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Wednesday, January 23, 2013

My daily battle for sanity

What causes insanity? Is it genetics? Is it environment? Do we all carry within us the seeds of insanity such that fertile ground will see it grow? I'm not completely sure. It's my opinion however, that it's a mixture of both genetics and environment.

Some people are slow to wake. You call their name. You gently shake their shoulder. They open their eyes and look at you. But still, you can see something that's not quite right in their eyes. It's like they're there with you, and yet they're split-off somehow and still partially living in a dream. You can ask them questions and they'll answer you but their answers reveal that they're not quite here with you in this world ... in reality.

I've often wondered if those unclassifiable cases—like schizophrenics for instance—have somehow gotten partially stuck in a dream. They're here with us, yet also somewhere else in a dream. Luckily for me, I doubt I'll ever have that problem. I'm a light sleeper and wake instantly and alertly.

The kind of insanity I'm most susceptible to is stress related. I remember once about twenty-six years ago when my girlfriend's mother lost it, and had to go to the psychiatric ward of the local hospital. On the day it happened, it was as though I was one of those clinical observers watching an experiment as inexorable pressure was applied until finally the breaking point was reached. Mrs. Bristle—not really her name—had two older daughters and one younger son. The daughters were both in high-school and the son was a year shy of kindergarten. As a boyfriend it was understood that I could never ever take any side but that of my girlfriend but in this particular case I knew she was wrong. So I remained silent. Still, I feel partially responsible because I stood by silently and did nothing.

This is what happened. Two girls and one boy were told to be silent because their constant noise and chatter was upsetting this wife and mother. The father was away on a business trip as he often was; doing whatever it is that engineers do.

Mrs. Bristle announced clearly and forcefully that she needed quiet because the pandemonium in the house was about to make her go crazy. You see? These children were applying force to the breaking point—pressure—and the purpose of this force was perhaps to get their way, perhaps to have fun, perhaps to drive a mother crazy. I don't really know. They wanted, whatever it was they wanted, and so with the single-minded energy that only the young have, they pursued whatever goal it was they had in mind.

When Mrs. Bristle clued them in to this, her mental weakness, you could almost see their eyes light up! The noise and bedlam redoubled. The louder she screamed for quiet the louder they became in return. I sat on the couch amazed and astounded. What was happening here? It was a complete loss of control. Mrs. Bristle was breaking down before my eyes and her children were literally throwing themselves against the walls of her sanity over and over. It was evil. And it worked. I'm the one who called the ambulance and that was also the end of that particular relationship.

And so finally I come to the point. There are those who will push you to the breaking point and then past it, if you let them. Don't ask them for mercy because that only encourages them. I don't know if evil is genetic or if it's like a disease in our environment that slowly infects those who're susceptible and finally turns them into complete and utter evil bastards, I only know that just like there are crazy people, there are also evil people that try to drive them crazy.

There are two ways I know of to ease the pressure before you totally lose it. The first is escape. Everyone seeks escape much of the time. Every night for instance we escape for about eight hours or so while we sleep. There's also the escape we find in entertainment. Whether that's television, movies, books, video games, internet activities, alcohol, drugs, eating, gambling, etc, there are many ways to escape. Unfortunately there are some that are very destructive. Drugs and Facebook head that list. If you're popping pills, piercing a vein, or poking your Facebook friend, you probably need professional help.

The second way to ease the pressure is by actively pushing back. This is almost always uncomfortable, it's usually difficult, and it can sometimes backfire. People don't like it when you push back so they'll naturally try to punish you in a variety of ways. Your boss might try to trap you in some kind of verbal imbroglio where you come out and admit that you think he's either an idiot or an a-hole. All he needs is a concrete expression of disrespect and he can then redouble the pressure he can bring to bear against you. Remember that whatever you say can and will be used against you whether you're under arrest or not. So, again pushing back against pressure can definitely backfire. With that said however, it's the only way to permanently relieve some of the pressure.

If your spouse says she wants you to do more, just know that she's applying pressure to get whatever it is that she wants. At that moment you have to decide if the relationship has grown too one-sided and if you believe that she doesn't do enough you should definitely push back. If she says she wants you to do more, tell her you want her to do more. Be specific. I can't stress that enough. Tell her you'll write up a list of the things that she's not taking responsibility for and that you'll get back to her once you have everything jotted down. You don't have to be able to come up with this stuff on the fly. You just have to be able to explain that there are areas which could definitely use some improvement. The same thing goes for work. If co-workers are constantly trying to foist their own responsibilities off on you, then you have to think of a way to safely push back. Remember that just like Israel discovered, sometimes when the question is life and death, for your own peace of mind, you may have to push them back much further than they ever expected.

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