What’s it like being crazy?

What’s it like being a peer?

I was asked this question today, less delicately, as “What’s it like being crazy?”

As a peer, I live this as my normality and have done so since I started having symptoms as a teen. So, that’s my basis of comparison, before and after, and this makes it easy to answer what it’s like being crazy.

For years, I could depend on knowing right from wrong, true from false, real from unreal.

Then, I couldn’t at times because a newly malfunctioning brain began lying to me.

Worse, I couldn’t tell my brain was lying. It refused to let me.

Now, I live with always the glimmer that what I’m perceiving might be wrong, false, and unreal. And I wouldn’t know it.

The real question is:

What’s it like not fully trusting your own brain?

There’s your answer as to what it’s like to be crazy.

The challenge of helping fellow peers understand saying “NO MEANS NO!” is the same as saying “Self-Care First.”

I tried to make myself dead a couple weeks ago. However, that’s not really want I want to talk about.

For the past few months a peer has insisted on confronting me about “issues and concerns” she had about me. When I plainly stated my mental health was not in a solid enough place to take on this sort of conversation, her reply was, “Well, let’s give it a try and see where it goes.” I flatly declined to do so, repeating my mental health was my prioirity.

Similarly, at a STS peer support group this year, I had a peer member call me out on expressing my difficulties and challenges. He said, “I’m very uncomfortable, Steve. You’re supposed to be our rock. I don’t think you’re being appropriate.”

The spectre of this demand upon me loomed with everpresence. My ex-gf even pressured me, saying “If you don’t talk to her, you’re going to lose her. You’re strong enough.”

Of course I have strength. I am very proud of myself for my strength. And at this time in my recovery journey, all my strength is dedicated to my wellness. I’ve made this absolutely clear.

Something I’ve recognized over time is there is a misconception I have “my shit together” at all times and in all ways. Proudly, I do carry myself well and present well. I believe people’s misconception comes from the success I have “wearing the mask” to function in society, especially when feeling kind of rough. It’s a fair assumption considering.

Yet, it’s exhausting when already exhausted. What I find most draining and disheartening is not when a Muggle says something like “You should think happy thoughts” or “Have you tried not being depressed”, it’s when peers are imposing upon me prioritizing my mental health and feel an entitlement to encroach upon – or even violate – my explicit boundary of “self-care first.” It’s exhausting.

Fellow peers not listening to my plea of “NO MEANS NO” is a pressure that depletes me and breaks my heart. I take it very seriously and very personally.

Trying to precisely define my emotions borne of peers expecting more of me than I have the strength to muster brings up feelings of hurt, disappointment, anger, weariness, exhaustion, loneliness…

If really expressing myself honestly, my emotions are a great swell of betrayal and abandonment. Betrayed and abandoned is how I feel.

These are my emotions to own and I’m confident I’ll learn ways to successfully manage the resultant symptoms. Still, it sucks feeling this way.

It’s been full-on difficult the past two months. I pushed myself harder than healthy (a constant failing of mine), my med regimen of seven years is losing efficacy, I’m not managing the symptoms of CPTSD very successfully (thank you, Susan, Paula, and MHRAC for this Disneyland of turmoil), and the holidays are simply emotionally defeating since losing my Mom in 2011.

All said, I made a best effort at killing myself two weeks ago. First time in over seven years. I’m here typing this so apparently I suck at suicide.

It’s important to know I firmly stand that it’s bipolar that led me to the (foolish) decision to try to be dead. There are always contributing stressors reinforcing mu brain’s capacity to lie me. It’s my malfunctioning brain lying to me that’s at fault and nothing else.

One crucial element for me, moving onward, is building upon learning how to express myself explicitly when I’m in crisis and learning how to ask my support network for help before the crisis turns deadly… and hoping they’ll understand the severity when I ask. It’s tough to see my distress behind the mask and it’s my responsibilty to reach out make myself understood. Pride is deadly sin for a reason.

Even more crucial is being very clear “NO MEANS NO” and not taking “No, I won’t respect your boundary, I won’t respect your health, and I won’t respect you” for an answer.

My Dad is here to help keep me alive day to day while I work with Deb on new meds, while I confer with my new therapist exploring the wonder of how much CPTSD manifests itself during my daily existence, and while I draw upon DBT skills as strongly as possible.

As for STS peer support groups, although being called out as “uncomfortable” to the group (no member disagreed) was a tough nut to chew, it is fair and useful feedback. We’re no longer a small cog in the bigger DBSA machine. As the founder and proprietor of STS there are different expectations of me and it’s very kind and generous for the members to help me understand this. I’m honored we have a community of trust where members feel safe enough to express their needs to me.

