Fugitaboudit…And three other phrases not to use with crazy people.
Last night, for reasons passing understanding, I had a massive panic attack about two a.m. Panic attack may not be quite the right word for it. Rather, it was a massive, sudden-onset and triggered OCD episode, brought on by the introduction of a new person into a very complex and completely unfathomable equation. Suffice it to say that something happened that had the Right Side of my brain saying “relax, it’s all gonna be okay,” while the Left Side of my brain was shouting the lyrics to R.E.M.’s “End of the World As We Know It.”
Before I go any farther, I should probably tell you this: I really am OCD. “Borderline Obsessive-Compulsive” was the official diagnosis. I have periods of moderate Compulsive tendencies perpetuated by obsessive thoughts. In short, when I’m in the midst of an attack, I’ll do everything from cleaning my bedroom and folding my laundry ‘just so’ to counting English Peas on the end of my fork — to make sure that I’m not eating an odd number. (By the way, there are 36 M&M’s in a standard package of the candy.) In my typical OCD states, I am able to maintain a Left-Brain/Right-Brain balance. My Left Brain maintains the sanity by telling me “It’s just OCD. Relax, dude,” while the Right Brain goes nuts saying “You’re a freak, you’re crazy. Don’t step on that crack! Was that FIVE skittles just now?!”
At any rate, last night I came face to face with a new stimulus, one that, potentially in another universe, might lead to a series of unsettling and wholly undesirable outcomes — every one of which suddenly and irrationally became absolute certainties. All the while, the most unsettling part of it was the hemispheres. When I say my left brain and right brain, I mean it in the literal, sides of my head sense…as in I’m cognizent of which side of my brain is thinking what. I said the unsettling part was the hemispheres for a reason. Typically, my Left Brian is the sane side and the Right Brain the crazy one. Last night, it was reversed. Enter a new OCD thought into the vocabulary: Perhaps this isn’t my OCD…maybe it’s good, sound logic!! (Which it wasn’t.)
I picked up two friends, at different times (and remember, this is at 2:00 a.m.). First, Mary. She gets the first “things not to say to a crazy person” of the night, though I have to give her points for trying…and being honestly and hopelessly concerned for my general well-being. I love her like a sister, and she’s one of my best friends. Her contribution to this list:
1.) “I mean, think about it…” That’s the last thing I want to do. Think about the fact that my world is about to be turned upside down? Oh wait. It’s not…which means I’m crazy. So think about the fact that I’m crazy. The sentiment behind that statement is “You’ll be fine. This will pass — just like the last time. All is well and right with the world.” Unfortunately, the Left Brain heard “Focus on this. Dwell on it. Hash it over and over and over again until you’ve masticated anything resembling sane and rational thought processes into a bloody pulp of half-formed thoughts and impressions and suddenly, without warning, you black out.” All the while, that same statement says to the Right Brain: Hey, fucker. Remember. You’re nuts!
Later, I picked up Amber. Timestamp: 2:37 a.m. Amber’s a real trooper. I tell her the same story I tell Mary. She is supportive, understanding, and non-judgemental. Her response to this crisis is to offer me a beer, which I sadly passed up. At any rate, we drive around for the better part of an hour, during which she holds my hand, blots the tears from my cheeks, and tells me it’s all going to be all right. I should know this, I know. Again, left-brain/right-brain!
As we’re rounding a curve, Amber says to me #2 for the list:
2.) “Dude. You just need to get a grip.” She’s right and it’s the most constructive advice I’ve gotten all night. Yet I’m still in crazy person mode. So the Left Brain hears “You’re out of control–see! There’s a reason I’m telling you to freak the fuck out!! And AMBER sees it!” All the while, Mr. Right Brain is over there going “Dude, she’s right. You’re just wiggin’ out. You’re fucking nuts!”
This morning, when I woke up, all is well with the world. I’m only marginally OCD. No organizing the pantry by food type, label color, and alphabetical order. But just for good measure, I’ve avoided any foods that can be counted like the plague. (No skittles, no M&M’s, no peas.) While regailing my roommate with this story, she gives me the third of my list of things not to say:
3.) “You’re over-reacting. You’re too rational for this.” This one makes the list if only because I’m beyond the initial shock of the attack and have only very recently come out of the initial phases of panic, terror, and utter stupidity. “You’re over-reacting. You’re too rational for this,” simply serves to remind me that I was crazy. Note the past tense. Was. Now I’m just embarrassed that I over-reacted so badly. I feel guilty about the two-a.m. emergency calls, the tears, the overwhelming urge (not satisfied, thankfully) got get blind stinking drunk.
All of these phrases are meant to encourage, to lift up, to support the crazy person sitting across from you. But they unwittingly do nothing more than remind you of how crazy you are in the first place. Is there an easy way to address these issues while not reminding the crazy person that they are, in fact, nuts? Probably not. So what’s the best course of action for a friend or loved one who is trying to walk someone through the crisis du jour? Amber probably wins last night’s prize: you hold their hand and let them lead the way, always maintaining just a tight enough grip to keep them from getting hurt.