by Nanci Washington
Most people would like to believe that they know what crazy looks like. Crazy, as in, "not normal". Crazy, as in, "not all there." Crazy gets a bad name, and once I tell you my story, perhaps that is what you will label me. Or perhaps not, maybe you will find solidarity. Sometimes "crazy" is beautiful, successful, and drives a sports car. Sometimes "crazy" has a few degrees and could teach the teacher something. "Crazy" might even lead Sunday prayer and sing on the choir. "Crazy" is a mama and a daddy, a sister, and a brother. "Crazy" is a neighbor, a friend, or a kind stranger on the street.
The truth of the matter is this — "Crazy" is never what you think it is and rarely does it behave how you would expect. I guess that's what's so crazy about "Crazy." I tell you what though. Take it from me. You don't have to look far to spot it. Sometimes, "Crazy" is only a mirror away.
"In Living Color"
I'd say that the Monday that "the Crazy" came was like any other. Wrapped in the fresh white linen of my bed sheets, I buried myself further down into the comforter. I looked about the room. The happy blue walls of my bedroom were splashed with the colors of sea foam mist. I chose the color myself and had it mixed to my liking. I had gone through several paint samples before I settled on it. The gentleman at the home improvement store was baffled. I recall him saying "Miss, I don't mean to overstep my job, but we have mixed several colors and gotten this same one every single time." I didn't get upset with the man because I knew that to the untrained eye, it did look as if I mixed the same color three times. Each time though, I saw subtle differences, and that difference meant all the world to me.
Kinda like when you court someone. She has worn that same lipstick a thousand times, but something about the richness of the red on Tuesday is a little richer than it was on Sunday. He's worn that shirt a million times, but it's something about the crispness of his collar today that wasn't there yesterday; though you starched it the same. Isn't it funny how people will rush you off and want you to take something you aren't absolutely pleased with? Telling you all the while that they don't see what the difference was or why can't you just settle for this or that? Isn't that what the beauty in life is all about? Looking at ourselves, day in, day out, finding the subtle changes that motivate us to walk a little further, for just a little while longer? People will try to take that from you, but you can't let them. Sometimes though, after a while, you start to believe that they're right. Maybe you are stuck mixing the same old blues and you're just tired of trying to show people the difference in the richness. Sometimes you just don't have it in you to keep on expecting perfection when it doesn't exist.
Much to the salesman's satisfaction, one day I chose my blue. Not because he was tired of me, and not because I was rushed. I took my time, and I was pleased. I felt empowered by my choice and that was all that mattered. The happy color of the sea made me feel at peace; washed over and renewed. All the rooms in my house were some cheery color, but the irony in that tickled me something fierce. Happy colors to represent a happy life. I had sunrise golden walls in my dining room where there should have been murky browns. Brown is the color of the earth, and it was a place a longed to visit again. I remember the richness of the soil between my toes as a girl, helping my grandmother in her garden on a humid Carolina morn.
I had pastel green walls in my living room, where there should have been black ones. Black. The color of decay and death. Black. The dictionary defines black as being void of light and I couldn't agree more. Think of a candle, a fire, or flame. It shines bright and dances for all the world, warming all those near. People are careful not to get too close to it though, aware of the dangers lurking in between its amber glow. As beautiful as it is, it is nothing more than ash when it's time has expired. Black soot. Simply a decomposed dust of what it used to be. Sure enough, that would represent how I felt.
"Too Late for Early Detection"
The thing about "the Crazy", is that it was like a cancer of some sort. It had been living dormant in me for years and had signaled through aches and pains that it was in me, living just below my consciousness. On that Monday, when I discovered it had spread, I knew that something wasn't right. I felt my normal ability to control it was gone but I couldn't understand why. My happy blue walls could usually get me up out of bed; or sometimes a text message from friends and family could get me going. This morning, however, it was as if the white linen sheets were there to mummify me. There I was, in bed, trying to make sense of what was happening to me. Why did I feel so drowsy? My eyes were open and I was aware of the cool blue walls of my bedroom, even of the vibrating buzz of an early morning caller; likely a friend. My body would not cooperate with my mind and I cursed the witch on my back. I tried to recall all I had done that morning.
I didn't remember leaving the bed or getting up in the middle of the night but I could hear the vent going in the attached master bath. Blinking became a bit more difficult, and my eyes felt dry. Eye drops. I needed eye drops. Once I got them, I could get up and start my day. My head felt heavy, as if I were fighting hypnosis. I was in the front row of a play and someone behind the stage was about to lose their job because they couldn't get the damn curtains right! Open, close. Open, close...
I barely made it onto my side with my body feeling as heavy as a wheelbarrow full of bricks. Water. I needed water. If I could just sit up and drink the water I kept on my nightstand, I would be ok. With all of the strength I had left, I launched myself upward with my head bobbing around like a newborn baby. My eyes wildly scanned the room and settled on my nightstand. I saw an empty water glass. When did I drink this? Feeling confused and lost, I continued to look about the nightstand. My eyes were now fixed upon an empty bottle of sleeping pills. My body felt even heavier. My God, my god. I really did it, didn't I?!
Beside the empty bottle of sleeping pills sat an empty water glass. Held in place by the empty water glass was a single yellow sticky-note. It simply read, "I tried. I guess all my blues were the same."
"While on Others Thou Art Calling"
This was it. "The Crazy" had crept up on me without warning. I had attempted to commit suicide. I was unhappy yes, but I didn't think that I was so depressed that I would have gone and actually done it! I don't remember getting out of bed. I don't remember finding the pills or taking them. But I had done it. And I knew I was slowly leaving this world with each blink and each ragged breath. Despite being shocked at my own doing, I could barely believe peace was so near. I would be reunited with the rich Carolina soil that gave me such solace.
My mother. Lord help my mother when they find me. I lay there drowsy. Awaiting the "big sleep." Fred Sanford. I will miss watching that show. Guess this really is the "Big One" huh, Fred? I'll see if I can find 'Lisbeth." More drowsiness. My thoughts, faculties, and ability to breathe became slower. I knew nothing about death, but he's like that distant family member. Never met him, but heard enough stories about him to know him when I saw him.
Help me Jesus. Song titles from every hymn I ever learned in my southern Baptist upbringing came rolling through my head like movie credits. "Old Ship to Zion." "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot." "Precious Lord, Take My Hand." "Sweet Hour o' Prayer." "Pass Me Not Oh Gentle Savior." I tried...to recall the tune to the last one but couldn't think of any words beyond "Do not pass me by..."
The show was over. The black curtains of the theater blanketed my eyes. I let go and fell into the "hole" you fall into when you go to sleep. I went tumbling backwards into space and out of consciousness; out of this world and into the earth.
I always wondered what happens when you hit the bottom in one of those "falling" dream. I guess I will finally know.
This story is dedicated to all the men and women suffering from depression and mental illness who feel there is no other way. Don't let anyone tell you that your blues are the same. Keep mixing.