It’s funny because I don’t think you could find one person who lives with a major mental illness that would say, “I enjoy being like this.” Not really, anyways. But I have noticed that within craziness, within boundary-breaking raucousness, within crashing soars and exhilarating flounders, lies an ego that will fight to its own death to maintain prominence in my conflicted mind.
This ego told me in the beginning that everyone else was crazy and I was just fine. This ego assured me that I was just a little more gifted than everyone else, with a keen soul-sight, a cleaner soul. I absorbed the world in a different way, my ego said, and reflected it back in startlingly clarity to a world that just wasn’t ready for truth. I was truth, my ego assured me. I knew the secrets of the underbelly. “Normals” diagnose people like me, Ego asserted, to maintain equilibrium in a black and white world. I am the color, the flush of a cheek, the prism in a rain drop. At least, that’s what Ego told me.
Ego grows the longer a person is sick. Like a parrot on a pirate’s shoulder, mental illness grows an ego to feed the madness. Lines of dillusioned thought are carved into the brains of the mentally ill like tracks for a train. Once laid down, these tracks are most difficult to remove. They may be abandoned, but they remain. They are always present, always resumable in my brain. I will never not be aware of where these tracks lie, and how easy and thrilling and natural it would feel to traverse them again. These tracks are appetites I ignore, starve . . . but never kill.
Dismissing this crazy egotistical parrot on my shoulder is a violent and slow process. Long after the meds take hold and I begin to assume a sane version of myself, I still keep the parrot on my shoulder. I live in a world where true censorship against people with mental illness exists. I live in a world in which not being productive and quick is translated into not being useful. This world tells me that a life on meds, a life living in a smaller circumstance, a life where my biggest accomplishment may be just taking a shower and brushing my teeth, is not a life worth living.
And on those days, in those moments, the parrot whispers in my ear all that my illness confided in me: I am really very special, too special for the Normals to recognize. I am brilliant, I am raindrop, I am infusion of light in the midst of darkness. And when I couldn’t read and I couldn’t make myself shower every day, and I thought my whole life would be a lithium-drowned harbor of sunken dreams, that parrot spurred me on. That parrot was survival.
Confused? So am I . . .
But I do not inhabit that sunken harbor of brokenness any more. Sure; there are harder days than others. I still exhibit funny little “ticks,” you might say, from a brain pickled by twelve years on Lithium. But I have learned how to live a sane life. And the parrot has to go.
So, I thought I would take the next few weeks and talk about how I have unraveled my mind from a sick way of thinking. Outside of just therapy and boundaries, outside of vitamins and supplements, I have undergone a diet of the mind to forgo the tracks laid by ego and illness in order to lay down healthier lines of thought. I have let go of music and fellow writers and books that I discovered were feeding my sickness. I have let go of or distanced myself from people who have stirred up crazy within me. And now, I am working at reshaping my physical appetites, which are the last remnant of the parrot on my shoulder.
I don’t want to be “Just a little crazy” anymore. I want to root crazy out, like an appetite for chocolate, put it in its place and do the work I was meant for. I want a life without a parrot on my shoulder, without enslavement to old tracks of thought that keep me barred from a beautiful life.
And I’m going to be bold enough to say I think it’s possible. To live free. Parrot, your days are numbered.