“Shine on You crazy Diamond”

Sorry if you came here after Googling Pink Floyd or Syd Barrett. This is about neither, really. But if you know the song, the rest of this will make sense.

I’ve dreaded this day for a while, the twice a year visit to my shrink to make sure it is the world and not me that is crazy. Presentation is key. Dress. Makeup. Have to look put together, a one hour sit down in front of the mirror, hot irons, foundation, mascara, lipstick, all that. I don’t normally wear all this stuff, but since most people here do, I do it so we don’t waste time talking about hygiene.

Okay, flawless complexion, pressed clothes. Even pass the toothbrush over my diamond ring. Maybe some sparkles will distract him. I’ve decided not to tell him about Shane, my brother who just died. It’ll just hurt to go there, there is nothing that can be done about it and this doc is good, he’ll dig it out of me that Shane had a paranoid schizophrenic episode in the last year. I don’t want him writing on my chart, “keep an eye on her, fam. hx of p. schiz.”

And hell, this doc is super good looking. The most beautiful man in town. If I woke up in a mental ward and he were my doctor, I’d think it was a Barbie Dreamhouse (loudspeaker: Calling Dr. Ken) or that I’m in a soap opera. So, no crying in here, (with three layers of mascara?) Not in front of Dr. Gorgeous.

In the waiting room no one makes eye contact. These are crazy people, right? One guy walks in and tells the receptionist, “I was told I could come here and pick up some samples.” She looks at him dumbfounded. Then he whispers, “Lexapro.” She hands him a bag of drugs and he’s out of there like he’s going to catch something.

Then it’s finally my turn, I flop myself on the comfy sofa and don’t do anything like cross my arms or give off any signs that he can’t poke around in my psyche. He’s got a framed Harvard degree on the wall (would I trust my mind to anything less?). He’s probably a perfect dad, too, his kid’s drawings are all over his desk under a big sheet of glass.

He asks, “What’s been happening in the last few months, dude?” (he’s talks cool too). He relaxes, shoves back in his chair just enough to where I see what’s on the wall to his side. An 8×10 framed up name “Shane” circled in a rainbow of colors.
My hands start shaking and my candy coating cracks off. I ask him if that’s one of his kid’s names and he gets all protective, “Yeah?”
I’m stuck, have to let the cat out of bag or he’ll think I’m some loony after one of his kids.

Good thing I did tell him. He says the drugs probably caused Shane’s psychosis and I don’t have to worry about getting it one day.

I don’t have anything major, just trying to outrun the black dog. There is such a stigma attached to mental illness. People should not have to be ashamed of it. If you or someone you know has it, check out NAMI, an organization that fights this stigma and offers support to those and family members of mental illness.


21 thoughts on ““Shine on You crazy Diamond”

  1. A huge Viking “HAIL” to NAMI and other organizations like them that seek to educate the masses about the realities of mental illness.

    My youngest brother is mentally ill. Each day of existence for him is a struggle, but he has been extremely fortunate in that he has (somehow) managed to avoid becoming involved with drugs and alcohol and has never reacted violently enough to cause himself or any one else injury.

    As tough as it is for the families of the mentally ill, I can only imagine what each day must be like for someone who is actually stricken with one or more of these horrific conditions. The human brain is a complex and frightening place. Often, the side effects of the prescribed drugs are worse.

    My mother has pressured me for years to write a movie about mental illness — perhaps a story loosely based on Reed. As a passionate moviegoer and long standing member/volunteer of NAMI, she wants to see more films that depict mental illness in a more accurate light.

    Perhaps one day in the not-so-distant future, you and I could collaborate on a script together, Kitty — one that both entertains and enlightens . . .


  2. I’ve learned, through years, that the stigma of a mental illness in a family is like breast cancer. One family member had it, oh, you absolutely gonna get it yourself. And there… you spend half your life searching and digging under your skin for the little lump that will indicate how right everyone had been on their “prognosis”. Till one day you realize the “lump” has always been there, in your head, your mind. And that is the worst kind of lump.

    We haven’t had history of any sort of mental illness in my family. But I’ve seen people, I’ve worked with people. And I’ve grown to recognise that look in their eyes, the one that pleads you to not perceive them as crazy or “out of here” just because a parent or a sister or a brother had “crossed the line”. That one look that asks you constantly for the ultimate answer. And sometimes I wonder which one is worse: to actually have it or to live with the idea that someday you may show the first warning symptoms. I still haven’t figured out the answer to that.

    I’m blown away. Blown away by your courage, by your ability to “show up” and not just run and hide away in a dark cave, by that stunning, amazing way you stay in touch with your feelings and with the reality that you are one perfect, healthy person. Unknownlingly, you have taught me so many very important lessons. I’m forever grateful and thankful. Blane is one hell lucky man.

