if this is what crazy is…

I called him in sobs, crying about how everyone would think of me as his crazy ex-girlfriend. He replied that it wasn’t the time to worry about such things, and while it probably wasn’t, what I got from that was: it was true. People already thought that.

Then I spent the next year of my life worrying about what people (who I actually no longer talked to) thought about my mental state. Turns out I was only crazy when I was worried about whether or not I was crazy. It’s an ugly, never-ending cycle.

It’s not so much that I want the word crazy to be diminished from the English language, because that could turn into a slippery slope – insane, nuts, etc. They would all have to go, too. And, after all, they are just words – letters put together in black and white on crisp paper. Words don’t mean anything, so I often wonder what it is about the word “crazy” that I hate.

Recently, after a long heart to heart with one of my truest friends, I understood. It’s not the word; it’s the way it made me feel. Speaking about a particularly rough period of my life, she pointed out, “You were never crazy, you just thought you were, and that’s what made getting better so hard.”

Crazy.

I have dark drawings of fucked up girls in my sketchbook with the word crazy scribbled underneath.
I have poems written in tattered notebooks with central themes about what it felt to lose my mind.
I have scars, both visible and invisible, that prove to show just how “crazy” I really was.

Or maybe it’s not “how crazy I really was” but more so “how crazy I really felt.”

Knowing what I know now, I would chalk up my behavior to poor coping skills rather than the loss of my own mind. In other words, I was never really crazy after all. I was just a girl who needed so badly for others to validate her.

If I had an idea, I needed validation from another human being that it was good.
If I was upset, I needed someone else to tell me, gosh darnit, I deserved to be upset.

And if I didn’t get those things, it turned ugly.

Did I scream? Yes.
Did I cry? Yes.
Did I spit insults? Yes.
Did I act out? Yes.

It turns out when people don’t validate your feelings, the end result is crazy.

But was I crazy? No.

I never really was, but I did know my behaviors were off.

Too much.
Too           dramatic.
Too                         intense.

I didn’t know any other way to cope with how out of control I felt, it was what I had learned.
Still, recognizing that my behaviors made ME feel shitty meant I needed to do work.
Believe me, I did.

After the work is done, the final and most important trick is learning that you don’t need the approval of others to live your life.
If you can get that skill down pact, you’re golden.
Crazy is no longer a thing.

See, what’s hard for me to understand is: What does crazy even mean?

cra•zy: (adjective) mentally deranged, especially as manifested in a wild or aggressive way.

Hmm… okay. That definition means nothing to me.

Mentally deranged?
Nope. Not even on my worst day.

I guess I say things other people don’t.
I explore my feelings and put them out there and love and care.
Some people choose not to do this.
Neither one of us are crazy.

I have come to realize that it is so easy to be manipulated when you think you are crazy. At least it was easy for me to be manipulated. You’ll do anything not to be crazy, which is such a waste of time, because the process of doing your best not to be “crazy” turns into you doing a bunch of stuff you don’t want to do, which actually feels crazy. You following?

I’ve seen many articles about how awful it is that males throw around the word “crazy” and how terrible it makes females feel, and I agree. The problem is it’s such a vague word, it’s hard to pinpoint exactly what it is that makes it hit home. It’s not just males, either – females use the word in reference to other females, too.

Really, we just all have a different perspective of how to handle situations. While I agree that there are healthy and unhealthy ways to express negative emotions, there’s no crazy and not crazy. It’s just what people have learned.

It’s a hard concept for me to write about, because it’s complex, but I guess what I’d like to say is that crazy is one of the most debilitating things to be labeled as.

For a while,
My writing was CRAZY
My need to share was CRAZY
Any expression of emotions was CRAZY
My feelings for other people were CRAZY
And so it goes.

So I locked myself up in a cage and tried to be as perfect and as non-crazy as I could be.

Guess what?

I never achieved perfect or non-crazy, so hence, I was just left in a cage.

It was boring in there.
I’m glad I’m out.

Whatever word makes you feel caged up and controlled, I hope you learn a way to let it go.
People can think anything in the world about you and it just doesn’t freaking matter. At the end of the day, you have to live with yourself.

I guess I just realized that whether I was crazy or not,
I was still breathing.
I was still waking up every day.
I was still walking through life.

And there was an easier way – letting go of what others thought and thinking more about what I thought about myself.

That’s freedom.

