IS “CRAZY” CONTAGIOUS?
One of the non-Trump related news stories this month is the measles outbreaks occurring in states/areas that allow parents to opt out of having their children immunized for preventable childhood diseases. I guess the thinking is that, if everyone else immunizes I don’t need to. There seems to be a flaw in the reasoning, since the outbreaks continue.
Most diseases are spread from person to person by a variety of means. They are hard to avoid, and we are dependent on our immune systems to protect us. My question is, are there mental states that are contagious, as well?
I’ve heard yawning is contagious, I am pretty sure depression is contagious (just try staying cheerful around someone who is down). And, I am beginning to believe that various forms of “crazy” are contagious as well.
The term crazy, as used here, is not a pejorative term. We are all a little crazy in one way or another at some points in time. We feel “out of control,” “over the top,” “freaking weirded out”, or whatever description you want to use. Nobody really escapes those experiences, but some people seem to be in a constant state of craziness. (Come on, we all know people we believe seriously need medication for “something” even if we can’t define it.) Maybe we even think we do, or maybe we are good and take our meds and wish others would, as well.
Once we come to that happy place where we have accepted our own brand of crazy, we notice that there are friends or acquaintances who maintain an ongoing high level of turmoil and it is almost impossible to be around them without getting “sucked into their vortex.” You begin to feel like they are drama addicted. No problem is so small that it can’t be made into a life-altering trauma; a scratch on their car, a case of the flu, a child’s hassle at school, a misplaced key, ANYTHING and EVERYTHING is cause for angst, paranoia, and hysteria. Lord help us if they have a REAL issue such as divorce to contend with.
As I have gotten older, I find that I am more susceptible to crazy-making experiences and people. I am less likely to shrug things off, and more likely to get sucked into other people’s crazy. I empathize, I commiserate, I understand, I listen, I advise, I care, I support, and, in the end, I go home cycling between wanting to throw up and wanting to cry. I CAN’T DO THIS I tell my partner and my friends and my family, and yet, I DO IT! I take on the problems and crazy of other people, thinking that I can help in some obscure, yet to be defined, way.
At about 16 years old I realized that I was “a great listener.” Friends, and even strangers (even my own parents) would transfer their problems to me so that I could carry them forward. In the meantime, they would have dumped on me and gone their merry way, feeling much relieved to have shared the burden. I would still be worrying about their problems long after they had moved on. A high school friend had a baby where I was the “birthing coach,” having no idea what was going on. The child was born, whisked away, adopted (I assume), and the “friend” moved back to their parent’s home in a couple of weeks leaving me to think of that child every year for the past 52 years on the date of their birth. I admit to you that, If I could have, I would have taken that child as my own on 12/31/1966. But, I could not, and 50 years later I supported the mother through stage IV pancreatic cancer.
I admit that I am an ambivalent people pleaser. I want people to like me. Hell, I want them to LOVE me. On the other hand, I recognize that my time, emotions, energy, and sanity are finite resources, like my money. How do you budget them, choose wisely, keep something aside for a rainy day? At 70 years old (right smack dab in the middle of the Fourthscore) I figure I have, at best, 30 years (that is being extremely optimistic). How much of my resources do I have to contribute to the drama of other people’s lives? I mean, it is not like I don’t have my own issues; a loved foster-child, a son who has disowned me, a daughter going through a painful divorce, etc. How much band-width can be expected of me, and for whom?
In an earlier post I wrote about the fact that the first 50 years of our lives are spent building and accumulating, and from then on, it is much more about the loss of those things; parents, friends, careers, children moving on with their lives. Don’t we need to focus on dealing with the most important people and events?
I am not saying we should be selfish, and I believe that having something outside our immediate to circle to advocate for and support help keeps us feeling relevant and engaged, whether it is a political cause, a charitable work, or a spiritual exploration. We are empowered and invigorated by knowing we still have something to contribute to the world. I also think we have to choose carefully and follow our hearts. We can’t be there for every person and every cause.
I admit I have my own craziness, but what can be expected of me when it come to other people’s crazy? Who do I owe what? How much is too much? I would love to get some perspective from my readers (both of you). What is reasonable (even accomplishable), what is too much, who do we owe what? And, most importantly, how do you disengage with love and caring, from that which drains you?
IS “CRAZY” CONTAGIOUS?