Monday 11 February 2013

Can You Make Someone Crazy?

I'm not just talking getting someone to momentarily snap through frustration, I'm talking full on we-the-judge-and-jury-find-the-defendant crazy.

It's Mental Health Awareness Day tomorrow and so I find myself thinking about mental health issues.

And one of the thoughts which meandered through my brain was a curiousity.  We've all heard of driving someone crazy.  We've probably all accused someone of doing it to us at some point or another.  But usually what we mean is that we're frustrated and worried we'll act out of character.

There are stories of people being driven insane.  Mostly fictional, but some historical.  Queen Isabella's daughter, Joanna, was supposed to have been made insane by her cruel husband.  Full on, Ophelia and Hamlet levels of crazy.

There is late onset schizophrenia, in which otherwise normal seeming people lose contact with reality.  That could seem like someone being driven crazy, especially since there is usually a trigger event for the break.  But there are also usually signs of vulnerability in advance.

Can insanity ever be a choice?  Borderline personalities are usually shown as people with poor impulse control who can be prone to mania or depression.  In Girl, Interrupted Susanna Kaysen talks about having multiple levels of interpreters of reality.  The first may insist the bureau in a corner is a tiger but the second isn't so sure.  It's when both interpreters disagree with everyone else's interpretation of reality that true nutcases are born.  She explains that she has impulses that would seem crazy but for the most part, she chooses and is able to keep them under control. 

To me, these examples suggest that there has to be a seed present for environment to trigger.  I'm not a psychologist and have only what training the public library and Dr. Phil have given me, but the fine line between sanity and insanity fascinates me.  No one can ever be entirely clear where the crossover happens.  When someone switches from being acceptable to eccentric to nutzoid.

We all have a little bit of crazy in us.  Maybe that's the point of Mental Health Awareness.  To allow us the glimpse of insight and the luxury of compassion.

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