About a month ago I took a crazy-person test. I wasn’t sure my cocktail of tricyclic’s and SSRI’s was doing its thing anymore. My metaphorical sky was bleak and low, like there was only a foot of airspace above my head and not much wiggle room. Something kind of specific finally got me to the psychiatrist…
I was sitting in our church lobby next to an enormous plate glass window, the kind built in the 1970’s that are sometimes taken over by an internal fog. It was morning and the sun was streaming in, although it was unbearably cold outside. The chair I sat in was covered in a shiny striped fabric that for some reason, right then, I hated.
Rose, a large woman in her late 20’s, schizophrenic, and riddled with mental malfunction, sat down next to me. I had just turned 50, but that didn’t bother me. I welcome aging, I have no problem with it. “How was your holiday?” Rose said, head hanging, lips relaxed and open with a little bit of spit about to dribble out.
“It was okay,” I said, “how was yours?”
“It was okay.”
This was my trigger, this short conversation with a woman whom I really do care about. It floored me, the pointlessness of it, this woman who loved me who I could barely love back. Two weeks later I took the crazy-person test. The test was supposed to give the psychiatrist more information about me, like an MRI for the psych. We talked for an hour and a half and she asked me questions about medications and my history, the sort of questions I’ve grown used to answering. After that, I was led into a small room with a florescent light and a computer. An assistant showed me how to use the mouse to respond to the questions in the test, which were all True/False. The test took two hours.
By that time I was on a roll. The psychiatrist had suggested I might be bi-polar with rapid cycling. Manic-depressive, only with super short ups and downs, and mostly downs. In an hour and a half I had convinced myself I was in a hypomanic state, something not quite so fierce as pure mania, where someone, convinced they’re the next Cohen brothers (not just one of the Cohen brothers even, but maybe both of them at the same time), goes out into a city street and tries to gather a group of extras for a scene in the movie she wrote the night before which is sure to win an Academy Award. Hypomania is more socially acceptable. Hypomania means productivity and optimism until the next lowering of the bleak sky, and I embrace it entirely. I was hypomanic 10 years ago when I borrowed a friend’s nail-gun and built our son a loft in his bedroom in a matter of hours. I might have been hypomanic when I rented a chainsaw and cut up a fifty-foot oak tree that had fallen in our front yard.
So when I took the test I was on a roll. I leaned into the questions like I knew them before I read them: I like to watch small animals suffer? (False.) Sometimes the government monitors my emails (False). But then the questions got harder. Sometimes I feel hot all over (Well, true, I’m 50. Hot flashes, no?). Sometimes my body feels tingly (Well, I mean, true, but I have spinal stenosis, my foot tingles. It’s a pinched nerve). I have never seen a vision (False. Uh oh…). And then there were the infamous hope vs. despair questions that I’ve become used to: I sometimes feel life isn’t worth living (True, I mean, I’m depressed, right?). My future is bleak (False!). I am guilty of many things (False!).
And this is where, as far as crazy-person tests, my psychological profile can lean toward crazy. These tests aren’t designed for Christians. They actually work quite well for most religions. Generally speaking, for someone who sometimes feels like life isn’t worth living, the future looks bleak as well.
But my future isn’t bleak, and I’m not guilty. It’s the wonderful paradox that the Christian lives with. No matter how awful we feel, we are told: “I know the plans that I have for you, plans to prosper you and give you a future.” And as far as guilt? If I really believe what Christ did for me, then I’m not guilty. If I believe I’m guilty, then Christ is either a liar or not powerful enough, and these just aren’t options.
I got the results of my test in the mail. My heart sank: The client responded by claiming to be unrealistically virtuous (e.g. guilt free), This attitude weakens the validity of the test and shows an unwillingness to disclose personal information, This pattern of uncooperativeness shows distortion and neurotic adjustment.
Yikes! I am crazy!
But the pills are working, so that’s good. Gotta go, I’m in the middle of a bathroom renovation.