Is it normal to feel this crazy?

Ever have days where you just. Feel. Crazy? Like your mental timing belt snapped and the engine of your brain is beating itself to death inside the bonnet?

Michel de Montaigne – Essays

Keeping a notebook gives you the privilege of looking back on these moments. Below, you’ll find links to books by writers who articulate this feeling much better than I.

18 June 2016 is it normal to feel this crazy?

For every 10 waking minutes I feel confident, competent, generally positive about where I am and where I’m going, I spend roughly 27 minutes in a sea of anxiety, 13 minutes moderately depressed and/or hopeless, seven minutes angry/outraged and the other three minutes I’m eating, or drunk. Is this normal? Do other people feel their nerves are being prised apart fibre by fibre with dull tweezers? Or like their soul is wearing one of those lead aprons they weighed me down with when I got dental x-rays as a kid? How do other people feel? Am I normal? I can’t be normal; I’m pretty sure I’m crazy, or getting there. But how crazy. Should I section myself now? Kill myself now? Is that something only a crazy person would think?

It was Montaigne who wrote about the power of fear — that men are so frightened of death they run out and kill themselves. I feel like that a lot of the time. I’m so afraid of things happening I want to make them happen, just to get over the horrible anticipation. Having a shitty day and your boyfriend’s hanging out with his ex? Dump him immediately, because 1 + 1 = the square root of ohmygodhowcouldhelovemeasmuchasheloveshertheyhaveadogandeverything.

Not the thoughts of a sane person.

But the question remains, nagging. Am I a little crazy or a lot crazy. If I work really hard to keep it under wraps can I pass as eccentric? Or am I so fundamentally unreliable I should be straitjacketed immediately? I can’t answer these questions because I don’t know how crazy other people really are. Because the sane thing to do, when you suspect you’re crazy, is lie like crazy.

Cheryl Strayed – Wild 

Fill your Facebook/Instagram/Twitter feed with motivational quotes and pictures of sunsets (check), do yoga (check), tell people how doing yoga has transformed your life (check, plus it’s true), update your LinkedIn profile so you look smarter and more employable (check), network (check), laugh (check), use mascara (check), shave your legs (one of these days). There are ten thousand ways to fraudulently present oneself to the world as a functioning adult. I try. Other people presumably try. Or maybe their smiles are genuine, maybe that sunset really lifted their mood, maybe they are in fact super smart and ragingly employable. I have no way of knowing.

What I know is that for every minute of relative calm and productivity, I experience eight on a negative emotional scale that encompasses frustration, anger, judgement, anxiety, depression, panic, fear, self-loathing, doubt, despair, indifference, or plain boredom. Then there’s a minute when I’m drunk or eating. If for some reason I’m not drinking that extra minute gets devoted to the negative scale. If I’m hungover, 35 seconds of my good minute are converted to self-loathing.

Where does this leave me? I don’t know. I don’t know where I started, or where I’m going. Is there any chance I’m ever going to understand what it feels like to not feel crazy?


Books to staunch the crazy


Notebook Heroes: Thoreau

Henry David Thoreau was genius at keeping a notebook. Some of his extensive journal became Walden, a timeless, beautiful assertion of Transcendent philosophy and call to individuality and authenticity.walden


The Journal is a doorstop volume gleaned from Thoreau’s notebooks. It is a treasure drove of description, anecdote and inspiration from a writer who was never short of — nor shy of expressing — ideas. The following excerpts are from a journaling workshop I run from time to time. Savour them then pick up a pen start your own notebook.


Henry David Thoreau, The Journal

Nov. 9. In our walks C. takes out his note-book sometimes and tries to write as I do, but all in vain. He soon puts it up again, or contents himself with scrawling some sketch of the landscape. Observing me still scribbling, he will say that he confines himself to the ideal, purely ideal remarks; he leaves the facts to me. Sometimes, too, he will say a little petulantly, “I am universal; I have nothing to do with the particular and definite.” He is the moodiest person, perhaps, that I ever saw. As naturally whimsical as a cow is brindled, both in his tenderness and his roughness he belies himself. He can be incredibly selfish and unexpectedly generous. He is conceited, and yet there is in him far more than usual to ground conceit upon.

I, too, would fain set down something beside facts. Facts should only be as the frame to my pictures; they should be material to the mythology which I am writing; not facts to assist men to make money, farmers to farm profitably, in any common sense; facts to tell who I am, and where I have been or what I have thought: as now the bell rings for evening meeting, and its volumes of sound, like smoke with rises from where a cannon is fired, make the tent in which I dwell. My facts shall be falsehoods to the common sense. I would so state facts that they shall be significant, shall be myths or mythologic. Facts which the mind perceived, thoughts which the body thought.

Nov. 12. Write often, write upon a thousand themes, rather than long at a time, not trying to turn too many feeble somersets in the air, — and so come down upon your head at last. Antaeus-like, be not long absent from the ground. Those sentences are good and well discharged which are like so many little resiliencies from the spring floor of our life, — a distinct fruit and kernel itself, springing from terra firma. Let there be as many distinct plants as the soil and the light can sustain. Take as many bounds in a day as possible. Sentences uttered with your back to the wall. Those are the admirable bounds when the performer has lately touched the spring-board.

C. is one who will not stoop to rise (to change the subject). He wants something for which he will not pay the going price. He will only learn slowly by failure, — not a noble, but disgraceful, failure. This is not a noble method of learning, to be educated by inevitable suffering, like De Quincey, for instance. Better dive like a muskrat into the mud, and pile up a few weeds to sit on during the floods, a foundation of your own laying, a house of your own building, however cold and cheerless.

Methinks the hawk that soars so loftily and circles so steadily and apparently without effort has earned this power by faithfully creeping on the ground as a reptile in a former state of existence. You must creep before you can run; you must run before you can fly.


Jan. 27. Trench says a wild man is a willed man. Well, then, a man of will who does what he wills or wishes, a man of hope and of the future tense, for not only the obstinate is willed, but far more the constant and persevering. The obstinate man, properly speaking, is one who will not. The perseverance of the saints is positive willed-ness, not mere passive willingness. The fates are wild, for they will; and the Almight is wild above all, as fate is.

What are our fields but felds or felled woods. They bear a more recent name than the woods, suggesting that previously the earth was covered with woods. Always in the new country a field is a clearing.

The Journal and Walden on Amazon