Losing one’s mind compromises any sense of privacy. While I was nuts, I had no control over what I said, or what I told whom. Consequently, I have no more secrets to keep from the people who were with me on Crazy Night. It’s been an enormous weight off my shoulders, and since then, I mostly haven’t cared who knows what about me. Once you’ve spent a night chained to a hospital bed, yelling at anyone and everyone who sees you, you stop giving a shit about a lot of things.
One of those things I’ve stopped caring about is whether or not people think I’m crazy. Apparently the answer is yes, I am crazy (or have been, at any rate), so it seems pointless to hide it or care if people have problem with it. I can’t change my reality, and I find being open and honest about it much easier than trying to hide myself. So, I’m going to talk about my reality. You can understand it (and me) in whatever terms you want. You don’t have to believe any of it is true. You just have to believe that for my life, it is true. Whether or not the things I experience are real is immaterial– their realness doesn’t change their presence in my life, and what I experience as reality every day. This is what it’s like to live with a mind the world says is abnormal.
There’s another person in my head, and he’s been there a long time. Most people know him as the red-eyed protagonist of my work, who goes by the name of Lask. For me, he’s been an invisible companion in my life since I was a child. I first started seeing him when I was eight. Even then, I knew most people didn’t experience things like him, and it felt dangerous to tell anyone– I didn’t want to be passed around to various doctors, didn’t want to be teased or bullied, and didn’t want someone to try to “fix” me. Perhaps the difference between me and people who suffer from disorders like schizophrenia and dissociative identity is that I’ve always enjoyed my experience, and generally haven’t found it to interfere with my life. Even if Lask is a delusion, we’ve always been friends. Growing up, he was a quiet friend and mentor, and even as I’ve grown older, he remains one of my closest friends and advisors. I’ve never felt like he has negatively impacted my life, therefore I’ve never gone looking for treatment. Even if I’m totally off my rocker and he’s nothing more than the delusion of diseased brain, I wouldn’t want to lose his presence in my life. He’s helped me become a powerful woman, and continues to inspire my best creative works.
Life with an invisible companion can be difficult to navigate. No one I’ve ever met experiences life the way I do. Sometimes it’s difficult to “act natural” when there’s a 6’3″ spirit milling about my work office that no one else can see. Sometimes it’s hard to explain why I pass up on social invites from friends and coworkers– how do you tell someone you’ve already made plans to watch a movie with your invisible friend later? Sometimes it’s hard to feel like I have anything in common with other people when my life is so different from theirs.
My life has been shaped by the secret of my invisible companion. Until I met my wife, I never told anyone about him. To the rest of the world, he was only a “fictional character” in my creative work. From an early age, I learned to keep secrets, and being secretive turned me into a reclusive, socially awkward person, who is perhaps overly-guarded, and difficult to get to know. For a long time, I felt like I couldn’t let anyone close to me, lest they find out how weird I really am. I was worried about being thought of as crazy and getting sent off to the local mental hospital, or giving the people who bullied me in school one more reason to torment me. Sharing things about myself felt dangerous– too much information might prompt questions I couldn’t answer, so I solved that by not sharing much about myself at all. To this day, the habits of being closed off to the world remain, even if I’ve gotten better at faking openness and social competence in day-to-day interactions.
Secrets are weighty things. They have a way of consuming one’s life and defining one’s approach to many things. I spent most of my life hiding a huge part of my experience of life from the rest of the world, and it colored who I grew up to be. I don’t know what life is like without having enormous secrets hanging over me, so I’m looking forward to seeing what things are like now that I’ve stopped caring who knows about the parts of my life that may or may not be crazy. In that regard, going crazy has been a liberating experience. I can stop wasting energy on worrying about whether or not I’m nuts, and what people might think of that, and spend that effort on more productive things– like moving to a new house, engaging with my family (including my invisible companion), writing new books, and producing new art… aka the things that matter.