  3. I almost deleted this post so many times before you three wrote in.

    Roch, your mother is wise. So are you, it is a more difficult stuggle for the afflicted. My brother’s nightmares came to life, and he didn’t hurt anyone, just tried to hide behind doors and duck the bullets and knives coming at him. For days on end. The horror and torment of it is too difficult for me to imagine, and I didn’t see him like that, just heard about it from others. Your family is lucky to have such a good mother, and that is a great movie idea. Maybe one day I’ll be smart enough to tackle the issue in a screenplay with you.

    A friend of mine has a daughter who was diagnosed with schizophrenia when she was just a little girl. She says it always hurt her to hear kids calling other kids “schizo” or “psycho”. She told me about NAMI years ago and I got involved.

    Sophia, I don’t know for sure if having a family history of mental illness really puts one at a higher risk, but the stigma is there, “runs in the family.” Being an artist probably puts me more at risk. There’s a blurry line between art and sanity. But gosh, I’m not perfect, no way.

    Pooks, you sure you can handle Dr. Gorgeous? Every person I’ve sent to him has come back with, “Okay, you told me, but still, I had no idea.”

  4. Kitty, you are so way brave to put this up there – I’m sending you my biggest shout-out, brave girl. Cos I’ve got more than a little of that in my own woodpile – my mom has that exact same twice a year visit (which is such a good thing for her, for all of us, believe me). And my dad’s mom and her sister were quite a pair, but refused to believe it was them, and not everyone around the, who needed to stop, reevaluate, maybe ajust the human chemistry so it could work the way it is supposed to. Spent many days as a teenager looking at Psych textbooks thinking ‘which one will I get when I grow up?’. So strange – its ok that there is infinite room for difference on the outside, but people have such a hard time with accepting it when its on the inside. Cheers, brave girl!

  5. Hey there,

    As a person who works in the field, I can say that nami is a great resource. I think that the stigma related to a mental illness prevents thousands from leading full lives. There are a lot of people out there who hole themselves up in dark houses, black out for days on end, and generally miss out because they are afraid of being labled “crazy”. It’s about wellness. I applaud your bravery in sharing this, thank you.

  6. “And my dad’s mom and her sister were quite a pair, but refused to believe it was them,”

    Beth that so cracks me up.

    The scariest thing about psychology is anything can happen to anyone. Being raised by perfect or even okay parents doesn’t gaurantee a sound mind. Nothing does.

    It’s a real shame, when I was a nurse I saw people with depression and didn’t believe it was real, that these people needed to get control of themselves, that they had a flaw in character. I didn’t really know what it was even though I’d studied it. I didn’t understand it until I got it myself. In the end, it made me a much better person.

  7. I’ve never been to a pychiatrist although I probably should. I work on outrunning the black dog other ways.

    As you know Kelsy suffers from depression and is on medication. This was so hard for me to “get” as I just wanted to tell her to cheer up, damn it! But it doesn’t work that way.

    Did you read the 7 part article in the DMN about schizophrenia? It was so shocking and sad.

  8. Hi Slynne, I think if my brother had gotten help for his depression years ago he would not have turned to pain killers and would be alive today. He didn’t think he had depression, he just “couldn’t sleep” and hell, he never cried, depressed people cry, right? I don’t. That’s why I didn’t think I had it. Lack of tears.

    Cfo, yeah, it wouldn’t hurt (it just stings) to see a psychiatrist. The one I see treats a lot of people without drugs. Most of the time, I’m okay with just exercise (lots of it).

  9. “Most of the time, I’m okay with just exercise (lots of it)”
    So you are not only talented, but well balanced AND cute n’ skinny for a visit with Dr. Georgeous – Now that, Kitty, is what I call multi-tasking! What the heck am I doing with my time?

  10. Ha ha Max.
    You know I have other stuff going on that we needed to talk about. And this was a quick appointment (they really do have timers).
    I really thought I’d outsmart him and not have to go there. He outlucked me that day.

  11. Um. Well, you know, the nature of psychiatry is you are supposed to tell the truth, or at least the truth as you see it, and that is what those whacky kids with the licenses have to work with to untangle things and make them clear to you. That is the idea behind the “science” anyway. Which sort of gets derailed if you go in with the intention of withholding information from the get go.

  12. Oh, I tell the truth. He has to ask the right questions, and he always does. I have never been able to keep anything from this guy. I could almost swear he’s psychic.
    I didn’t think we had time that day, there were other things I needed to get his advice about.

  13. Well you know a guy who is smart, unearthly good looking, and asks the right questions is an alien from outer space. Next time you see him ask if he could have a few more of those fed exed down from the mother ship, preferably single.

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