What Happens When You Take a Risk?

I’m turning 25 this week. I couldn’t be more excited. A crisp, clean, quarter-century number. I’m going to be so good at being 25.

So many of my friends are dreading this milestone. After all, it is a reminder that our twenties are half over. Speaking from my own concept of time, I’m sure these next five years will go faster than the first. Still, I’m not worried. The first half of my twenties has been a complete rollercoaster, filled with up and down moments. High highs and low lows. Maybe my thirties won’t be as crazy, but I think I’m ready for the stability. In fact, I think I’ll welcome it.

The thing is, I write on this personal little blog each week, revealing a snip-it of my life to you. Although I don’t have 5,000 readers at the tips of my fingers, as I sometimes do when I freelance, I would argue that this blog is more of a risk for me.

See, when I write freelance, I am writing cultural pieces that are nothing more than fun for me. My true millennial brain shows itself as I revel in the free-spirited but painfully broke ideas of our generation. It’s easy to write an article when you have 10,000 free spirits ready to put their virtual fists in the air and scream a-men. We’re never getting old.

But, we are. I’m not so scared of it anymore because there are important experiences that come with growing up. There are break-ups that mean more to you than you’ll ever be able to put into words. There is the realization that these break-ups should never steal your soul the way you’ve let them. There is the realization that being so painfully dramatic was simply a growing pain you needed to go through in order to mature.

Yes, I write about my struggles with eating disorders, depression and anxiety. Yes, I open up to you about awful dates and times when I felt that world was unfair to me. Yes, it’s a risk.

It’s a risk because while my freelance writing reaches thousands, to a majority of those people, I am just a name and a picture in a byline. A person on Twitter they can now follow. A two-second thought that doesn’t stick. Which makes it all the more easier to express myself.

That’s not the case on this blog. My readers, most of them, know me on a personal level. That break-up post I wrote is easily identifiable – there is a face behind it. I do my best not to give away large details about the people and places I touch upon, but let’s be real: I’m writing about my experiences. I am inspired by miniscule moments and details of my own life and I want to share them with you. I believe someone, somewhere can relate to these moments, because they are all too common.

What is not so common is this open-book syndrome that I have somehow inherited in my gene pool. Not many people go around publishing the darkest, deepest moments of their lives. Especially not people who are actually somewhat private in real life. A friend from college and I had dinner together not too long ago, when he just said, “Monica, I feel like I really know nothing about you. You always ask the questions.”

So, if that’s the case, then maybe my writing shocks the ones who know – or think – they know me. I am constantly torn between what I want to share and how I believe it will be perceived. The thing is, no one wants to read about a mundane day in the office. It’s the nitty-gritty that people relate to; it’s the idea that they aren’t alone in their struggle, that someone else has less-than-perfect moments in a less-than-perfect life.

To me, this camaraderie that I am trying to cultivate is more important than any one individual’s opinions of me. It feeds my soul directly when people can say that they’ve been moved by my writing, that they’ve gone through similar things. On the contrary, I never want to hurt anyone.

Sometimes it’s just unavoidable. I am a writer. It is what I do. I whole-heartedly believe it is one of the things I was meant to do. I know from the days in which I felt alone that if I don’t share my story, someone else is going to feel just as alone as I did.

I’m prompted to write this because, as can be expected, I have received some criticism. I know when I hit the publish button that somehow, somewhere, someone is going to be unhappy. This used to censor me. This used to provoke a fear within me. I used to call my mom every week, in which she would say, “Monica, this is what you do. You find it important to write these things. Why worry about it afterwards?”

I realize now, though, that the fear of being called dramatic, the fear of being told that my life must be pretty shitty, the fear of being told I’m making it all up is no match for sharing my story. I can’t be silenced. I won’t be. At 25, I think it’s important to stand tall and do what I love, which is sharing both the good and the bad.

I’ve come so far. The eating disorder I described to you? Well, that feels like a distant memory. (In fact, I kind of feel weird calling it that, but my doctors insist otherwise.) I no longer feel the darkness of depression. However, I could choose to write these things at risk of sounding dramatic, or I can sweep them under the rug and pretend they never happened.

The truth – that huge phenomenon that people choose to ignore and I beg to bring forth – is that I’ve had rough times. I’ve traveled through break downs. I’ve survived. Were they dramatic? Yes, of course they were. Everyone goes through hard times. Everyone is entitled to be dramatic when they are in pain, I believe that.

