I recall times as a teenager when I thought being crazy would be sexy and alluring. I was there at the birth of emo, before emo was an abbreviated social sub group. I refused to join in during PE class or other teenagerly activities which were good for me. I read depressing French existentialism and spent most of my time sulking in the art room drawing Willem de Kooning-esk cows and trying to work out how to be myself in a town that was not created for people like me. It was the farming town, the sport mad, the “she’ll be right” good ol’ kiwi, number 8 wire kind of society, so at odds with the fear and doubts which lived and grew inside me over the years.
The movies I liked glorified the edges of sanity for me, Girl Interrupted, Heavenly Creatures etc. I very much doubt they were made to be looked at with the adoring eyes of my hormone drenched ilk. Perhaps they should have been more of a warning of sad scenarios involving lives I should have been grateful I didn’t have to lead. For me the relaxation which broken sanity seemed to offer was the ultimate freedom. The charming sociopath; the Angelina Jolie figure, attractive, sexy, promiscuous and free, with buckets of sexy drama.
She wasn’t worried.
If I was her I wouldn’t worry either.
I am sure there were legions of teenage girls who like me looked up to these charming characters. Sadly my reality was never quite like the fiction. My own brand of crazy (anxiety) has never been cool. It doesn’t make me carefree and nonchalant in the face of danger and authority. It doesn’t make me cry sexy tears in the supermarket fruit section, drawing men to me like moths to an attractive heaving bosomed flame. Men were not left love-struck and forlorn in the wake of my inspiration driven changes of heart. No. I have never been cool and my dramaticness only comes out in the most awkward and uncomfortable ways. I do insanity with as much panash as Prince Phillip does International speaking engagements . I’m as cool as a teetotal fundamentalist Christian at a university orientation party with an open bar.
I would day dream of being hauled away to a mental hospital to be visited by an attractive kindly man. I would weep quietly, while he would stroked my hair and fed me sips from a juice box (only plastic and cardboard foil allowed. No glass for you crazy lady). The reality; we don’t really have mental hospitals any more and the psych wards I have visited over the years (never as a patient I might add) are scary and musty and filled with fat people shuffling in their socks and track pants. Not an Angelina Jolie in sight.
I thought being crazy would make me cool, or at least I hoped it would. I never thought people understood me. I was determined to know what my problem was and take that label with me as a badge of coolness and of excuse for my sometimes odd behaviour. I recall being more disappointed than ever when I learned that I had a general anxiety disorder and suffered from panic attacks and agoraphobia. I am embarrassed to admit that I was disappointed that I didn’t have a borderline personality disorder or something else dramatic, requiring extreme levels of help. Embarrassed yes, but I am admitting it to make a point about my need to be labelled. I was told that I shouldn’t be labelled, that people were not their mental illness and by taking on my label I would be surrendering my very personness. At the time I thought this was politically correct bullshit. Now I understand that I wanted my label, not to take away from who I was or to claim that my disorder was all I was but because I wanted to be believed.
My anxiety has always been a struggle of people not believing or understanding how much it hurts or how hard it could be. A bit like telling someone you can see a kite duct taped together with knives but no one else can see it. It’s no less real to you. I had been told so many times that I was making up my feelings, my tummy aches, my fears or that I had a “bad attitude” Ha. Ha. Ha.
Having a name for it gave me power. I could pick my anxiety up like a broken doll and show it to people “see this is the bit that makes things hard. I didn’t imagine it, see!” I felt vindicated and in control for once. Over the years I have continued to work on taking control of it by giving it names. By making it a being which lives with me, a real thing I deal with rather like an imaginary friend no one wants around. He isn’t my friend, he is a jerk and I work very hard to keep him in the basement of my mind and soul to the best of my ability.
I have accepted that I will never be cool. I will never be Angelina Jolie and no amount of blood vials or tattoos could make it so (I don’t have any vials of blood and I do have tattoos but they are all well thought out and non tribal tack)
If you’re thinking that the notion of being cool appears a whole lot in my writing, you are right. Being uncool is at the crux of my anxiety.
When I’m free of it I feel my most awesome, funny and attractive but when I am riddled with it like a Dickensian street whore filled with syphilis and T.B, I feel not only uncool but transparent, as thought every person can see right through my body and see the lump of uncool inside me. Anxiety makes me feel like I radiate uncool like a lighthouse, visible for all to see and judge. And not uncool in the so bad it’s good kind of way, not Ugly Betty uncool but more annoying girl who keeps saying the wrong things, can’t stop talking and saying sorry after every sentence uncool.