My mom is schizophrenic. This is a fact that usually comes up in conversation with new crushes, on about the second or third date. It’s not that I go out of my way to tell people, it just naturally comes up. Right about the time you realize the person you’re getting to know didn’t just fall out of the sky, and that they have a whole history, complete with people and towns and epic events, and you might start asking questions like-
“So, where are you from?” and, “Where does your family live?” and then, of course, “Do you talk to your parents? What’s your relationship like?”
And that’s about when I tell people my mom is schizophrenic.
It’s not a big deal. Except for once, when a date accused me of being a big downer, as if I was deliberately trying to sabotage the date and keep us from having any fun, it’s never really bothered anyone that my mom thinks she’s the Virgin Mary and lives in a halfway house in Alaska. The part I hate, that part comes after the part where I tell my date my mom is schizophrenic and they shrug their shoulders like it’s no big deal.
I know it’s coming, and I hate it. I tell them my mom is schizophrenic, and if it seems like they’re still interested, I tell them that my aunt is schizophrenic, and that my grandpa’s mom and brother were schizophrenic too. You know, just to make small talk. And after I finish talking, I see this look pass over their face, as if they’ve just realized where the keys to their bike lock are, the keys they’ve been missing for days.
And then, they ask-
“So, since your mom is schizophrenic, do you ever worry that you might one day, you know, be schizophrenic too?”
The last time a date asked me this was earlier this year, in the spring. She said it with such naivety, and such good intentions, like she was doing me a huge favor by finally putting this piece of the puzzle together for me, that it made me want to scream. What logic!
“You know,” I said, with just a bit of angry sarcasm, “I’ve never thought of that!” Although it might have been more helpful, I did not tell her that asking me if I had ever thought I might go crazy one day was a lot like having someone tell you their mom had died of breast cancer and then asking them, sort of casually and with as much naivety as you can muster, if they, you know, ever thought about how they might one day die of breast cancer, too.
My date eyed me suspiciously. “Are you being sarcastic?”
“Do I think about how I might go crazy one day?” I cried. “Only every day of my fucking life! Only every minute of every day of my fucking life!”
And then, more recently, I was on a date with a new friend. Our second, I guess. We were talking about all sorts of things, family and whatnot, and then I told her my mom was schizophrenic. I told her all these other people were schizophrenic too, that were, you know, related to me. She nodded like, oh that’s sort of interesting. And then nothing.
I felt a wave of relief the likes of which I had never known. It was like I’d been trapped in the movie Groundhog Day, and had been suddenly set free, at the moment I’d least expected it. I was suddenly allowed to be myself, with no genetic mental illness bullshit dark cloud hanging over my head, a cloud that I didn’t see but that my date couldn’t help but point out every time I brought up my family history.
Of course I wasn’t going to be crazy. “I have like five-hundred cousins,” I said to my date, “and none of us are crazy yet. The oldest generation, we used to all secretly wonder- who’s next? Who’s next? But we’re all fine. None of us are ranting and delusional. And my oldest cousin, he’s like thirty,” I added for weight, because most people have heard of the popular theory that if you haven’t gone crazy by the time your twenties are over, you’re probably fine.
My date sort of shrugged her shoulders, and looked half-interested. Of course, she seemed to be saying. Why would you go crazy?
5 thoughts on “Not Crazy”
i would really like to give you some of my zines. i left you a myspace message with details…
Here is a story about how self obsessed I am:
When you told me your mum has schizophrenia, I don’t even recall thinking about you at all. I immediately thought – Oh no, carrot knows that crazy people aren’t romantic or interesting or any of the bullshit things that people without experience with craziness sometimes think, I must try and be less crazy around her!
And then, because I enjoy sabotaging myself, I proceeded to have a gender tantrum that night, and then several months later tell you my life history in gorily personal detail.
Ha ha, I’m so obnoxious!
i found your blog through ariel gore’s blog. i am a granny (a very young granny!) that is in the process of adopting my grandson because my daughter is either bipolar 1 or schizo-affective. nobody is quite sure yet. she is getting help and doing very well, but she knows that she isn’t able to provide what f needs right now and she is worried that she isn’t going to be able to provide what he needs long term. she will still be his mom and see him often, but i will be his main caregiver. i don’t have much time tonight, but reading your blog is fascinating to me. i write a couple of zines. one is ‘the true adventures of the feminist snails’ and the other is “the granny chronicles” which i am trying to convert into a blog. thegrannychronicles.blogspot.com.
anyway, this is too long. i am enjoying your blog and would love to swap zines if your interested.
you’re not crazy. You’re a wingnut. There’s a big, big difference. Like, Albert Einstein was a wingnut. My mom, on the other hand, constantly hallucinates, and can hardly talk. You see the difference?
I LIKE that you’re such a wingnut. Without wingnuts, we wouldn’t have music, or art, or books. Pretty much.
And I LOVE your life story. It’s like some sort of magical fantastical tale. And magical fantastical tales are the inspiration for me that make life worth living.
That’s so wonderful that you’re adopting your grandkid. Just the fact that you were able to write that comment on my blog shows that you are much less emotionally repressed than MY grandparents, so I’m sure you’ll be a wonderful guardian. Plus, you get the kid early on, and will spare the kid from the childhood of intense trauma that goes along with having a mentally ill parent. It’s also totally awesome that your daughter is seeking treatment and doing well- it sounds like you have all your ducks in a row for the best quality of life for everyone, mental illness or no. Hooray! I’ll totally read your blog, too. Up with talking about mental health and the way it affects us all!
yes, i am all about talking about mental health and how it affects us. i have a friend that is in the mental hospital right now. i can see things from the perspective of the sufferer to the perspective of the people around them. it ain’t easy. reading your blog is helping me to know that i really am doing the right thing by taking felix. my kid is working hard to be functional and she is mature enough to know that the best thing for both her and felix is for me to be the main parent and for her to be the support parent. i think it will work, but man, it ain’t easy.
it is complicated! i just updated my blog and am going to force myself to do it at least weekly because i think it will be good for all of us, especially felix. i want him to be able to someday read it and understand how is life unfolded as it did.
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