3 min read

Choosing Madness

A friend of mine recently shared this quote from a letter by Van Gogh:

"I wouldn’t have chosen madness if there had been a choice, but once one has something like [madness] one can’t catch it any more." (Van Gogh)

My response?  "In my experience, though, madness is a door that is chosen to walk through. However, the fight for sanity is much, much more difficult. Why not choose madness? Any sane person would do the same. Thus having chosen, fought and suffered for sanity, I must wonder...

...maybe it is I who is truly mad."

I don't know how many people actually have this experience. Maybe everyone.

I will tell you that I spent most of the first seventeen years of my life standing at the door to madness. From what my sisters and mother said, on the other side of this door stands nirvana.

Why was I treated differently from my sisters? Because I refused to believe the lies :  Mother was sane, my sisters were beautiful and smart, I was treated exactly the same as they were, our grandfather was a generous and brilliant benefactor and on and on. Because I refused to step through the door.

Why did I have to pay for every sent of my college? Because I never asked. 'But I did ask,' I'd say. 'You said no.'  'No I didn't.' (Subtext: I refused to step through the door.)

Why was I beaten, sometimes every night? I wasn't. I made that up to get attention. (Subtext: I refused to step through the door.)

What about Mom's alcoholism? I never saw her drink. But what about (fill in the blank). That didn't happen.  (Subtext: I refused to step through the door.)

I could continue but you get the gist.

When I listen to my adult sisters speak about our years together, I wonder who's childhood they are talking about. They lived this almost idyllic life in this prosperous loving family under the gentle guidance and care of their loving mother and intellectual father.

When I say: "What?"

They whisper: "Step through the door Claudia. Everything you desire lives just beyond these arches."

Why did I linger at the door? I've asked that question a million and one times.  I blame myself for being too frightened to get what I want. I treated myself with harsh recriminations to just take a step. I tried to bully myself out of my paralysis. But I've never been able to venture over the threshold.

Why? The other side doesn't look like a peaceful road to a gorgeous lake. It looks more like this:

More like this in my nightmares:

So who is mad? Who isn't mad? Is the fact that I had a choice some fortuitous gift from a God or Goddess called genetics? Or do we all have these choices? I cannot say.

I can only say that I don't linger on the doorstep anymore. I don't look longingly at the lake and want to swim. I don't wish to roll in the gorgeous grass. Or even explore the other building.

I've shut the door and moved on. In return, I am blessed every day with the reality of life - good, bad and indifferent. I revel in my confusion and spend way to many hours linger over adjectives and adverbs.

I got sentenced to life and they got madness.

Still sometimes, in the middle of the night when sleep is hard to find and insecurity gnaws at the fabric of my life, I stand at the closed doors and wonder if I made the right choice.

What would you choose?