And, to close off, I’m doing much better thanks in large part to friends who are there when I (finally) ask for help.

The Fairy Tale of Codependency

The idea of “codependence” is interesting. It’s a weighted conclusion usually argued by the person with the most to lose in terms of emotional support. A relationship is strained, boundaries are attempted, motivations are guessed at, and still, one person can walk away much easier than the other (in many cases, not an absolute).

I feel it’s a disservice to peers to perpetuate a diagnosis of “codependence” where none exists, and it’s a detriment to a peer’s recovery and wellness mistakenly believing so when “codependence” does not exist.

Being told a lost relationship was codependent is often suggested by friends and providers as a “make the person feel better” mechanism to explain away more unilateral dependency. This is like pushing chocolate chip cookies filled with ex-lax. No matter how delicious the cookies, you can only fool the person for a very limited time and invariably you’re left with an extremely uncomfortable mess to clean up.

Kindly reprinted from Steve’s Thoughtcrimes.

Song Motivation to Show You The Way through Peer Support

By Patrick Byers-Smith

Back in 2005 Rich Ward of Stuck Mojo and Fozzy had released a solo album under the alias The Duke,  entitled “My Kung Fu Is Good.” Unfortunately many radio stations, here in New Mexico overlooked this album,  as one of our CPSWs (Certified Peer Support Worker) used to work with his label at the time.

That CPSW being Patrick Byers-Smith. ” A lot of  music industry people have done peer support for each other, before becoming recognized. Too many of my musiciansare often uninsured and can’t make copays to see a therapist. This song is dedicated to you brothers and sisters. This is one of my motivations to do Peer Work and gets me motivated to start my day. It’s called Show You The Way by The Duke.Recovery Is Possible!”

I was ready to kill myself yesterday. Thanks for noticing.

The magnitude of my depressed mood, if described in qualitative terms of stickiness, is akin to the sweat-saturated diseased nethers of a Shanghai rickshaw driver in mid-August. Wait. I can do better. The magnitude of my depressed mood, if described in qualitative terms of itchiness, is akin to the sweat-saturated diseased nethers of a Shanghai rickshaw driver in mid-August. Hold up. That still isn’t a solid enough comparisson. Give me another go. The magnitude of my depressed mood, if described in qualitative terms of pan-nausea sinus-scorching face-melting (think of skin dripping off the face, like that Sado-Nazi at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark) omnipresent stench, is akin to the sweat-saturated diseased nethers of a Shanghai rickshaw driver in early-July and not mid-August. That does it there. Nailed it.

I’m full-on depressed.

Now established, my depressive mood is akin to that exotic Asian aroma in stenchy magnitude. Very sciencey. My depression . . . It’s everywhere, and try as I might and calling to arms every mindfulness tool, every coping strategy, and every DBT skill in my trusty depression-annihilating arsenal, I cannot escape this depression. It’s exhausting, it’s depleting, and it’s unavoidable. Mightily scouring my WRAP for any scrap of “something that worked the last time I was this depressed” insight, I found it most useful . . . as tinder in my backyard fire pit last evening. What a useless stack of collated dried pulp. The only good thing about my formerly six-meter-thick WRAP, compiled over the last eight years, is a vast forest of trees covering all of eastern Idaho died so I could compose that valueless “living document” meant to be an archival tome authored by me in order to keep me alive based on my lived experience. It’s worthlessness is almost comical, but isn’t, because I just watched Jim Jeffries on YouTube and that dude is comical. Find his two part presentation on our Second Amendment (Jim is Australian). His observations as an objective non-patriot is beyond insightful, unlike my WRAP which is now ash. If ever I compose a new WRAP, I’m just going to torch an entire national forest and cut out the middleman.

So I made it through to today, Sunday, December 8, 2019. How I just happen to still be here I’ll share with you later if I survive until the end of this article. If not, it’ll be my last and greatest unpublished folk tale. Belay that. I’ve got a smashing unfinished article about Becky’s screechy, pouty, cloaked-sexuality friend who is a peer and who claims no accountability for her symptomatic behavior. It’s all tied up in an My Chem analogy that is exceptionally clever. So, if I survive to the end of this article, I’ll consider finally topping that article off. For now, let me share that the Rolling Stones are not very good and I don’t like them and that’s my choice so, Coddled the Hutt, lay off and attempt adult maturity.

Before moving into a patchwork of circumstance and happenstance that brought me to pecking away at the keyboard, I’d like everyone to take a quick training course in “Own Your Emotions.”

