Like many other mentally ill people, I include a handful of sane citizens in my inner circle of esteemed friends. I don’t do this because I like them, I don’t do it because I think they have anything to offer me, au contraire mon petit fromage, I do it because my slavish devotion to a facade of political correctness dictates that I must pretend to believe that sane people are as good as folks like us. (This is nonsense, of course. These Wonder Bread and mayonnaise chomping chumps have been denied the advanced education in life’s rock hard realities mental illness affords and consequently must be tolerated with patience, good humor, and condescension as they muddle through their Romper Room existences.)
Have you heard this one already? Three clinically depressed high-jumpers walk into a bar. They lower it. I’m kidding of course. Then again, I’m not kidding, (as always), because if there is anything that will help today’s mentally ill individual survive the three-ring-circus of psychological torment and emotional Armageddon known by that deceptively sweet euphemism – the holidays – it is lowered expectations. Why? With every layer of tinsel, every rehashed Christmas chestnut mangled by Beyoncé, every eggnog-infused martini, every promise of no money down and no payments for the first seventeen months, every drug-addled midnight greeter at Walmart scratching his most recent tattoo, every ill-considered fax at every office party, and every other cliché of Christmas cacophony and tintinnabulation comes the rising tide of truly ho-ho-horrible inevitability – the hopes, the joys, the fears of all the years, reindeer and pain dear – that Grinch-ish thief of all that is merry; expectations.
I entered the damp basements of Alcoholics Anonymous many years ago, and found a new, immeasurably superior, way of life. I won’t belabor this point, and I certainly won’t try to sell it to you. But I will say it worked for me and continues to do so. Everything about it surprised me, which was annoying, because I don’t like surprises; I’m the kind of person who likes to believe he has it all worked out, (especially when he doesn’t), which I suppose is part of the reason I ended up there in the first place. One of the biggest surprises of all was the amount of humor. Indeed, the process of having your perspective adjusted almost always improves your sense of humor.
This is the season of vacations, and let’s be honest, no matter who you are or what you do, a break from the demands of your daily existence would be welcome. Interestingly, no matter how glamorous your day job might be, research indicates that when you vacation you want to get as far away from it as you can. For example, a recent study by psychologists at The University Of Basingstoke revealed that 77% percent of NFL quarterbacks said scrapbooking is their favorite leisure activity, with interpretive dance running a distant second. Pickpockets, not surprisingly, take a break from the rigors of their job by vacationing in nudist colonies. Without a scrap of temptation to be found they are safe from themselves and can unwind, secure in the knowledge that work is not even an option. Voyeurs, by contrast, go Polar to relax – North and South – in search of climate so ferociously cold that inhabitants must stay clothed 24/7. Freed from the prison of their pathology they take up residence in the safe, warm expanse of imagination – like the rest of us.
Mental illness is a vibrant, evolving discipline that is never the same two days in a row. The skilled professionals in our midst are continually wrestling disorders and syndromes to the ground, subduing them, and teaching the rest of us how to deny them a second chance. But, to paraphrase Zig Zigler, “Every time a window slams shut on your fingers, a trap door to the basement opens.” In other words, mental illnesses are leaving us all the time, but new ones are always emerging to take their place. Indeed, without a steady stream of newly minted mental illnesses producing an endless succession of chat show guests, virtually all TV hosts would be unemployed. While the traditional wellsprings of mental illness may still be relied upon, forward thinking psychiatrists, pharmaceutical companies, and tattoo parlors are looking to social networking – dubbed “social nutworking” by insiders – as the greatest growth area for psychological disorders in years to come. Here are just two of the newly minted mental disorders resulting from our cultural obsession with water-skiing squirrels.
It has been said that - an expectation is a preplanned resentment – and since the holiday season is built upon wave after wave of rosy, grandiose expectations it is reasonable to imagine that an avalanche of resentments ready to sleigh you cannot be far behind. This is particularly true for those of us who every day unwrap that most bizarre of all gifts, commonly referred to as mental illness. As ever, your friends at Funny In The Head are here to help.
The holidays are fast upon us and that means it’s more important than ever to remember what they are all about – the spirit of giving! Specifically, the happiness others experience when they give things to me! Lots of things – flashy, superficial things - digital things made in China – housed in cheap, plastic cases offending the eye with their bawdy, grotesque colors! You betcha! Bring it on! Forget subtlety! At holiday time anything worth doing is worth overdoing; good taste is bad and bad taste is great! At Christmas We Are Children Once Again; Hideous, Greedy Children
"Driving with your eyes closed doesn't actually make you invisible; but it might as well." Taz Mopula It is widely understood that, to legally operate an automobile in the United States, one must possess a valid driver’s license. It is further understood that driving a car is considered a privilege which can be revoked at any time for various reasons. The individual who drives while intoxicated is considered a menace to himself and society so, to protect the general welfare, police officers are entitled to stop automobiles and administer field sobriety tests. Some jurisdictions even set up Field Sobriety Checkpoints. Inebriated drivers caught in these snares are severely punished, and drunk driving decreases as a result. Well and good, you say, but what’s being done about the equally chilling danger of DWI – Driving While Insane? Sadly, the answer is - not much! But that is all about to change thanks to the imminent introduction of Random Sanity Testing and Sanity Testing Checkpoints!
"If you need brain surgery it’s almost always a good idea to involve other people." Taz Mopula The first time I heard the term “self-medication” I laughed out loud. In searching for an analogy one thinks immediately of the old adage – the lawyer who defends himself has a fool for a client. But that’s when the stakes are low, going free or going to jail. How about when the stakes are high? Sanity versus insanity? Life versus death? Jean Paul Sartre, a very clever fellow, used to play Russian roulette because he was bored. Well, self-medication is like playing Russian roulette with one big difference, all the gun’s chambers contain live ammo. Self-medication – (the term itself is preposterous) - fits nicely into the insufferable arrogance and egotism of mania – as if to say – I can manage this little spot of bother myself with nothing more complicated than some garden-variety drugs. I remember it all too vividly – “throwing gasoline on a fire”.
“How drunk do you have to be before cutting your own hair starts to seem like a good idea?” Taz Mopula Long ago, I had a hypothetical girlfriend we’ll call Prunella Entwhistle. Indeed, it was so long ago I was not yet sober and still cheerfully diving headfirst into debauchery as one might leap into a swimming pool. This was during that blissfully ignorant period in my life when I believed that, as a result of facing down bipolar disorder and defeating it, I had become bulletproof. By then I’d recovered from several devastating battles with the terrifying illness referred to at the time as manic depression. I had even written a memoir (Invisible Driving) that chronicled my ordeal. Having walked through fire and survived, I bristled with self-satisfied cockiness and swaggered through life like a cowboy breaking in new jeans.