First published Oct 22, 2016
There was a label affixed to me all my life: crazy. I behaved in ways that were considered abnormal. I burst into tears in the midst of laughter, and laughed at inappropriate moments. I became angry at things that were imperceptible to others. I would sometimes overreact dramatically to insignificant experiences.
I was difficult to live with. When I was around, there was no calm. I tried the patience of everyone, and except for my family who did their best to tolerate me, I had few relationships and no real friends.
Perhaps in a more tolerant place, in a more tolerant culture, I would have been accepted enough to have some kind of life, but I lived in lonely despair, on the outside of society.
My emotions were unrelated to reality. Those familiar with my strangeness kept their distance; they never knew what might spring the hair-trigger trap. A glance that lingered too long might set me off screaming, hurling epithets, maybe even lashing out violently. A word that seemed innocent to others might cause me to break down in tears or curl up into a fetal knot, rocking myself to whatever small measure of comfort I could manage.
I could feel the emotion building inside me — big, powerful, explosive emotion — and I had no control over it.
I was not stupid, but it was hard to focus on learning when every moment was a struggle to maintain equilibrium. If I relaxed my vigilance for even a second, I could easily fall apart. It was exhausting.
I did not work but I received money from my family and a small stipend from the state, and was able to live in a tiny room by myself. It was better for everyone that I lived alone.
Many odd little rituals helped keep my mood level — not all the time of course, but at least for hours, sometimes even weeks on end. I woke up at the same time every day, ate the exact same thing for breakfast, wore the same clothes the same on the same day of the week.
I did my best to steer clear of strangers and they instinctively steered clear of me, but sometimes interactions were unavoidable. Maybe somebody pushed past me on the street or cut in front of me at the market. In these situations, I’d try to leave as quickly as possible before the emotions erupted. But if it was a bad day, if I was stressed by other things, I might not make it. I might react in ways that were inappropriate. I once screamed and ranted at a small child because he rode too close to me on his bicycle, frightening him and causing him to cry. In moments like these, I hated myself.
In those moments when I could not calm myself, I had no restraint, even knowing I’d pay for my actions — cursing at the grocer, shoving a neighbor, throwing and breaking my own possessions.
To the surprise of my family, I lived to be quite old, with the responsibility for my care passing from my parents to my siblings to their children.
None of them mourned too much when I finally passed over, but they were finally able to find some compassion.