seemingly as sane as ever. Life has returned to normal, but I still find myself wondering: what is sanity? Where is the threshold of insanity, and how does one know if one strays close to it before it’s too late?

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