Madness – It takes a village
There is a story i often tell, about a dear friend and long time member, Kristen, who went a bit crazy here (Twin Oaks) some years back. It was not a scary kind of crazy, like my friend who punched me in the face while i was driving with him to get some food. This was a more of an Alice in Wonderland affair, where she wandered around the community, spoke German and French a lot (which she had studied years before) and was relieved of her commune work responsibilities while she was on this adventure (kid care, managerships, and other work areas).
Kristen had been institutionalized against her will when she was 23 years old in Kansas, and it was awful. Imagine a prison-like situation with forced medication and unsympathetic medical people. Even in her Alice mindset, she knew she was not going to go back to the hospital; nothing was as clear as this fact. So we carried her. Collectively: care teams were formed, child care was organized, her various work areas were covered by other communards.
Of course this is what Hillary Clinton means when she says “it takes a village”. [Permit me to quickly point out that Clinton does not have a village, she has instead a detachment of secret service officers, which is not the same thing at all.] You want to be able to take care of the people you love in the way they want to be. If Granny gets sick, you want her in her room, with the people who love her all around and her needs getting met.
But there is this terrible problem. Most people dont have a village, Granny has to go to the hospital or the nursing home, because i got stuff to do. There is school or work or what ever it was i filling my days with before Granny or my crazy friend needed any help. Most people just don’t have the flexibility of the village.
Kristen came down from her mania, and slowly took back up her responsibilities. And half a year after her landing, we collectively selected her as a planner and the president of the corporation – our highest executive position (planner that is).
The story comes to mind because a general contractor friend of mine went crazy a couple years back. He did not have a village, and he went to the hospital for a brief stay. But after he landed, the company which he worked for did not want him to come back. They feared that in his manic state, he might endanger the company and they thought they could manage the sales and marketing without him.
They were wrong, and now they are going out of business. I am convinced that my friend could have saved the company if he had been given control again; he had already managed it successfully for many years. [He disagrees and thinks the market is unusually difficult now and they might well have gone under if he had been at the helm].
But the point is, without the village and without the trust and support that the village creates, the fear of bad things happening if you reside too close to crazy people can engender exactly those bad things. Sometimes in tragic ways.
And if you are not lucky enough to live in community and are interested in a community of people exploring alternative ways to deal with mental health issues, check out The Icarus Project …
“a radical mental health support network, online community, and alternative media project by and for people struggling with extreme emotional distress that often gets labeled as mental illness. We envision a new culture and language that resonates with our actual experiences rather than trying to fit our lives into a conventional framework. We believe these experiences are dangerous gifts needing cultivation and care, rather than diseases or disorders. By joining together as individuals and as a community, the intertwined threads of madness, creativity, and collaboration can inspire hope and transformation in an oppressive and damaged world. Participation in The Icarus Project helps us overcome alienation and tap into the true potential that lies between brilliance and madness.”
Update May 2021: My crazy general contractor friend went back into the business, by starting a new company with one person from his previous company, ran it successfully for several years, went crazy again and lost it again.