Crazy is one of those words that those of us who are mentally ill may use to self-describe from time to time, but it’s generally considered offensive if anyone else uses it to describe us. But I only thought I knew what I was talking about any time I used the word before Sunday, November 6, 2016. That’s the day I learned what it really meant.
I’d actually need to rewind to two days before that (Friday) to explain how my husband drove me to a (former) friend’s house because I’d found myself inexplicably blocked by her on social media the previous Monday, and I was afraid it was due to the actions of her soon-to-be-estranged husband who didn’t want her talking to me. I’d tried to make contact in ways that he wouldn’t pick up on, but no luck. I was getting worried about her, so I knew I wouldn’t be able to rest easy until I checked on her in person. After all, she probably didn’t even realize that I was blocked.
But she didn’t answer the door. And we heard movement inside the house. So I left a note asking her to contact my husband if she didn’t want to talk to me for some reason, wondering if I’d inadvertently offended her by sending her pictures from Disney World or the fact that I had to ask what was on the pork chop she posted a picture of. (It was apple butter.)
A text to my husband only gave me more questions. I spent 10 hours crying that day, my eyes and nose raw. For those of you who think this might be a bit of an overreaction, let me remind you that I have Asperger’s, anxiety, depression, PTSD, and physical issues. I was still physically and mentally exhausted from my trip to the Type-A Conference, and I had just recently reconnected with this woman after two years of not speaking. (That was my doing. She’d been trying to be helpful, and I hadn’t seen it that way. It had been up to me to fix it.) To lose a rekindled friendship so soon after getting it back was hard, but not understanding why was even harder.
Depression turned to back to anxiety the next day. Clearly, there had been some misunderstanding. She hadn’t blocked the new account I’d created – one using references she would recognize to identify me without tipping off her husband if he’d been the culprit – so I had hope that she was considering my plea to talk things out.
Then Sunday morning hit, and I thought she’d blocked me again. (As it turned out, her profile link didn’t work because she’d updated her username, but I was still following her. I wouldn’t realize this for several hours.) I sunk even deeper into depression. I didn’t know what was going on. There was a name that was supposed to mean something to me, but it didn’t. I implored help from a mutual acquaintance. I didn’t understand the reference, so could she please ask what it meant?
To make a long story short, it was the name of a troll. Apparently a horrendously vile troll who had said completely unforgivable things…and she thought that troll was me. I don’t know what the troll said. I still don’t. But it must have been DEPLORABLE. The only thing she would tell our mutual acquaintance was “SHE KNOWS WHAT SHE DID, AND SHE KNOWS THAT I KNOW.”
And that’s when I lost it.
I hadn’t just lost a friend. I’d lost a friend because she thought I had done something entirely antithetical to my nature. If you know anything about me, you know I’ve done extensive anti-bullying campaigning across various social media platforms because I was bullied as a child, my son has been bullied, and I am against bullying in all of its various forms, including cyberbullying.
I would never bully someone. It made me physically ill to know that she really and truly believed I could and would do it to her.
And she wouldn’t let me talk to her. She wouldn’t listen to anything my husband or our other mutual acquaintance would say in my defense. I didn’t know what to do.
That’s when I dissociated.
I didn’t know what to do. That’s all that kept going through my head. I didn’t know what to do.
I became frantic. I was sobbing hysterically. I was using the f-bomb, which heretofore had rarely crossed my lips since 2010, and it never had before that. I think the term manic applied, which is rare indeed for someone like me with chronic fatigue syndrome who hadn’t had any mental or physical energy for weeks before this. Months. Years.
My husband was trying to help calm me down, but it wasn’t working. I knew it hurt him to see me hurt, but dammit, he couldn’t fix me. And our 11-year-old son was downstairs, and I didn’t want him to see me like this. It’s my job to take care of him, not to scare him and make him take care of me.
So I left the house. I drove off without any particular destination in mind. My husband was terrified for me. I learned later he was afraid I was going to leave him because he thought he was the reason I left. I feel awful about that now. But I didn’t know what to do.
