One of my favorite subscriptions, Creative Nonfiction, is having a huge sale. They are unexpectedly moving from the location they have been for many years, and are selling off their inventory and back issues at LOW, LOW prices. Naturally I perused their “Clearance” section for good deals. Y’all know I love a good deal, and the good deals were bountiful. Many books from Lee Gutkind, many back issues of their magazine, and even some anthologies, all for an average price of about five buckaroos. As I started to look deeper into the back issues, I noticed that most of the ones I wanted were already sold out. I was all, what gives? So I started looking for patterns and lo and behold they came, as they usually do. The sold out copies were centered around two themes: Finding joy in dark times and mental illness. So, there you have it. We’re all fucked up.
I know you know this already. But damn it’s hard to see sometimes. Especially when you’re down there, in the thick of it. And I also know that my little, let’s call it a gathering of intel (as it wasn’t really research) about what people are buying in a very specific holiday sale, at a very specific, pretty unknown publication, isn’t a tell-all about the state of the world, but… but… is it though?
On of my favorite stories is Alice in Wonderland. I love it so much, that I can overlook Carroll’s opium use (just adds to this particular story), his penchant for young girls (let’s call it pedophilia), and the hookah-smoking caterpillar. And yes, a deep dive into that bitch can elicit a million different readings. It’s about growing up, obviously, it’s about puberty quite specifically, it’s about social climbing, sure. It’s about desire, idyllic beauty, innocence. Then all the really DARK stuff too. But, one of my favorite parts is when Alice is talking to Cheshire Cat and she’s all whiny and bitchy (hormones) and she says, “Buuuuut I don’t want to go among mad peopllllllle.” And Cheshire Cat is all, “Bitch. We all mad here.” I’m paraphrasing. Alice goes on in her bitchy way to be all, “How u know I’m mad, asshole?” And he’s all, “U here ain’t u?” End scene.
In the Disney version Cheshire Cat says something quite different when Alice says she doesn’t want to go among mad people. He says, “Ohh, you can’t help that. Most everyone is mad here.” Then he laughs his weirdo laugh. See the difference? In the real, shroom-enlightened brain of Lewis Carroll, we’re all mad. In Disney’s version just some of us are. Which can really fuck with you, because Disney’s dead wrong. We’re ALL mad here.
I don’t know a single person in my life that isn’t a little cuckoo-bananas. Sure, they might be cool as a cucumber most of the time, but every, single person I know has a thing. Maybe just one. Maybe several. Usually several, but they have at least one thing that makes others go, “Hmmm…” And that’s normal, y’all. It’s okay. In fact, it’s preferred. Because what would this here world be like if we all were great and wonderful all the time? If none of us were looking for joy in dark times? If there were no dark times? If none of us were struggling daily with mental illness, or trauma, or just trying to make the ends meet? It would be a shitty, shitty world I’ll tell you that.
Of course Disney is linking to something deeper here. Now mind you, I’m talking about the original Alice in Wonderland from Disney in 1951. So I’m talking about a time in American History where shit was real bad. Not for everyone, pause, not for all white people, but for most white people. Black people and other minorities, well they weren’t even “people,” so there’s that. I’m also talking about a time when your run-of-the-mill mental illness could get you locked away for all eternity. Like, for real. This was pre-prozac. This was when mental illness was not considered a thing. Maybe you were sad sometimes. That’s okay. Pull up those bootstraps and go on. The sad, sad reality is, there are still a lot of people who think this way. Now, most of them are dying out, but still we have them in our lives. We see them everyday. They are running our country. These people who don’t think mental illness is real. These people who believe they are not afflicted by it. These people who hand-to-whateverGod think this is just all made up, fanciful, Lewis Carroll shit. Hmpf.
Imma stop. Y’all know me. I can get going down a rabbit hole, way bigger than Alice’s, about mental illness. About trying to find joy among the wreckage. And for the most part, you know what I’m gonna say. Keep on keeping. Keep up the good work. Go to therapy. Get your meds right. Talk to people. Check on your people. YES! Even your people who make mad fun of you for going to therapy or taking meds. Because the chances are good that they are in the same boat as you, but with no raft to throw on shore, y’all. Their ego, their pride, their family members or friends, their own mental illness is making it hard for them to talk openly about their own mental illness. I know this sounds crazy, but it’s true. It’s so very true. And sure, Alice in Wonderland isn’t real. There are no Queen Cards coming to life, there are no rabbits who are late, late, for a very important date. But mental illness is real. And trying to find and create joy in this shitbag, upside-down world is real (and here is a link to the Creative Nonficiton sale to prove it: Holiday Sale at Creative Nonfiction). And pedophilia is real (watch yo kids!) and opioid addiction is real. But you know what else is real? Help is real. Talking about mental illness helps. That is real. I’m living proof. And also I’m here. If you need me.