crazy

Overcoming Life’s Problems – Life Advice From a Mental Patient

Overcoming Life’s Problems – Life Advice From a Mental Patient

Often, we can learn from someone else’s life situation. What follows is my story, and a method I used to overcome a huge problem. At the story’s end, I’ll share a general rule you might use to help yourself.


The reception area is at the entrance—a hallway. I sign my name and am ushered in and, as the doors lock behind me, I survey the scene. It’s likely I will die here. I’d rather die fighting “the revolution” in the streets than in this place.

At the nurse’s station, I tell nurse I want out, but she doesn’t listen. I grab a table lamp to use as a weapon as the men in the white coats approach. I know they will kill me.

The next morning when I awake, the only thing that has died is my innocence.

The psychiatrist who previously interviewed me suggested I sign into the mental hospital. He was the authority and presented no alternatives, so I did what he said.

Mom brought me in to see him after I rolled my car off the road and hit a tree. I heard voices, thought someone followed me, and thought they had drugged my food. I was having flashbacks from the psychedelic drug experiments that had replaced my lab work in grad school.

The emerging counter-culture, with its rock-and-roll, radical politics, alternative schools, communes, and drugs, was far more interesting than my academic pursuits. Academic science was too competitive for me, a very sensitive person. During my first hospitalization, I searched my soul for what I should do to make life easier. I dropped out after eight years of college.

My personnel file was not available. After twenty job applications with no luck, I became suspicious, and sent the file to a friend who graduated, pretending to apply for work with him. He informed me of my professors recommendations—all bad. Is it reprehensible to give bad recommendations? Why couldn’t they tell me they couldn’t recommend me? They commonly call this stigmatization, but it’s prejudice.

Eight years and seven hospitalizations later, I decided I’d had enough of hospitals. I’d do whatever it might take to never return. Through trial and error plus hard work and persistence, I came up with three ways to beat the “revolving door.”

First, I was non-compliant. I didn’t do what the doctors suggested, as I knew these were ways to keep me hooked into the system. I didn’t take their meds, go to community outreach for therapy, or live in neighborhoods with other ex-patients.

Second, I got an apprenticeship with a fiber arts professor at the college. My friends told me I’d never find one, that it would be better to take workshops. But I persisted and was lucky. Weaving provided me with a calming moving meditation. It gave me a new creative outlet to replace my scientist identity. And it kept me busy and away from the streets and clubs.

Third, instead of seeing state-funded therapists, I saw a private one. She came recommended. I had to wait two years for her calendar to clear.

After two sessions that included my parents, she told me we had a family problem, and I was the one showing the symptoms of the problem. She explained that hearing voices originated from my subconscious to make me feel more important in the wake of a lifetime of rejections. She suggested that whenever I heard them, instead of listening in, I should take this as a signal to check out where I was feeling rejected, and to work on that. After doing this, the voices tapered off and disappeared after a year.


The lessons I learned and how I beat the system are useful to solving many life problems. I summarize them with the acronym L.I.P

LIP =

Listening to your inner voice

Intention fixed and strong

Persistence in what you know is right, not what others say.

Posted by Don Karp in Guest Posts, Reflections
Kind of Crazy or Kind of Scared?

Kind of Crazy or Kind of Scared?

Have you ever heard or said the phrase, “They’re my kind of crazy”? For some reason, my brain has fixated on this phrase for the last week and, as such, I have felt driven to write in order to examine it. What the heck does it mean? Is the person clinically insane, or just strange or weird in some agreeable way? Perhaps they maintain a collection of exotic butters?

To put the phrase in my own context: I typically say it to a close friend while having a great time with others, or while watching a video or performance that is perhaps just on the edge of being socially acceptable. You know—one of those “hilarious, but not something I’d ever show my parents” kind of things. “They’re my kind of crazy,” to me, means someone has a similar mindset and is just one or two steps ahead of me, either in terms of thought process or of courage. I want to be like them because of the abilities they have or way they think.

It is so easy to admire others…or even be jealous of what they have that we don’t, and I have spent so much time training myself to not be jealous, but to funnel that energy towards attaining the things I admire in others. For the skeptics among my readers, I will tell you a little story about how I got to that point. In my early college years, I was a lump. Not because I stayed indoors without human interaction, playing video games (although that’s mainly what I did), but because I didn’t do anything to try to improve my life and be happier. I should have been as green as the wicked witch from all the envy I had for the “normal humans” who seemed to effortlessly enjoy life, but I never took the time to find out why they enjoyed life. I never even took the time to figure out why my life sucked in the first place! I refused to.

It was not something I wanted to deal with.

Long story short, my life reached a rock-bottom point where I was forced to look at myself and the pit I had dug. And yes, in my case, the pit was dug by yours truly; I didn’t just fall into it, because it was the culmination of a lot of complicated things I could have influenced. At that point, I realized that I didn’t have a kind of crazy to be drawn to, I was crazy. Crazy enough to let myself slip to that point.

We all have our skeletons—some scarier than others, and some less controllable than others. In any case, a bit of observation and retrospection can lead to some life changing-epiphanies. I encourage you to find a journal or legal pad or some writing surface (yes, I mean writing by hand, because writing engages the brain in ways a computer can’t) and just write out a list of what’s on your mind – good or bad. Did a coworker annoy you today? Write it down. Was your lunch extra tasty? Write it down. Worst or best day of your week, month, year? Write it down. Has something been nagging at your brain for weeks? Yup, you guessed it! That’s it. That’s the whole exercise. You don’t have to do anything else unless you feel like it.

The act of writing thoughts down gets our brain to engage with them, both consciously and subconsciously, which sets gears in motion to move you from wherever you are to a better place. Our subconscious developed to keep us safe, and when you take even the tiny moments to recognize things that are bad, it will start to take notice. Now, I’m not saying that this exercise will change your life overnight. Few things, short of winning the lottery or getting hit by a bus, will do something that drastic. However, if you do this with some regularity, you may start to notice small things changing for the better. In my humble opinion, small, incremental changes, whether good or bad, lead to far less chaos and far more stability than big, abrupt changes.

For those of you that want faster change or are just over-achievers, here’s your extra credit: once you’ve written your list (or word cloud—it doesn’t have to be neat and orderly as long as things are on paper), pick one or two thoughts from the page and spend some more time on them. Think about how those things affect you and, in turn, how you can affect them. Then start doing something about it! Few things change the way we want them to without our direct interaction.

So. What’s your kind of crazy?

Posted by Curious in Reflections, 0 comments