In Which I Had To Decide Where I Was
When I was in high school I did too much acid a couple of times, probably more often than I did the right amount, but I didn’t end up crazy like the guy in my Chemistry class who handed in giant swirly clouds instead of titration formulas. Not really, anyway. I felt pretty okay afterwards, other than a fear that my spine was fucked up by lesions or whatever because people tell you shit like that and my back cracked like dominos one Monday. I came close though, one time, and it changed how I thought of mental illness.
I was never unsympathetic to insanity, having read about all the famous lunatics I was aware of when I was 8 or 9, but there’s obviously no way for the relatively normal to understand what’s going on in the mind of the ill. Besides 4 hits of acid, I guess.
It started on the mean streets of Chilliwack, BC, when a friend pulled up and gave us drugs. These particular bits of paper had symbols and pictures on them, like a Star Wars Stormtrooper head and maybe Greek letters, which was exciting, and despite having only planned to smoke weed by a river somewhere two of us took all of it. By the time we were done at the river, my night-vision had stopped working and it took what felt like an hour to shuffle back to the car. For the record, it is probably not a good idea to mix these drugs if you are prone to paranoia, as I was.
When we pulled up to my house I got antsy. It was maybe midnight, my parents were asleep inside, and I had never been incapacitated by this particular drug in their presence, or alone. Nobody wanted to come in with me, understandably, but we were there so I felt I had to go in. I watched TV until I wasn’t sure if a) what I was seeing was really happening and b) I was talking to people on the screen, at which point I crammed a handful of chocolate cake in my mouth and went to bed, both of which were bad ideas.
I found myself curled up in the exact middle of my bed, fetused, in boxers, but maybe not. Because simultaneously I became aware that I might in fact be similarly unclothed and curled up in front of the Leo Edwards Mazda dealership, which is still located at 45955 Yale Road but sells boats now. Of course, I thought, I was actually in bed, but at the same time I knew there was really no way to tell.
This sort of thing sounds like dumb philosophy to the unaddled mind, however I was entirely addled and my perspective would shift between the two locations every time I considered my problem. Here’s what my mental dialogue looked like:
Me 1: I’m in bed. Of course I’m in bed.
Me 2: But how do you know? I mean, there’s the Mazda sign. There’s the sidewalk.
1: That’s a good point, but also there’s my lamp and the gutter is blankets again.
2: We’re going to have to make a decision, you realize.
This had gone on for a long time, but at one point in reality #2 people had noticed there was a chubby teen in his underwear on the road, clearly pretending he was unaware of this situation, and had started to discuss what to do.
So the need to make that decision became more intense, and I realized that there were some real ramifications to my choice. There were 4 possible ways this could play out. I was either really in bed or really in the street, and I could either get it right, or I could get it wrong. So I was in my bedroom and decided I was in my bedroom and everything was fine, I was in the street and could get up, tell the concerned citizens I was okay and walk home, which was not great, I could continue incorrectly assuming I was in bed and wake up god knows where later (this would eventually come around to a bed again, I guess), or I could think I was not in bed when I was and be found by my parents, insane.
That was a weird moment. I mean, all you have is your brain. If it’s wrong, you’re “crazy”. I’m not sure if you, hypothetical reader, have ever been really unsure that you were seeing real things, but you have to either react to or deny whatever you think you’re experiencing. I assume this is like schizophrenia, for example, and it is also clear that if your mental state didn’t clear itself up somehow you would be unable to trust anything ever again. This constant distrust of and negotiation with reality would take up a lot of energy. It would be exhausting. You would sometimes choose incorrectly.
My actual decision was pretty anticlimactic, and involved retracing my steps. River, car, living room, chocolate cake, bed: I was in bed. I wouldn’t have left that bed mostly-naked to lay down in front of the Mazda dealership, and the instant I had this thought I fell asleep.
I have to admit, empathy for the mentally ill doesn’t make your life any easier but it does probably lead to more conversations with homeless people, which is usually worthwhile. I have got a harmonica and a hug from street guys at different times on different coasts, both of which were funny and sweet at the time but left me worried about Hepatitis. I don’t have Hepatitis, though. And I only almost lost my mind one other time, I think.