Two or Three Takes on Madness

Douglas Coupland in the Massey Lectures (delivered as a novel in five hours) has a character who has been a receptionist in the office of a psychiatrist. The character has an interesting take on being a little crazy and on medications.

First comes the bit about inheritance and madness:

“Me? I don’t know. Maybe I didn’t learn much. I work as a receptionist for three psychiatrists. I see a lot of crazy. But I think crazy people — okay, not crazy, but people at the extremes of normal behaviour — are more interesting than so-called normal people. I’ve learned that one of the biggest indicators for success in life is having a few crazy relatives. So long as you get only some of the crazy genes, you don’t end up crazy; you merely end up different. And it’s that difference that gives you an edge, that makes you successful.”

Next comes the piece about meds:

I’ve also learned that if you’re on meds, it’s much better to stick to them. I mean, would you rather jump off a bridge because you couldn’t be bothered to take one lousy pill? Also, when agitated patients come in, I tell them some kind of story about my cat, Rusty. Listening to people tell stories is very soothing. When someone is telling you a story, they hijack the personal narrator that lives inside your head. It’s the closest we come to seeing through someone else’s eyes.

I like the quasi-metafictional move to commenting on the nature of narrative. Plus there is the neat segue from a homeopathic explanation of genetic inheritance (a little bit goes a long way) to the little pill of daily medication. It’s all in the dosage of what we allow into our heads — and a little reading goes a long way. Keeps you on the edge.

And so for day 634

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