How’s that sound? I’ll be sharing bits and pieces of stories and names might surface. I’m also dealing with the bitterness borne of bipolar symptoms. You know, those artificial emotions. There’s no intent to hurt feelings, and even though some Brown University healy-touchy purveyor of logically nebulous nonsense assures me I’m wrong, without any intent on my part I’m only able to lament inadvertent ouchiness felt. Bits and pieces, and, magic from my hands. Name the song. Point being, we all have our own sensitivities and this is my story.

Disclaimer down. Sigh. We live in a “World of Reaction.”

I’ve been staring at the screen for . . . 20 minutes? I’ve been in a holding pattern for a while trying to pull on just one thread to make my past few weeks unravel into a narrative. Indecisiveness, inability to organize thoughts, even some confussion. T’is uncharacteristic for me to feel so befuddled and . . .

Hey! I wrote a note to Amanda this morning whilst still in the midst of doing a Little Dutchboy on my tears. It’s the perfect framework for expository, emotive, and symptomatic throughput. I’m either clever or lazy, and since I need one in the win column, I’m jacking this in as clever.

My Sunday Morning Message to Amanda

Today, I’m making a choice which way my life goes. It’s been close to a week since we last spoke. I have called twice and neither times have you returned my call. This has been bad for my health.

I hope your communucation silence is because you decided to do as you intended, and that you are healing.

Other speculations have kept me awake. With missing my family, Thanksgiving alone, and SAD, my health is plummeting. In addition, no one has called me or checked on me all week. My dad messaged a couple times, only to check on furnace repair. My furnace froze up.

Absolutely literally, I could have been dead for a week and no one would have noticed. Maybe Turquoise Lodge, but only a quick call to ask if I was coming in. However, they’ve never checked on a missed Laugh It Off gig before, not that I can recall.

I was prepared to kill myself yesterday. I thought “Well, it’s proven. My passion for helping others, it’s not been equitable exhange of support. And that’s had to be okay.” And mostly it is. Remember Chris losing his nut in the middle of group, saying something along the lines of “It’s not comfortable when you talk about you having problems. We count on you to be our rock, Steve.” With comments of that variety, it’s an easy move to feel “I’m only a tool to fix others.” But that’s selfish. I get depressed and I get selfish. Artifical thoughts and feelings. Chris has a good point, I’ve been letting people down. A lot. Inlcuding you.

It’s so cliche. The “I’m a burden, I’m a drag, I ask too much, I should be stronger, people are better off without me” thoughts prevailed. And then, the serenity. There’s the serenity, that resignation and calm knowing I can be gone and that’s okay. It’s always the finest moment where debating myself isn’t necessary. It was 4PM yesterday when I chose to kill myself.

Yesterday, I sat in the parking lot of the Eastside Shelter, ready to take Happy and Roey in so they could have a good home. I sat and waited too long. The place closed. Good thing? I asked a young mother if she would like the rabbits. She spoke only Spanish and I scared her. Dude, I must have looked like Nancy Pelosi’s head on Donald Trump’s body.

It’s hard to ask for help. Asking for help shows I’m unpforessional. I saw this at MHRAC. As soon as I went into that CPTSD tailspin, David Ley was right. I’m despicable and didn’t think things through and cmopose myself. It wasn’t that he couldn’t see the CPTSD symptoms I was having. He justly needed me to pull it together if I wanted to be on MHRAC. Nancy Konenberg the same. She said it was a peronal problem with Paula that I shouldn’t bring to MHRAC. I never know when to ask for help and it’s hard. There’s appropiriate times and inappropriate times and I always trip over the latter.

I want to call you, but you don’t need me to disturb your healing. I’ve never been selfish. It’s hard to ask for help. Still, with you gone, I thought someone might make the effort. This is coming for weeks now, thumb in dike, pressure building. I told a few memebers I spent all of Tuesday group fighting off weeping. Chris was there which thankfully reminded me I had a duty to keep things composed. It felt good saying it out loud but it made it harder yesterday because I couldn’t tell someone out loud again.

And I can’t reach out to warmline and that sucks so bad. I told you I got done with mental health court and emaiiled Mary and she said they didn’t want me “best of luck in all you do.” So . . . I guess I don’t …

Do you know the only conversations I had all week were at group (which was very hard to concentrate hence not much meaningful contact with people) and on Facebook mainly to get a solid social media presence for you and Megan. STS needs to continue. It’s a good idea although I’m not pulling my weight enough.

