Sunday, July 11, 2010
The Crazy Train. Sunday, July 11, 2010
“Mental wounds not healing, who and what's to blame? I'm going off the rails on a crazy train.” – “Crazy Train,” Ozzy Osbourne
What exactly is crazy?
A lot of mental health advocates detest the word. They say it brings unnecessary stigma to the mentally ill. On the other side of the coin, a lot of people with mental illnesses actually embrace the word, the way that some homosexual people embrace “faggot” and some African-Americans embrace “the N word” – as a way to own it, to control it, to make it theirs.
The dictionary defines “crazy” as “Affected with madness; insane.” That would mean, in ordinary vernacular, that anyone with any sort of mental illness is “crazy.” Is Aunt Louise “crazy” because she has to have her cosmetics lined up in a row and needs to tap the doorknob 23 times before she exits the house? And is she even on the same spectrum as Ed Gein, who was found criminally insane for the murder of Bernice Worden and who dug up corpses from graveyards to make bowls and chair seats?
Then there is the Prince of Darkness, Ozzy Osbourne. After decades of drinking and drug use, Ozzy’s given his permission for scientists to study his genome to understand why he is still alive. He’s bitten the head off a dove (he claims by accident; he meant to set the dove free but was intoxicated) and a bat (which he claims he thought was rubber). If your brother Sam committed such acts in his bedroom alone, you’d certainly consider him “crazy,” and you’d probably try to have him committed. But Osbourne does it onstage in front of thousands of adoring fans, and it’s all part of the show.
Ozzy’s been sued twice, in 1985 and in 1991, by distraught parents whose sons committed suicide after listening to his song, “Suicide Solution,” which warns about the dangers of alcohol. The lyrics include the following phrase: “Where to hide, suicide is the only way out. Don’t you know what it’s really about?” Can a song make someone kill themselves? Or do they have to be “crazy” first?
Sometimes it seems like the label “crazy” only applies when someone’s behavior affects others in a negative way. If you mind your own business, it’s “whatever floats your boat.” But if others are impacted, “you’re crazy.”
Is suicide the ultimate “crazy” act? It certainly involves going against the inborn inclination to stay alive. But a Japanese samurai who commits hari kari, a victim of Lou Gehrig’s disease, an embezzler about to be caught, and someone in a state of deep clinical depression are all ending their lives for extraordinarily different reasons.
When I was in my bipolar “mixed episode,” I didn’t gamble all our money away, have affairs with a dozen men, or invite President Obama over for tea and cookies. But I was crazy as hell – on the inside – and I knew it. I just couldn’t escape it. I was capable of buying pills and razor blades and using my credit card to get a room in a motel. But I wasn’t capable of stopping on my path to self-destruction. I wasn’t able to imagine how my family would be affected by my actions. I couldn’t see any other options. I could no longer help myself; I needed intervention from others.
Does that make me “crazy?” I don’t know. Do you?