But I drove to the park. It was cold and windy…so much so that the cold bit at me, but I felt like I deserved it. I didn’t do whatever my friend thought I’d done, but clearly I’d done something for which I deserved to be punished. I do this sometimes, though not usually with cold. I don’t self-injure, but I will consciously not take care of something that should be taken care of. Nothing that would result in lasting harm, but turning the bath water up too hot, staying up far later than I should, skipping a meal or eating foods I know will upset my stomach…
On Sunday, I wandered the park without gloves or hat, my coat open and blowing in the wind. I cried. I wanted to scream, but there were other people in the park, and I didn’t want them calling the cops. I made a Facebook Live video to let my husband know I was safe. But as soon as I posted it, I needed to leave. I didn’t want him or anyone else to come after me. I had to get away.
I drove to the cemetery where my dad is buried. I tried talking to him, but I mostly ended up on my knees, hugging the cold granite of his gravestone while I cried. I tried to make an “I’m safe” video there too, but cell phone coverage is spotty. I posted a photo instead. Then I had to leave, because both my brother’s house and my grandma’s house were within walking distance, and I didn’t want them to come after me.
I drove to another park that’s really just a small parking area with a walking path along the river. But it was dark now, thanks to Daylight Savings Time, so I didn’t leave my vehicle. I took a picture of the moon. I wasn’t sobbing so much anymore. I posted another “I’m safe” video and decided to move on because I got nervous when another vehicle pulled into the tiny lot, and the area was too secluded. I left for my physical safety that time.
But it was Sunday, and it was dark. All of the usual public places were closed. I didn’t want to spend time in a restaurant, despite how thirsty I was, because my face was frightfully tear-streaked and bleary-eyed. I drove down Route 9 and found nowhere to stop. I needed another place to stop so I could check in and let people know I was okay. I wasn’t okay, but I wasn’t going to try to hurt or kill myself, and people were afraid that I would. I’d had to promise someone I wouldn’t try to kill myself. I didn’t know what to do.
I ended up on Wolf Road, and I drove to the end, pulling into the parking lot at Colonie Center. It was a huge parking lot. I parked by a lamppost. I let people know I was safe. I wasn’t crying anymore, but I still felt desperate. I wasn’t ready to go home. I didn’t know what to do.
Using my phone, I determined that the bookstore was still open. I hoped my face made me look only like I was dealing with a particularly nasty cold. I found a greeting card that was blank inside. The front was painted with rainbow colors, a small white dove with an olive branch in its beak only a minor detail.
I bought the card and spent the next half an hour in the cold, dark parking lot using the light of the lamppost to fill up the inside of the card with a plea to talk to me. If we couldn’t be friends anymore, I would still be sad, but could she please just talk to me and see in my eyes that I am not capable of whatever she believes I did?
When I ran out of room to write, I closed the envelope. I’d already addressed it, ready to mail out, but my heart was tight and couldn’t wait for two or three days, wondering if it would get delivered or get lost in the mail. I knew I wouldn’t be welcome at her door, but I drove to her house.
She has an enclosed porch. I opened the porch door and dropped the card on the floor as quickly as possible. It dropped face down, which bothered me, but I couldn’t risk taking the time to turn it face up. I closed the door as quietly as possible and walked quickly back to my car. There’s no way anyone could miss that bright yellow envelope on the floor.
I drove home. I kissed my son good night. He still doesn’t know that Mommy went crazy last weekend. When I’d left, I promised him I’d be home by bedtime, and I was.
It was part panic attack, part manic episode, part autistic meltdown, part break from reality. It wasn’t a complete psychotic break though, because I was still in touch with enough reality that I could still be concerned about my husband and my son, and everyone else who cared about me. But I was out of my mind. I wasn’t going to hurt myself, but something bad could have happened to me anyways, because I didn’t know what to do.
This story is not about my friend or what she has or has not done. It is about me and how I react to situations where I feel helpless.
I’m numb now. Part of my autism means I will never stop obsessing about this. I can’t stand the idea that anyone believes I could be such a monster. I will never stop hoping she will realize she got the wrong guy and reach out to apologize for not believing me, and I will forgive her and be grateful for it. There’s far more to worry about now, since the election. But I’m handling that trauma far better than I should be, because I’m all cried out already. I already lost my mind.
I didn’t know this could happen to me. I didn’t know I was this crazy, this out of control. It scares me. Losing control has always scared me. And I guess that’s part of the problem.