Thomas Wictor

Not your problem

Not your problem

I’m mentally ill. But it’s not your problem.

Some of my mental illness is genetic. I have clinical depression on both sides of the family. One relative lived by herself for decades, filling each room of her house with junk until there were piles that reached the ceilings. She used a chamberpot and emptied it out the back door, even though she had indoor plumbing. When my parents were visiting her to try and help, she said to my mother, “If you’re hot, take off your blouse!”

She then proceeded to strip to the waist. No bra. And she was seventy-eight years old.

I don’t know who this ancestor is, but he’s obviously a loon.

In my case I have post-traumatic stress disorder with secondary psychotic features (PTSD-SP), depression, and anxiety. I take medication for all of them. Much of my mental illness has external sources. As a child of five, I remember dissociating. By the time I was ten, I had high blood pressure and a plethora of tics. I sniffed, blinked, shrugged my shoulders, fidgeted, stuttered, and made weird facial expressions.

Here’s a photo of me in Tyler, Texas, at the age of eleven.

The three women are my Aunt Fel, my grandmother Angelina, and Mom.

A few years ago, I saw this ad campaign.

It left me cold for several reasons. The music was annoying, the people in their white shirts were presented as heroic simply for being afflicted, and the goal—”Change a mind about mental illness”—is totally nebulous. What does it mean?

Yes, metal illness is stigmatized, but can it really be any other way? All things being equal, would you want a babysitter who’s bipolar or one who isn’t?

The reason I’m posting about this is that to this very day, I continue to become ensnared with mentally ill people who hide their problems and then spring them on me. I used to go to a certain drugstore where they have rewards cards. I got sick of stuffing my wallet with five thousand little plastic tabs, so I just give them my phone number instead.

Well, one of the clerks calls me when I don’t show up as often as she’d like. I’m not afraid of her, but it’s pretty annoying. Also, her messages are always incoherent and end abruptly. At the store she’s perfectly normal.

I can’t count the number of times a person has pretended to be of sound mind, and then either when I’m involved in a business venture or a friendship, they tell me that MK-ULTRA did trauma experiments on them, or they have to share a secret that’ll endanger my life, or they see visions of puppets on strings running through the air.

In college a girl I knew sat on my bed one evening and said, “Wanna see my impression of a crazy person?”

Before I could answer, she began giggling and drooling. It went on forever.

In 2012, as I wrote Ghosts and Ballyhoo, I corresponded daily with Carmen, the Cardinal Ghost. Going over the photo section, she was appalled by this image.

“You look so sad,” she wrote.

That’s because I was. She’d driven me away in 1993 and then said the cruelest things I’d ever heard in 1994, so I began eating without letup. That photo was taken at my fattest, when I weighed 275 pounds. I didn’t mention any of that to Carmen. How could I? She was a married woman I hadn’t seen in twenty years. I couldn’t say, “This was what happened after you threw me out of your life. I had a mental collapse that took me years to overcome.”

One of Carmen’s complaints about me in 1993 was, “You think the whole world hates you.”

No. I never thought that. The problem is that the mental illnesses that were induced in me prevent me from functioning in society. I didn’t know it at the time, however. The reason for my ignorance was that despite what mental-health professionals tell you, and despite all the medical evidence to the contrary, my sanity and happiness did come from an another person: Carmen.

For three years I didn’t despise myself, didn’t fear the future, didn’t have nightmares, didn’t have insomnia, didn’t drink or drug myself into unconsciousness, and didn’t feel the bottomless rage that had been my constant companion.

All of that came back—except for the drinking and drugging—during the year it took for Carmen to drive me away. Though I never hated her for it, I didn’t understand until 2012. She didn’t sign up for what I represented. Her own tolerance for horror was low, so I had to go.

I don’t view it as being fair or unfair, moral or immoral, right or wrong. It was a tragedy for me, but so are natural disasters. Can you blame a hurricane or tornado? I didn’t deliberately hide anything from Carmen to spring on her later. What happened was that I had a conversation that triggered memories. Then I had the conversation with Carmen that ended our relationship. It couldn’t have been any other way. I’d changed forever in her eyes.

My own complaint about the mentally ill is that people disguise themselves and then unload on me. I don’t sign up for these relationships. Though mentally ill myself, I’m like you: I prefer the company of those who are not problematic. All I want for the rest of my time here is a lack of melodrama.

It doesn’t bother me when people call me crazy, but I understand how that would hurt others. I don’t ask that you include me in your life or not “stigmatize” me, because I don’t know what that means. My only requirement is that you not assault me. If you do, I’ll assault you back, even harder. As long as you don’t get physical or make calls or drop by, say whatever you want. Words don’t hurt me, especially when they’re spoken by idiots whose opinions are worthless.

Despite my mental illness, I’ve achieved that which I thought in 1994 would elude me forever: happiness. I’m fine. My life is good. There are lots of things I miss, but I’ve been recompensed. Which reminds me of one of my favorite songs.

It brings to mind a sublime era in which I had everything. I could even play that bass line! Imagine. My greatest accomplishment is that I no longer commit crimes of self-defense. I have no need to defend myself anymore. Nobody can hurt me.

I hope that someday you’ll arrive where I am. When people call us crazy, we’ll just laugh at them.

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