Call me crazy

Patsy Cline performing Crazy, 1961

Crazy, I’m crazy for feeling so lonely. I’m crazy, crazy for feeling so blue.

Written by Willie Nelson and performed by Patsy Cline, Crazy is one of my all-time favorite songs. Hearing Cline effortlessly jump from a high note to a low note, the raw emotion and tone of her voice give me goosebumps every time. I also love the sentimental melody and lazy, unhurried tempo of the song.

It was the spring of 1999. I was finishing my third year of college and things were not going well. I was definitely feeling lonely and blue, maybe a bit crazy, too.

Academically speaking, I was doing great. The books side of school had always been easy for me. That didn’t change in college. I made the Dean’s list every semester and was studying under a fabulous flute professor who taught me so much about performance improvement. I enjoyed the classes I was taking, unless we had to do group activities. The very thought sent me into a panic attack.

Every subject that I was interested in and excelled at (music, foreign languages, history) would have led to a teaching career or something that involved a lot of interaction with people, which I knew I wasn’t cut out for. I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life after graduation and was amassing student loan debt by the day. I had come too far to quit or start over, but was utterly lost about which path to take.

Overall, I was unhappy. Something was wrong but I didn’t know what, so I started researching medical possibilities. WebMD was in its infancy at the time, but I found a condition that I thought seemed to fit me best: avoidant personality disorder.

People with avoidant personality disorder:

  • are overly sensitive and easily hurt by criticism or disapproval (check)
  • have few, if any, close friends and are reluctant to become involved with others unless they are certain of being liked (check)
  • experience extreme anxiety and fear in social settings and relationships, leading them to avoid activities or jobs that involve being with others (check)
  • tend to be shy, awkward, and self-conscious in social situations due to a fear of doing something wrong or being embarrassed (check)
  • seldom try anything new or take chances (check)
  • have a poor self-image and see themselves as inadequate and unappealing (check)

I called the student health center on campus and asked to see someone. When I got to my appointment, a therapist started asking me questions. Before I could even open my mouth, I started crying the ugliest of all ugly cries. I lost all sense of composure and couldn’t arrange my thoughts into coherent sentences in order to explain what was wrong. The therapist had initially thought that group therapy might help me, but clearly that wasn’t going to be an option. I never went back or told anyone else about this until now.

I don’t look back on my college years with fondness. Everyone had said that college would be the greatest time in my life, but for me it was absolutely the worst. The thought that everything after college was supposed to go downhill was extremely depressing. How could things get any worse? With thoughts like this, it was hard to be optimistic about the future. I was extremely afraid no one would ever hire me and I wouldn’t be able to support myself.

Although autism is now classified as a neurodevelopmental disorder, it has a long association with mental illness. The term autism was first used in the early 20th century and was regarded as a symptom of schizophrenia, rather than its own condition. Many people on the autism spectrum have at least one co-existing mental disorder; some scientists have estimated this number is as high as 70%. Some are initially diagnosed with depression, anxiety, or ADHD, for example, before it’s determined that they also fit the criteria for autism spectrum disorder.

I have never been formally diagnosed with a psychological or mental disorder. Do I have one? I don’t know, but I have struggled with depression, anxiety, and panic attacks. And I do believe it’s only logical that psychiatric issues are likely to sprout in the fertile soil of dealing with the effects of autism. The mental health of someone who has difficulty making friends, who doesn’t know how to go up to someone and start a conversation, or who tries to interact with others by telling them that female mosquitoes always buzz in the key of G (did you know that?) is probably going to suffer greatly from the effects of social isolation and ostracization.

So go ahead and call me crazy. Or weird. Or strange. Or anti-s0cial. I’m not offended by any of those terms. Characteristics that we have no control over are nothing to be embarrassed about. Just don’t tell that to my twenty-year-old self. She wouldn’t have believed you.

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4 thoughts on “Call me crazy

  1. While complaining about some social issue at school, my mother said to me the worst thing she could possibly say, though I know she was just trying to help. She told me that one day I would look back on my high school years as the best years of my life. Fortunately for my mental well being, I knew even at that moment that she had to be wrong. At least as an adult I could for the most part choose who I would associate with and I was right, though I still struggle with social situations to this day. But for an outgoing person like her, her statement was true for her. Especially considering she rushed into a marriage that she would regret, though made the best of. If you want to gauge someones social comfort level, just take note of who attends their class reunions. Number fifty is coming up for me next year and no, I won’t be at that one either. Thanks once again for an enlightening post.

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    1. That’s an excellent point, Dave! I’m sure most people mean well and are just trying to offer encouragement in those situations. They base their comments on their own experiences, which is completely natural. But not everyone has the same experiences; it would be helpful if people could see beyond themselves. And you might be surprised about attending a class reunion. I bet a lot of them would be thrilled to see you. I haven’t missed any of mine, but then I loved high school. Most of the people who come to mine aren’t the bullies or the homecoming queens, but rather the middle-of-the-road people. I talk to people who I never talked to all those years ago because we had nothing in common then. Life – especially parenthood – has a funny way of changing people. (And here I am doing exactly what I just said wouldn’t be helpful. Shame on me!)

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  2. Often times people will just say that “they get it” (how much it hurts and so on), but they get it from their own idea of what pain is and how it felt.

    I know that deep deep down in their heart they want to help, but they cannot do it from a place where they just shut off emotionally and tell you “you have to do..such and such”. So many times people actually displace themselves from taking action and making something for the better just by having an opinion because it’s easier to say something than do something.

    People these days use the term “autistic” just to joke about someone who did something “stupid” or not “normal”, but i do my best to not pay attention when called names. People have always wanted to put me in their little box, but i was never a fit for it.

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