Being fearful of myself has always been something I struggled with. I understand that I feel things completely. Human connections and emotions have always interested me. But, I’ve realized that some people don’t hold a high regard for the mushy-gushy Kodak moments of life in the ways I do. What I’ve struggled with figuring out is that, it’s okay – for both them and myself. I no longer need to be so afraid of seeking out what I believe are the best parts of life; personal growth, love, acceptance, truth, happiness. I don’t have to be scared to explore my depth and the depth of others.

I suppose my final thought is that I am a writer. No, I do not like to destroy people via my blog. I hardly write about people whom I truly care about. I try to focus mainly on my own experiences. However, I refuse to keep my own story quiet in fear that it may offend. It’s going to be a long 40, 50, 60 years if I choose to live my life at the hand of others.

I’m not always pleasing, nor am I always displeasing. It’s exhausting to pretend otherwise. So, to only focus my blog entries on, say, the happy-go-lucky days I have and ignore the shitty, frustrating mental health days, break-ups, you name it, would be completely unfair if I am going to accurately paint the big picture, which is what I aim to do.

Therefore, as a 25th birthday present to myself, I hereby give myself permission to be exactly who I am, good or bad, breakdown or no breakdown, good date or bad date. Cheers to another lesson learned!

When Blue Dish Detergent Pisses You Off

I look down at the counter and see thick, bubbly blue soap everywhere. On the floor, dripping down the cabinets. What the hell. Then I see that I forgot to put the little white cap back on the sponge/soap dispenser I’m using to clean the dishes. I’ve been cleaning the dishes while blue Dawn dish-washing soap escaped all over.

I’m immediately angry. No, I mean, irrationally angry. I’m gripped with anger in a way that I feel I might hit something or go crazy or just start yelling at someone, anyone who gets in my way. In the past, I think I would have.

At first, I think I’m mad at my parents because I’m doing the dishes and somehow that’s their fault. As if doing the dishes is such a chore. As if washing a few dishes on a quiet Monday evening is something to be angry at.

So, I turn off the water and just stare out the window into the darkness and the snow. I’m angry because there’s no sun when I get out of work. I’m angry because my car is cold and old and never heats up. I’m angry because of some snarky side comment someone said to me over the weekend. I’m angry because I’m angry.

Between pointing my finger at this person or that situation, trying to pinpoint exactly what is making me so goddamned angry, I feel my eyes welling up with tears. My parents are still in the kitchen cleaning up, and I haven’t even gotten a grip on what the hell is happening yet, so I try to blink the tears away. They just keep falling.

This happened one other time recently. I went to get my grandfather and he wasn’t ready for me, even though we told him what time we’d be there. I was so angry, irrationally angry, first at him and then five times as much at myself. It’s not fair to be angry at someone simply because they are aging and don’t remember as well as they used to.

So, as he got ready, I went for a walk in the snow. I walked through my old neighborhood with red lipstick on and my navy blue, knee length winter jacket, knowing that the cars driving by had to be wondering where such a dressed up girl was walking to in the middle of winter. Why did she look so sad? I cried, stopped, cried. I found myself at the cemetery. It was the only place I could think to go.

Nobody likes death. Nobody likes to think about it, to confront it, to realize it’s a part of life we all need to accept. Death comes in two ways; shockingly fast or painfully slow. When it happens fast, it’s like a straight punch to your gut. When it happens slowly, it feels like someone is letting the air out of a balloon inside your stomach, and you can’t fill it back up no matter what.

Regardless of the way it presents itself, it demands attention. So, if you aren’t going to let the soppy tears fall into the soapy dishwater, than you can bet your ass you’re going to be punching something.

I realized that as shitty as this feels, I’d rather just cry. So when my parents finally asked me what was wrong, I just break down and tell them. No “I’m fine” or “nothing” — just the straight out truth. My grandfather is getting older and it hurts like fucking hell. He’s the head of the family, the strongest one there is, and it’s hard to grip the reality that he is human just like the rest of us. I don’t want him to be human. I want him to live forever.

I don’t call the shots, though. I don’t have that kind of power. So, I just send my prayers and hold on to the moments I have right now. When he makes me laugh, I laugh. When I want to cry, I cry. If nothing else, I think about the time I have here and the time he has here and how important it all is. Cliches aside, it all goes by too damn fast.