Have you ever said out loud or within the privacy of your own head,
I’m feeling like I’m crazy
I just want to feel normal
Or are you feeling more like pop star Lana Del Ray and saying,
I’m tired of feeling like I’m f*ck*ng crazy
If you have, today’s post is one you don’t want to pass over. Why? Because we are talking about feeling crazy. And why we ACOAs feel it all the time.
I remember when I started seeing my first therapist in NYC, her name was Joan. I was just about to ring the bell to her office when I looked down at my feet and then up to the sky.
And I remember doubting whether or not the sky was the sky. That’s how crazy I felt in that moment and had felt ever since I left the toxic home of my parents behind.
In my experience, I’ve learned that “feeling crazy” is rooted deeply in our dysfunctional childhoods. And one of the ways to get to the bottom of that feeling is to understand the why behind it.
And that’s what we’re going to do. Today, I’m helping you make sense of that crazy feeling by exposing its roots and then we’ll look at 3 ways that feeling gets reinforced in your adult life.
Once you’ve read through, I want to hear you in the comment section. Tell me how you deal with that crazy feeling. When do you feel like your really losing your sh*t?
As always, your voice, experiences and insights are vital to this community. And what you have to share is not only unique but it may be exactly what someone else needs to read. And that someone could be you.
Until Next Tuesday,
#1 Reclaim Your Reality
Denial is the super glue that holds the alcoholic/dysfunctional family together. And while in the midst of dysfunction, the family will do whatever needs to be done to preserve that denial.
Unfortunately, that means that when we’re kids we are taught (sometimes by force) to ignore the truth that’s sitting right in front of us.
Not only can this make you feel crazy but it will also teach you to doubt your perceptions.
For example, when I was about 11 years old, my brother (who is eight years older than me) got really drunk one night and beat up his girlfriend in his bedroom.
From the edge of the hallway that led to his room, I could hear her screaming and crying for help as he slammed her head against the wall.
I ran upstairs to my stepmom for help. Even though she could hear exactly what was going on downstairs, she looked me right in the eye and told me that nothing was wrong and that I should just ignore it. She told me that they were just “arguing.”
I knew they were doing more than just arguing but my stepmom wouldn’t budge. And I remember standing there feeling helpless and yet at the same time wondering if maybe I was just hearing things. Maybe what I heard and saw wasn’t real. I wondered if I just made it all up in my head.
When we grow up in an environment where we are taught to ignore reality, we carry that into our adult lives. And as adults when the reality we see is challenged, we feel crazy. We doubt that our interpretation of events are real. We disregard what we feel because we think, who would believe me anyway?
Part of diminishing the crazy you feel includes learning to reclaim your reality. It’s about recognizing where you were trained to believe someone else’s view of reality over your own.
My stepmom was the main reason I left home at 18. The mental and emotional abuse she dished was only getting worse. And I knew if I didn’t leave that I’d probably end up in a mental hospital.
A few years after I left Philadelphia for New York City, I agreed to a phone call with her to try to smooth out some of the rough edges of our relationship.
I should’ve know better then to get on the phone with her. Even after being gone without any contact for 3 years, she was still the same screwed up person.
While on the phone she made up this story about how after I moved to NYC, I’d moved back to Philadelphia for a year. This never happened. And I tried to correct her but she kept insisting that I made that move.
As I sat there on the phone and listened to her, do you know that for a few minutes I actually believed her! I actually thought to myself, now wait a minute, did I move back? Am I taking crazy pills?
Luckily, I knew better and I ended the call. I reclaimed the reality that I knew was mine.
#2 Stay Out Of Your Family’s Weeds
Denial if left unchecked (which it usually is) will grow like weeds in your family. And even as you seek out your recovery path, and make new discoveries about your self and the truth that has been hidden from you, there will still be people in your family that will blatantly deny reality.
This can make you feel crazy.
When I first started therapy, I remember telling my mom about it and do you know what she said to me? She said, “Do you really think you need that?”
This was coming from the women who held my brother’s bare hand on the hot stove top when she was drunk and chased me around the house with knives.
Even though you may be pulling your life together, that doesn’t mean that other people in your family will be doing the same. As a result, your realities are going to clash. But please of the love of God, don’t take that as any indication that you’re doing something wrong or that you’re crazy.
It may not be the right time for you to share with your family what you’re learning. That’s okay. What you need right now is to not feel crazy! And unfortunately, that kind of support may be something that they’re just not ready or able to give.
#3 Play A Little Game Of Trial And Error
So we talked about how feeling crazy is most likely tied to learned behaviors from kidhood. Basically, the family wants to maintain denial and in order to do that everyone has to be buying into the same twisted reality.
So when you speak up and suggest something to the contrary, something that doesn’t fit the families reality, you get shot down. And over time you start to doubt your perceptions and you have a hard time reconciling the reality you see and what you’re told to believe.
And then BAM you become an adult and you wonder why you feel so damn crazy!
I wish I had a magic wand I could wave to erase that crazy feeling. But guess what. I don’t have a wand and I’m pretty sure those kinds of wands don’t exist. So if you want to start to chip away at that crazy feeling, you’re going to have to play a little game of trial and error.
Playing a game of trial and error is really all about experimenting with your recovery. Take a suggestion from something you read here or from a book and try it out. See if it works. If it doesn’t, then you go back to the beginning and start again.
I’ve learned from my experience that this is what recovery from a chaotic childhood looks like.
The next time you feel that crazy feeling come over you, get curious. Ask questions. Write down the answers in a journal. Connect the dots backwards. Does the work suck sometimes? Yes it does but it’s worth it. I promise:)