God, Facebook. One last ditch effort. I can’t be one of those facebook people who say “I need five friends to reply and comment or I’m done.” It would ruin STS and I need to leave something behind

One last try. I posted songs from Youtube instead.

I’m Not Okay – MCR cover

Help! – The Beatles

Adam’s Song – blink 182

Lost Like This – Oingo Boingo

English Beat – Click Click

Numb – Linkin Park

You Know My Name – Chris Cornell

Fragile Thing – Big Country

All Apologies – Nirvana

Not Enough Time – INXS

I sat and asked God, “Let just one person notice. Just one. I can’t ask social media in any other way. Please. Just one.”

One person did ask. And only one. And not from behavioral health. A random ska friend in England. And I’m alive today.

No one from behavioral health noticed. Not. A. One. What is God telling me?

It’s Sunday the 8th. I can’t call you because I can’t take the rejection. I won’t call you. So, I need to decide

Do I move on without you? Do I sit here obsessing? What is best for my health? What will keep me alive? Do I want to be?

I’ve prayed. Let’s see how this goes.

As an afterthought, I can see people in behavioral health saying, “Why didn’t he reach out? I would have been right there. He knows it’s temporary. He’s been so strong. Why didn’t he say something?”

I did say something. I did reach out. For weeks. I haven’t had strength for weeks. I really did and I felt so guilty for doing it.

There is a good question I can ask. You’ve been gone three weeks. No one asked how I was doing with you gone. No one invited me for Thanksgiving. It’s been one week without a phone call or text. From anyone. My phone log is spam. One week since I talked to you.

If people cared, why am I alone?

I prayed. I asked God, “Please, just let one person hear me. I’ve tried. Just one person.”

There was one person and only one person.

Mathew Wright, a man I never met, God sent him.

Mathew understood me asking for help through songs. It’s just like what Clare used to do to express herslf to me when words failed. Did I get the idea while praying?

So, I’m alive. Me and the dumb rabbits.

I miss you.

I was ready to kill myself yesterday. I prayed for one person to notice. One person did. Mathew Wright, a man I never met, two thirds of a continent and an ocean away.

Ahhhhhhhh-ha!!!!!!!! You see what I did there? Set up and pay off. “I was ready to kill myself yesterday. Thanks for noticing.”

You thought it was pained sarcasm. You thought it was a guiltfest. Not so! I’m not filled to the gills with Disney Princess Joy right now. I do feel more in touch with my head and the ground. From 33 years of life experience, the worst has passed.

It’s a happy ending, lads and lasses. Dude, this would actually make a really great screenplay.

I’ve saved the best images for last, screen captures straight off Facebook. Check it. Here are the few texts Mathew sent me. I could tell immediately he heard me. Immediately.

Was I ready to die? Yep. Did I know how I was going to do it? Yep. Was I able to draw upon 20 years of acquired life skills to hold on until today? Yep. Did Mathew’s kindness really help keep me breathing? Yep.

Was Mathew’s Facebook comment the one and only? Yep. He’s exactly how many people I needed to hear me.

Thanks for noticing, Mathew. Thank you for the bottom of my bottomless heart.


A few final words I’ll share. I was close to being done. It wasn’t due to anything explicitly external. While there are always truths running through my thoughts during a symptomatic crisis, the truths and thoughts are badly distorted by a malfunctioning brain. And the organ on the fritz loves to lie to me when in a depressive episode. My brain can be such an asshole sometimes.

I haven’t shared as intimate of article in some time, I think all the way back to the Paula Burton/MHRAC/APD thing. Without question, there will be some irrate words about “You shouldn’t say everything. Learn to edit!” Okay, I appreciate your words. I counter with “Why?

When I launched this site the idea was triple-purposed. First, I wanted an in-the-moment archive of my recovery journey, a reposistory of where my mind and emotions are and quite often when I’m at my worst. Although my WRAP is now ash in my rabbits’ poop box, having the immediacy of somewhere to jot it down for later is prime source material for my WRAP. Much of what I torched I can restore from old articles on Thoughtcrimes.

The second purpose will answer the question “But why make your mental illness public at all?” C’mon. What do I do every chance I get? Like many peers, I openly share my story to help others understand what it’s like to live with bipolar, schizoaffective disorder, and CPTSD. Both for peers and Muggles. Edited material published here is a lie.

And the final purpose… I love to write, the world is fun to take part in, and I like to comment on the wacky little rock and the biotic infestation on the surface. And, as a comic, it’s an easy place to jot down potential material.

