Wednesday, December 17, 2008

This Way Madness Lies.

Yeah, I know. It's been a long time.

There's an explanation. And I'm sitting here writing this because there are a few people that I still owe that explanation to, and this might just be a cathartic way to do that.

I probably won't leave this post up, I think this one is just for me and those people. We'll see.

So where have I been? Funny you should ask. The short answer is that some part of me decided it would be an excellent idea to take some time to find out what it feels like to actually descend into madness. And now that I think of it, the long answer isn't much different.

I lost my mind. I don't mean that the way we usually say it, "I lost my mind, I don't know what I was thinking!" I mean I. Lost. My. Mind. Let's back up a bit and I'll explain.

Like many people who've followed a path of making their imagination their lives, I've never been a stranger to the highs and lows of being a performer or an artist of some kind. I have my darkness, as many people do, and for 25 years of being an adult, I've learned to live with my demons and continue to be a functioning member of society. Sure, I'll have periodic bouts of depression, but the Beast and I have long since worked out an arrangement for how to live with each other and not make too big a deal about it. Spend a day or two in the darkness, shut the hell up and get back to work. I've never had much patience with those who indulge in it too heavily, I've never had much respect for the crutch of anti-depressants and other pharmaceutical solutions, and I've never really believed that clinical depression was truly a biological thing. Hell, maybe I still don't, I'm not sure.

But I know this: Madness is real.

In hindsight, it's pretty easy to see that this had been building for years, but this past Spring was a perfect storm of events that helped to trigger something I've never seen before. What those events were is completely irrelevant, they were simply a confluence of things that was enough to finally tip me over an edge that I had apparently been balancing on for a very long time.

I had what my Parent's generation would've called a "Complete Nervous Breakdown." I like that title, it's descriptive. I don't particularly like the word "depression," because it means nothing to me. I wasn't sad. I wasn't "down in the dumps." No one died, a girlfriend didn't leave me, I didn't realize I was a woman trapped in a man's body, I didn't have an unrequited love. I went mad. In the traditional meaning of that expression. Crazy. Looney tunes. A nutter. Insane.

And I spent the better part of two or three months quite literally laying in the dark in a fetal position, and not leaving my home except to make sure I had whiskey, coffee and cigarettes. I'm not being poetic here. I mean I spent the better part of two to three months laying in the dark in a fetal position.

And because I am a willful, and prideful, and stubborn, and stupid sonofabitch, I refused to admit what was happening to me, or that it was something I couldn't get a hold of on my own, or that it was anything more than my old demons being a little tougher this time. And so I just continued to descend into madness, my mind in freefall, publicly denying anything was wrong the whole way.

And I'm good at it. I'd spent my entire life perfecting the facade, building the walls brick by brick, creating a way to make it look like all was fine and well, I was just a struggling artist soldiering his way through a difficult world. So on those rare occasions that you could catch me on the phone, or see me out in the world, I appeared perfectly normal. And the truth is, one of the most fascinating aspects of madness is that, in many ways, at some moments, I was perfectly normal.

There were some fits and starts, attempts to put it all back on track, moments of clarity and days of throwing myself into the work that I love so much, assuming/hoping it would put me right again. I mean, I was still Scott, you know? It's not like I suddenly became incompetent, or began thinking I was John the Baptist and wandered around town in a white robe trying to throw water on people. I was still Scott.

But some little thing inside had tripped. Some connection somewhere in the wiring just wasn't connecting. If you were to ask me to describe the madness, I would tell you to try to imagine every molecule in your body telling you to do something, and then being paralyzed as you watch yourself do something else. Simple things, like, "get up," or, "you're hungry, order some takeout." I can remember entire days, sometimes several in a row, where I literally lay there for 9, 10, 12 hours, telling myself over and over again just to get up and do something simple, forget go to work or return a phone call, I'm talking about things like stand up and put some music on.

And still I didn't reach out for help, I wouldn't admit that I couldn't fight my way out of this. Two things finally reached me. The first was the realization that the one place where I should be finding joy, the one thing that should be my refuge from everything - the work - wasn't working. These chairs are the most exciting project I've had in years, you've read all about how much they meant to me, and there was nothing there, even that wasn't enough to make me move. There was no inspiration, no love. A few fits and starts, infrequent moments with a flicker of the love I have for this work, and poof - nothing. That emptiness showed me that I was lost, that I had lost the only reason I was willing to endure the struggle, the only thing I had that I could count on no matter what.

