If you’re anything like me, you occasionally wonder if you are going insane or, perhaps, are already there. “Insane” isn’t really the right word. That’s actually more of a legal term, requiring some sort of adjudication of your condition. Few of us will ever reach the point that such measures are necessary. Madness and lunacy are much better terms. Regardless of whether you call it madness, lunacy, bonkers or just plain crazy, we all think about it from time to time. (We don’t? Hmmm. Maybe it’s just me. That’s not good at all.)
In any event, I have identified certain markers of madness that may benefit others. These tell-tale signs should be used as warnings that we are close to veering off the path of the well-balanced into the median of lunacy.
I have had experience with all of these at various points in my life. In fact, I’ve had days where I’ve experienced them all. Those were not particularly good days, by the way.
I must qualify all of this by disclosing that I am NOT a mental health professional. Indeed, I have no medical or psychological training whatsoever. I am particularly unqualified to diagnose any condition or to offer any advice regarding appropriate treatment. So, should you actually be a lunatic, do not contact me for advice. In fact, don’t contact me at all. You could be dangerous, you know.
1. YOU ARE VERY IMPORTANT
Have you ever thought that you are a very important person, a VIP as it were? Now, I’m not talking about being important to your family or friends. Don’t confuse this with being important to your dog, either. Your dog thinks you are the lead dog. If you think you are a dog, that’s another set of issues altogether.
I’m talking about general importance. Your opinions are important, for example. If people disagree with you, it is an outrage. They are fools, because you are always correct. Those who disagree with you are Communists, racists, homophobes, anarchists, ne’er do wells, welfare queens, robber barons or many other such disagreeable sorts, depending upon your particular view of the world. These people lack your intelligence and insight. They don’t know as much as you know. Not only are these people wrong, they–and the rest of us–MUST know your opinion on everything for you are important and must be heard.
Chances are that you are like most us and only want to listen to people with whom you agree. It’s likely–almost certain, in fact–that the only people who want to listen to you are those who share the same views as you. Everyone else doesn’t want to listen to it. Sorry, but that’s how it goes. If you can’t accept that, madness lurks just around the corner.
Have you ever had the urge to say “Don’t you know who I am?” I know I have. Sadly, I’ve even said if before–and not just to myself, either. Perhaps, if I were–say–George Clooney that would make some sense. But, if I were George Clooney people would actually know who I am, and I wouldn’t have to say it. Even thinking that is bad. Thinking it may be even worse, because you might believe people do know who you are when they really don’t. Then, you just walk around thinking that you shouldn’t have to stand in lines or wait in traffic or pay your bills or wear pants. Maybe, we all should say it out loud every now and then just to be reminded that they don’t know who we are and don’t care.
2. YOUR JOB IS REALLY IMPORTANT
This could be a subset of the first sign above. Your job may actually be important. If you’re a firefighter, cop, oncologist or teacher you certainly have an important occupation. People depend on you. That is a good thing. Don’t confuse that with your job making you important.
I am a lawyer. I think that’s an important job. My clients depend on me to get them the results they want. Each case I handle is extremely important to those folks. Many people don’t think much of lawyers. We rank slightly above crack dealers and slightly below pimps in the public’s view. Used car dealers and insurance salesman are viewed largely the same. Yet, we all think we’re important. The painful truth is that a lot of people can do our jobs just as well–and even better–than we do.
Mathematician/Philosopher and all-round know-it-all Bertrand Russell once said that one of the signs of an impending nervous breakdown is the belief that your job is extremely important. He was a lot smarter than I am, but I’m not sure that’s correct. What I am sure of is that the belief that ME doing that job is extremely important is a bad sign.
I’m not irreplaceable. Neither are you. If you think you are, try this: Go in to your place of business and quit. I did that once. Guess what? They were fine without me. Someone else started doing the stuff I had been doing, and everything continued on as usual.
I’ve worked with people who died unexpectedly. People were really upset, some because they were human beings and others because death disrupts the workplace, what with the grieving and funerals and what have you. Soon, though, we were trying to figure out who would get the deceased’s furniture or office. Some of us were concerned that we might have to do more work.
