Thursday, October 10, 2013

SM Johnson ~ The Difference ~

Good morning, Darlings. It's National Mental Health Awareness week. Or something kind of sort of close to that. Which I didn't actually know, but Nicole Knepper from the blog Moms Who Drink And Swear told me.

So in honor of that, I'm going to link to Nicole's blog because she is funnier than shit, and then I'm going to talk about the difference between being crazy and being a writer.

I saw this quote on Tumblr attributed to Hunter S. Thompson: "If you're going to be crazy, you have to get paid for it or else you're going to be locked up."


Sometimes people who have an elaborate fantasy life get treated for having a psych disorder. I know this, because I work in an acute psychiatric setting.

Oh, you ask, what's that like? Most of the time, it's probably like you'd expect. That naked guy who was walking in the middle of the 4-lane freeway pointing his middle finger at semi truck drivers? Yeah, we're keeping him safe on a locked unit, but I gotta say, he's more or less (okay more) REALLY PISSED OFF ABOUT IT.

He was sending a message to "all of those fucks" - and the damn interfering police interrupted his transmission. "So let me outta here, because I have more to say to them."

He doesn't see that his safety, nay, his actual life, was severely in jeopardy.

The tattooed chick passed out in the gutter downtown after a way-too-much hit of heroin and 22 oz. of Everclear straight from the bottle? Oh yeah, she's really grateful for our "care" as she withdrawing from drugs and alcohol. "Why yes," she says very sweetly, "I would love an orange juice," and promptly chucks the paper cup against the wall, adding, "but only if you have vodka."

In her opinion, we, by having locked doors and a somewhat tricky discharge policy, have just ruined a perfectly good Friday night.

Anway, that was a digression. I was talking about people with elaborate fantasy lives, wasn't I?

Sometimes it's called "delusional" and sometimes having "flight of ideas," or even sometimes... (wait for it...) MANIC.

Hi, My name is SM Johnson, and I am an............ Author.

Oh, yes. I understand what it's like to function in the world while the "real me" is very busily engaged in building a highly complex fantasy world.

I just happen to call it "writing a novel."

And it's not at all easy to function sometimes, while writing a novel.

And I understand, when a person says, "The life I create in my head is so much more fun than my real life."

I know, right?

I can't call a person "delusional" when they know the difference between fantasy and reality. And on a slightly different note, I can't necessarily define someone else's reality, or negate their own experience. Even if I haven't experienced what they describe.  I do sometimes question their grip on reality, like, for instance, they telling me that we're in Russia when I'm pretty sure we're in Wisconsin.

But - there are levels of reality, and we react to everything from our own peculiar and skewed point of view.

So I want to say to the person who talks non-stop about their fantasy world, all the ins and outs and loves and heartaches and emotional complexity... this person who's now court-ordered to take anti-psychotic medication, and maybe even court-ordered to have electroconvulsive therapy (yeah, it's what you think it is. Kitty Dukakis wrote a book about it called Shock) - I want to say, "Stop talking about it as if it were real, and start WRITING it down, as if it were real. Don't say you live in a fantasy world, say you write books. Trust me, you and I are much the same."

The alternative seems to be figuring out how to navigate a broken mental health system that has the potential to force medication and even shock treatment - and that will, ultimately, force a person to face reality and live in the often very shitty Real World we inhabit most of the time.

Perhaps it seems I'm being facetious, or tongue-in-cheek, or what not, but really, I'm not being any of those things. Artists tend to be crazy. NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) has a list that includes Abraham Lincoln and Michelangelo.

WCVB (Boston News) has an intriguing little slide show of  people you'd most likely recognize who suffer from mental illness.

I would be horrified, depressed, psychotic, and likely suicidal if someone came along and flipped a switch that cut me off from my creative brain.

But so far, because I call it "writing books" and because I publish and make a few dollar a month, I seem to be safe. I highly recommend this approach.

It's worked for me for, literally, years.

Peace out, Darlings. Have a beautiful weekend!


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