Tuesday, November 19, 2013


I hate the word crazy. Not because it is an adjective. I like adjectives as a writer. It's because of the way the word boxes people in. It's because of the stigma it carries. It's because it puts a bad spin on something that might not be a person's fault.

Sunday would have been my friend Joe's 34th birthday. To give you some background, Joe was an artist and celebrity personal shopper. Always having a box of cigarettes and a Starbucks, he joked that now that he quit slamming crystal meth he might stop smoking. He never succeeded in his goal. Nonetheless, he was extremely gifted and walking down the street with him could be an adventure. When there was a film shooting he would know the people working in wardrobe and we would stop and talk. Joe kind of taught me how to be a better networker. I was twenty five when we were friends. While I had escaped the demon of an abusive fiance that terrorized while we were together and after we broke up, Joe knew I was floating around. He got me to write again, and pushed me to ultimately write my book. Joe was also bipolar I, the hardest to medicate. After relapsing and some other events that I will not detail, Joe took his own life. Yes, he was "crazy." Yes he "took pills." But I don't remember a friend who was in a straight jacket. I remember a kind soul who encouraged me with my comedy and to write again. I know he made a choice and I respect it. It's the scarlet letter the word carries, that's all.

Fast forward to last night. Being an artist I always have colorful friends. One friend in particular suffers with severe bipolar. When he is good to go he is a talented director, makeup artist, and stylist. He has even done my hair on a few occasions. On the other hand, when he is off his meds he hallucinates and believes people are following him. Shit show is the understatement of the year. Anyway, he was having a manic fit and had meds. As we were over our other friends house he was wandering back and fourth and just couldn't keep still. We told him it was okay, we are kind of used to him like this. Plus he is kind of entertaining when he is manic. On the train ride home he started to break and asked my friend Smithie and I if we would take him to the hospital. We agreed.

When we got to the emergency psych center they took him in. He had been there two weeks ago under duress so the security dog remembered him. To give you an idea, my buddy loves his dog Amelia a lot and they admitted him and he couldn't walk her so he went ape shit on the guard. Well yes, the guard remembered him. Smithie and I kind of made jokes the entire time because the evening was so weird. First Mo is having a manic fit. Then there is a full moon. After that some weirdo street performer broke out his sax and just played in our ears. Now we were at a psych hospital. Mo was admitted and gave Smithie some instructions on how to care for his dog. And then we were off.

Smithie said when he went into see Mo for the instructions on how to care for his dog everything was white. The bed was attached to the wall. There were chairs but not really. There were guards everywhere. You couldnt bring even a pen to write with back. Everything was super safe. At the same time, we were both proud of our friend for having the insight to admit himself into the hospital. It was also amazing how gentle and nonjudging some of these staffers were. I was also relieved to know we were leaving our friend in good hands. For as much as Mo can wear on my last nerve sometimes, I also felt tremendous compassion for him and how he literally has to struggle with the bipolar demon. Then I thought of Joe.

I know suicide carries a stigma. I know people have a long way to go before they even begin to understand mental illness. I had a lover once who was bipolar who also struggled with addiction. I had to let him go after a short time because he wasn't going to take his meds and had no intention of staying clean. But the thing was, Mo, Joe, and Holden didn't use drugs because it made them feel good. They used drugs because at the end of the run they knew how they would feel. Bipolar people never know how they are going to feel. I heard from Holden not too long ago. He swears he is clean but his behavior indicates otherwise. Maybe my actions last night were a little codependent. But not many people understand how truly sick people with mental illness are sometimes. People think depression, they need to get some sunshine. Snap out of it. Stop doing this for attention. If only the solution were that easy.

We don't joke about cancer or AIDS but it's okay to joke about bipolar, schizophrenia, drug addiction and eating disorders. Cancer and AIDS kill people but so do the untreated affects of those diseases. We say someone with mental illness is being selfish by not getting treatment, when meanwhile they have a disease that tells them they are not ill. We think they take their meds they will feel alright when all they feel is flat, unattached, and different. I don't know what the solution is. Maybe more compassion. Maybe more education.

Or maybe it is to take the word crazy out of our collective vocab as a way to label people who are bearing a cross that we still struggle to understand.

I Came, I Saw, I Sang: Memoirs of a Singing Telegram Delivery Girl

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