By on August 17, 2014

“Sometimes I think I must be crazy”.

It is an idle comment made on a warm summer’s evening. There’s no apparent cause for alarm. No political unrest, no military action, no thunder or lightening, no hunger, no injustice or environmental degradation evident. The word “crazy” pierces my consciousness. It has the violence of a racial slur. It holds a stigma powerful enough to trigger police action, stimulate judgments from friends and neighbors and block the most innocent from asking for help.

His arms are full of rumpled cotton shirts, damp towels and several pillowcases from the bottom of the dirty laundry hamper. He is headed down the stairs into the basement where our washer and dryer wait for their next load. He is muttering and hardly aware that I have acknowledged the phrase.

Later I ask him what his definition of “crazy” is and he tells me to relax my therapist sensitivities. I ask him what he was thinking as he headed down the stairs and he said he was considering an upcoming decision where he was unclear about the outcome and wasn’t sure whether to proceed but was afraid it was too late to back up.

My definition of crazy: Someone who prides themselves in being deliberate, practical, frugal, clear-headed, self-controlled, hard-working, steadfast, and precise finding themselves in a situation where they feel impulsive, impractical, risky, haphazard, careless, and unpredictable. The pain often does not have words.

Or the person who is talkative, animated, playful, unpredictable, unsystematic, passionate, self-indulgent finding themselves in a frozen waste land of the night where they are expected to be prudent, uncomplaining, discreet or sensible. The pain can be overwhelming and intolerable.

It is as though either one has suddenly been beamed to another airless planet without an oxygen tank and does not have a clue how to survive. Some people do not survive it. Some people do not live though it. Not surviving is a tragedy that affects all of us. It impacts our ability to belong in community, to love our partners, and to feel connected to family and friends.

Each one of us has learned to cope through a life -time of experiences and rely on our tried and true patterns to see us through tough times. When our strategies do not work we feel crazy. Some of us seek professional help because we feel anxious or depressed.

Marilyn Sewell, Ph.D., minister emerita of First Unitarian Church in Portland, Oregon, writes, “depression is rather a shutting down of the emotive self, a fracturing of the will. It is living behind a glass plate and looking at life on the other side”. It is like being on another planet and not have the coping skills to survive the environment.

We have all had that feeling when we “think we are crazy”. Robin Williams learned to protect his vulnerability through laughter and humor. He was able to mask his interior experience by making people around him laugh. His humor was a brilliant gift to all of us, but what we couldn’t see was how much pain he was in. He was drowning and his own talent camouflaged his distress. I imagine he didn’t know how to ask for help when his world seemed un-survivable. It is so important to know that there are effective treatments for depression and anxiety. There are new skills we can learn when our own coping patterns fail us. Please pay attention to those moments and seek support. Let’s leave the word “crazy” behind in the past millennium and offer compassionate care to anyone who is suffering.

To read the full article by Marilyn Sewell, Ph.D please click here.

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Katherine Calvert Counseling is a private practice led by Katherine Calvert, LCSW. Katherine Calvert has built her practice from decades of education and applied experience working as a direct service provider in schools, hospitals, and counseling clinics. She holds a Masters in Social Work, is trained in Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT), Imago Therapy, and Sensorimotor Psychotherapy. Her practice is a warm, safe and inviting space in the Portland, Oregon area.