Okay, this is a must-do addendum. My very good friend Mat Tibble came by to visit because he was concerned for my wellness and safety, last Tuesday. Mat and I met inpatient at Kamp Kaseman in 2012. We’re always here for each other.

The thing is, he’s got a new squeeze in his life and he was busting to tell me about her. Recall, my dirty rotten liar of a brain had me thinking in “I’m a burden, I can’t get Mat depressed like me, toughen up” terms. So I slapped on “The Mask” and supported Mateo the way he would me. I know, I know. Oxygen mask in a crashing plane analogy. I made things worse for myself. Whatever. It’s who I am.

Of course, all of this is meaningless if I don’t survive until the end of this arti . . . spoiler alert. I survive until the end of the article.

Reprinted with kind permission of Steve’s Thoughtcrimes and Stand Up To Stigmabpeer support groups.


In the past STS did some work with The Rock At Noonday in Albuquerque, a center providing those experiencing homelessness with excellent services like two meals a day, clothing, showers, internet access, phone access, laundry, and even pet check ups from a local veteranarian. Our peer support group members would bring donations of clothng and I eventually asked dude-at-the-helm Pastor Danny what items would be most useful. His answer was one item:


His answer was surprising. Explaining, he said that for someone like me, I can keep socks for years because I don’t wear them all day, and I’m not always walking from shelter to meals to services. Plus, being able to wash socks makes a huge difference in how long they last.

Now, our group members bring lots of socks, including mismatched socks.

World AIDS Day…and what that means to me…

World AIDS Day…and what that means to me…

During the crisis in the 80s I was in junior high and high school. I watched the news with my parents every day as they exploited the dying calling them an abomination to God, and saying they were deserving of their suffering because they were gay.

I watched as it was used as a political platform to prove the “Christianity” of the candidate(s).

I remember as a young adult first realizing what hate and marginalization of people really meant. I remember my heart breaking when I understood how unfair and ugly this world really is. People were literally leaving loved ones in the morgue, refusing to accept their bodies because they had a “gay disease” and didn’t even deserve to be properly laid to rest.

So on this day I remember, and send my love to all those of my generation who lost their lives to this disease. We lost (almost) an ENTIRE generation of strong, caring, humans.

And I especially send out love to my dear friend Bunnie Benton Cruse who spent every waking hour doing anything and everything she could to lay those to rest who were rejected and left alone by their families.

– Bethany Brehm Anderson

The outbreak of “Gay Cancer” in 1980’s Southern California

Growing up in SoCal, where the initial major outbreak of HIV occured centered on the bath houses of West Hollywood, I watched the news coverage as the disease progressed over the first year. For a few months, HIV took on the name “Gay Cancer.” There was no name for the virus or disease yet. That’s what the media landed on. Gay Cancer.

The new epidemic had all the best components for the making of a rigid hateful stigma. The prejudice of homosexuality as an immoral, hedonistic activity was already in play. Disneyland cast members (as everyone who works there is named) regularly split up gay couples slow dancing at the Tomorrowland dance floor, as an example of how homosexuals were treated in SoCal. So when a new deadly disease killing gay men rolled in, the already existing stigmatization of homosexuality was amplified a billion-fold.

This immoral lifestyle has brought down upon us a New Black Plague! That right there is how the AIDS outbreak was perceived.

So here’s a story from my high school years about how goofy things got with the AIDS outbreak, at the very beginning in “Ground Zero” sunny SoCal.

Vintage clothes rock. I’ve always liked hitting thrift stores for vintage surf threads. One day back in high school (mid-80s) while visiting my best gal with my new stash of Hang Ten shirts, her dad warned me not to buy used clothes because of AIDS. He asked me to leave my Goodwill bag outside.

Never mind that most infectious viruses break apart when exposed to light. It’s why getting herpes from a gas station toilet seat is so hilarious. Not possible. But this is how much of a public scare AIDS was, laden with misinfornation and fear mongering. My best gal’s dad was not a hateful or unintelligent man. He was caught up in the fearful hype of a new deadly disesse.

Used clothes could be carrying the Gay Cancer. Amazing.

The misconceptions and misinformation… it created a culture of fear, prejudice, and mistrust in SoCal… I remember it well. It sucked.

Things are much better now, in terms of stigma and fear. AIDS isn’t associated with homosexuality by default. AIDS affects everyone, and anyone can contract the disease.

It isn’t immoral. It isn’t caused by any “lifestyle.” It isn’t a mark of societal shame. It isn’t a death sentence. It’s a disease.

So, for World AIDS Day, that’s my story to share. Compared to mid-80s Southern California, things are better. I am confident things continue to get better.