When we see crazy people on the street, we tend to just cross to the other side of the street (or throw money at them as we quicken our pace) and go about our day. By “we” I mean “us”, or “you and I”, and not the royal “We” as in, “We find this vexing.” I’ll let you place your own value judgment on whether or not this behavior of ours is right or wrong, I’m not going to go into that here. But when we encounter crazy people on a regular basis, we’re forced to deal with them as people and that is a fucking difficult thing to do.
Pretend for a moment that there is someone in your life who insists that the sky is Phoenician Purple and that dogs walk backward and poop ice cream. Seriously, pretend that person is in your life on a daily or almost daily basis. How do you deal with that person? If it’s a coworker, you’ll probably just nod your head and quietly make fun of him or her on your lunch break. If it’s someone you love, you may have spent countless hours trying to talk sense into them (you may still do) but at the end of the day you’re most likely going to nod your head and give them love and be quietly sad when you think about them.
But that’s a benign sort of crazy that isn’t terribly disruptive or destructive. What if the person in question is seriously fucking bonkers? Not someone who was born insane, but someone who has been driven insane by, at first, fucked up and horrible shit that’s been done to him or her by family members and, later, by his or her own incredibly bad decisions and their equally bad consequences. And the longer this person lives, the more bad decisions he or she makes, and the more bad decisions that get made, the crazier this person becomes, until what you’re left with is something more like a cornered, wild animal than an adult human being.
Try to imagine what that person would be like by first thinking about yourself as you are now (yes, I’m making the assumption that you’ve had an “average” or “good” upbringing and life up until now, just run with it). Now go back in time a bit and, instead of the childhood you did have, imagine that your parents betrayed you in some horrible way. Instead of being people you could trust to protect and care for you, imagine that they instead emotionally, physically (or both) battered the shit out of you. Forget about whatever damage may have been done to your body and think instead of what they did to your spirit. Think about the defeat you’d have felt. And the hurt, the anger, the self loathing, and the rage. Think about how that would make you feel as a person and how it would make you feel about people. Imagine that your parents were so horrible that before you were old enough to drive, you had to run away from home, not because you were unhappy but because your hindbrain sense of survival kicked in you knew that if you didn’t get out, you were going to die.
Where would that have left you? On your own with half (if that) an education, battered, scared, angry, and filled with a hatred for the world that doesn’t quite match the hatred you have for yourself. You were never taught to how to love or be loved and you learned instead to be completely untrusting of all people you encounter. What people do you think you’d have been likely to talk to, given all of that? Would they have been people you could trust? Or would they have been the sort of people who’d sell you for dinner and a bottle? What would happen when you developed a romantic attachment to one of these people? Would that have worked out well or would that wound up hurting you even more? What if you got married to one of these people and, instead of being someone you could trust to protect and care for you, they (emotionally, physically, or both) battered the shit out of you? Would you have let that kill you or would you have found the will to escape, just as you had before? Would you have repeated that mistake? If so how many times? As you continued to age, your ability to get by on your wits would, without doubt, have dramatically improved. And as that happened, perhaps you’d have finally found a way to put yourself into a position of some small power, regaining control over your life. But by the time this had happened, you’d been beaten down by life too many times and you’d learned that you can never trust anyone because everyone – literally everyone – is out to fuck you in the ass. You’d learned that people are ugly and mean and hurtful and you’d decided that you weren’t ever going to let anyone hurt you ever again.
Keep going with that and pretend that that is who you are today. That you cannot allow yourself to let go of control for even a second. The few people that you’ve allowed a place in your life will never be able to control you or hurt you or betray you under any circumstance. You won’t allow it. At the slightest hint of betrayal or threat, you will jettison a person from your life faster than you can say, “Goodbye.” This includes the people who work for or with you. This includes all of your friends. This includes your spouse. This might even include your children. And worse, because you’re in a position to ditch any or all of these people at a moment’s notice, you don’t have a real relationship with any of them. The people you think of as friends don’t have the slightest idea who you really are. They don’t understand you and, beyond a face and a name, they don’t know you. You are alone.
Have a good idea of what this person might be like? Good, now stop pretending you’re that person and instead imagine that this person is someone in your life. Someone you see on a daily basis. How do you deal with that person? I mean, it’s not like they’re constantly coming at you with a knife or are trying to barbecue your feet or something equally batshit insane. Those people are easy to deal with: You either kill them or lock them up, depending on your attitude toward capital punishment. But how do you deal with this person? How the FUCK do you deal with someone like that?
To answer that question you might first ask whether or not this person is a family member. If the person is a family member then you’re kind of saddled with them and you have to learn how to deal with them. Kinda sorta. Honestly, if this person were one of my family members, I wouldn’t allow them access to me 99% of the time. It’s called tough love and it sucks but it’s sometimes your only option. Perhaps a better question to ask yourself is, “Do I really need this person in my life right now?” If the answer is no, then Jesus Christ, run for the hills and never look back. However, if the answer is yes, you’re left with your first question: How do I deal with this crazy person?
And the burden is 100% yours. The crazy person can’t be expected to change or be reasonable or anything else because he or she is fucking crazy. At this point you might be thinking to yourself, “I don’t think that example was at all hypothetical,” and you’d be right in thinking so. The person I described is real, although the description is a mix of known truth, speculation, and outright fiction, because even crazy people deserve their privacy. And, no, this person isn’t a family member and yes, this person is someone I have to tolerate and learn to deal with. For the time being, anyway. And really, learning to deal with people is sort of essential to being a better human being (and, some would argue, kind of what life is all about).
And here’s what I have so far: This person must be treated as though he or she is a close member of my family, who is very, very sick. I’ve arrived at this conclusion because a), I (all of us, really, but I’ll speak only for myself) tend to be far more tolerant and generous with family than non-family and, b), because this person is, in fact very, very sick. Whether the sickness lies in the head or in the soul is for someone else to decide, I’m concerned only with the symptoms and even then, only as far as they affect my life. And how do you treat a family member who’s that sick and that fucked up? You try to find patience when you’d ordinarily have none and you constantly remind yourself that this person is sick and needs help. And how am I doing with that? Failing miserably, every day, thanks for asking. But I’m trying.