And then my Dad began treatment for prostate cancer. And I realized that I wasn't returning his calls. That he was reaching out to me, completely unaware of what was happening inside my apartment, and I was nowhere to be found. And his mortality hit me. I could lose him. He has fucking cancer. And here I am, wallowing around in some bullshit I didn't even believe existed.

And I moved. I got the hell up and I looked out at the world, and I acknowledged that I had lost my mind, and that no one was going to reach down and save me. And I went to a doctor. And he confirmed that I had indeed lost my mind, and that there were treatments for such things. And he sent me to a guy who gave me some anti-crazy pills, and he told me to keep on coming back to work with him, that he would help me find the broken crazy bits while the drug began to repair them. And to kick it all off, he asked me a single question:

"Suppose that we can fix the paralysis, that we can restore your sanity and make you a functioning human being again, because we can. So suppose that you're back to work and you're back in your life as you know it. Are you happy with your life?"

"Fuck you," I said.

And I took the pill, and we got to work.

It's been a few months now, and I've been back to work for awhile, and I'm a little more comfortable with the idea that apparently I'm a nutter, and that there are ways to work with that. I've done quite a bit of work on the chairs since I last checked in here, and hopefully I'll start writing about that again. I've been documenting it with pictures every step of the way, so the material is there to catch up with. I'm slowly reconnecting with all the people I disappeared on, and fessing up to this thing I don't really understand. I've acknowledged that I've spent a whole lot of years pretending that I wasn't crazy, and I'm learning that I can be the same guy I've always been, just without the crazy.

It's embarrassing. I'm ashamed of it. It definitely makes me feel "less than," and it's really difficult to admit to the people who know me and have trusted me or have the picture of me as a competent leader or a badass craftsman or simply as an intelligent, responsible, and capable human being. I mean, I'm a looney. A nutjob. A basket case. The doc says so, and he's got an awful lot of evidence on his side.

But I'm also Scott Braun. And if I remember correctly, he's a pretty fierce and relentless sonofabitch, and I never once saw that guy back down or give up, or even doubt himself. (Come to think of it, he's kind of an arrogant asshole.)

I'm here. And I'm learning how to be a sane person. There are changes, big life changes that will need to happen, and some of those are already underway. I'm back at work, and I'm stressed by trying to catch up, but I'm loving what I do again. And I'm seeing a little more clearly, and slowly rebuilding Humpty Dumpty into something more resilient and sensible than an egg in short pants, sitting on a brick wall.

If you're one of the people that I posted this for, thanks for reading it. I hope you understand. I can't ever say I'm sorry enough. If you'll still have me, I'm right here, hunched over my bench and making some chairs. If I let you down or I owe you something - work, friendship, money, love - give me another minute, I'm almost there. I'm catching up, and putting it back together in a smarter way means taking careful steps. If you'd rather keep your distance, it's cool. No hard feelings. I don't want to hang out with crazy people, either.


Blogger Rabbit B. said...


I still think you're great and I'm glad you're working to getting better.

3:06 AM  
Anonymous Vicki said...

Sanity is over-rated. Demons and darkness make for a more interesting person producing a more soul-filled art.

Strength isn't demonstrated when a life isn't in flux; it is shown in the flexibility of very high high and equally low lows. It's what keeps a person together. You were merely testing the boundaries and this posting clearly shows that you are strong.

Don't call it a comeback, you've been/you'll be here for years.

11:43 AM  
Blogger sb said...

For anyone looking on as this post stays up - in case it isn't clear, Vicki is the client who commissioned both the black dressing bench and the walnut cabinet with the carved drawer fronts.

If that response isn't the definition of a life blessed, I don't know what is.

I am a very very lucky man.

12:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Everytime I'm feeling my sanity waning (what little is there) I come back and read this post. God damn you're an inspiration.

8:52 PM  
Blogger Kurt said...

Thanks for leaving this up. I'm a nutter too. I was more John the Baptist crazy, than catatonia crazy. The next time I feel really hopeless, I'll think of this post and know I'm not alone.

8:16 PM  
Anonymous thethirdking said...

Sorry to hear you are insane.

8:31 AM  

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