So, the reality is that if you die at work, someone gets your credenza. That’s it.
3. YOU HEAR STUFF
We all know that hearing things can be a bad sign. Auditory hallucinations cause much trouble in the world. Rarely do we read of “voices” saying things like “Have a good day” or “Be nice to someone.” Usually, it’s stuff like “Eat that dog” or “Wear her skin as a vest.” These voices–at least I’ve been told–seem real, so we do as they command. If you’ve got that going on, for God’s sake, do something about it.
There is other stuff you can hear. God, for example. I’m not talking about something like a friend saying “God spoke to my heart.” That’s a kind of metaphorical observation that means “I got this feeling.” We’ve all had that. I mean God actually talking and you possibly talking back. Think of it like this: God went silent late in the Old Testament. Why would He start talking to you? If it’s because you are really important, re-read my comments above.
Maybe the radio talks to you. If you’re driving down the road screaming at Sean Hannity, that’s a problem. He can’t hear you. Perhaps you think 1970’s singer Dan Hill is crooning to you when you hear Sometimes When We Touch on the Oldies station. He isn’t. I used to think Olivia Newton-John was singing to me. I don’t think that anymore, unless I’m watching Grease.
You may have pets. You may love your pets more than any human. Good for you, but they don’t talk. Even if you talk to them in exaggerated baby talk that would embarrass any self-respecting infant, your dog or cat isn’t talking back. If they do, just Google “Son of Sam” and stay far away from me.
Oh, don’t confuse this with seeing things. There many benign explanations for this phenomenon–strong drink, drugs, poor lighting, etc. Don’t worry about this unless the things you see start talking to you.
4. YOU DON’T TAKE YOUR MEDICATION
There’s nothing wrong with medication, assuming it’s prescribed and you need it. Cymbalta, Wellbutrin, Zoloft and the like have done a world of good by altering troubling brain chemistry. If you stop taking it, though, we have a problem. This is especially true if you’re taking any sort of anti-psychotic medication.
When people start feeling better, they don’t want to take their medication anymore. They are, in their dysfunctional minds, “cured.” Here’s what you should do: The day you stop taking your medication, note that this is the day you start down the road to full-blown lunacy. You might even want to mark it on your calendar.
5. YOU BELIEVE IN CONSPIRACIES
We don’t need to belabor this point. Suffice to say that if you believe in any vast conspiracy that has remained secret for many years, you are not firing on all cylinders. Here is a just sampling of topics about which you may believe a conspiracy exists:
- The moon landing
- Marilyn Monroe’s death
- Elvis Presley’s death
- Bob Denver’s death
- The Kennedy Assassination
- Barack Obama’s birthplace
- The firing of the original Darren on Bewitched
- Anything involving a “New World Order”
- Area 51
- Big Foot
- The Knicks winning the 1985 NBA Draft Lottery
This list could be 10 times longer, but we’ll stop for brevity’s sake. There may be conspiracies peculiar to your own circumstances. For instance, your child may do poorly in school. You may believe that this is a result of teachers, administrators and fellow students conspiring against your child. Consider that your child may not be very bright or could be down right lazy. It happens.
Try this. Go out and see if you can line up 10 people you know for or against anything. It ain’t easy. Imagine now that you were wanting to kill someone with their help. Not likely.
Just repeat to yourself each day: There are no conspiracies. If you hear a voice repeating it back to you, well, you know.
These are the five markers of madness. You’ll notice that I didn’t delve into actual mental illnesses such as bipolar disease, schizophrenia, depression and the like. Again, I have no medical training. These specific diagnoses are best left to the professionals or you can easily diagnose yourself by searching on the Internet for your particular symptoms. Here is an educational video to help you better understand such diseases of the mind.
There is good news. Any one of these peculiarities, standing alone, is likely no more than a sign that you are weird or–if you are wealthy–eccentric. Two or more, sadly, point directly to crippling lunacy. You may be fortunate and become pleasantly mad–like many town characters throughout our great land.
It’s time to stop–at least that’s what the voices are telling me. You know how pushy they can be.