I try to be a good person. I try to give way, on the sidewalk, in the road, in line for groceries or stamps. I try to smile, and be kind to people. I try to be honest, even when that’s difficult. I think it’s important. I try to be rational. When I feel very strongly that I am entirely in the right, I know that I must not be. I try to figure out how I might be at fault, how I might stand in the other person’s shoes and see how what I’ve done, or not done, how I could have contributed to the problems between us. I try to set my emotions aside, and remember that no matter how angry I am, some things are more important than being right. Or feeling right.
But I won’t lie here: it’s not easy. I like being right as much as anyone does, and maybe more so. I’ve been told over the years that I am “competitive,” and “aggressive,” and “harsh,” and sometimes I feel like the people around me are unjustifiably afraid of me, or afraid of what I might do, or say. And their fear? It feels like judgment, and it makes me angry.
And then I do slip, and say something that I regret as soon as it’s out of my mouth—or worse, say something I think is perfectly appropriate until someone checks me. And then that fear I mentioned? It feels like judgment and it makes me really, deeply, unsure of myself. Which I don’t like. And which pisses me off.
I wonder, then, am I mean, and I don’t even know it? That in spite of all my trying to be good, and live right, and do good even when it costs me—in money, time, or pride—that maybe I’m just delusional. Maybe I just hold onto superficial nice things I do, or say, or think as evidence that I’m a good person. But in reality—some indefinable something that everybody but me can see—I’m really just a stone-cold bitch.
It shuts me down. Makes it hard to think, hard to write, hard to talk.
You want to know a secret? Mental illness runs in my family. My grandmother had breakdowns, more than one. At least two of my great uncles killed themselves; and in my parent’s generation at least two more suicides—that I know of. And although suicidal isn’t my problem (I have others) I worry about going crazy. Specifically, that I might go crazy and not be able to stop it, or not be able to recognize that it’s happening to me.
Or sometimes I worry that I might already be crazy. Because that’s the way it happens, right? From inside your own head you can’t tell. You think what you’re doing makes perfect sense.