Paying Homage to the Cuckoo's Nest

I’m a big fan of the homage. Before I start going off all irresponsible-wordy-style (what else is new?), here's a dramatic two-part definition of the word:

1. Ceremonial acknowledgment by a vassal of allegiance to his lord under feudal law.
2. Special honor or respect shown or expressed publicly.

Obviously, I can’t really go for that first definition, since I don't know what the hell it means, and besides, under medieval feudal law as a 25-year-old woman I would already have seven kids all shacked up with the local blacksmith, and I definitely wouldn’t be writing this because I’d be illiterate, not that I would care anyway because my husband would probably be coming home drunk every night, leaving me with the responsibility of raising the entire nest myself. So by default, I’m going with the second definition, pledging allegiance to the special honor or respect shown publicly.

To me, the homage is priceless medication, the junkie equivalent to novacaining addictive worries and cooking up hopes and dreams in a spoon and injecting them back into the system brand new. Reaffirming my devotional respect for a song, movie, memory, or person can often sedate my nerves when I’m feeling confused, overwhelmed, and way in over my head. Even if you were to thoughtfully suggest a more conventional, socially accepted remedy, a la “Delia, you really need to sort yourself out. You should go see this guy over in Brentwood. Motherfucker handles me just like your favorite movie shrink, Dr. Berger (Judd Hirsh) from Ordinary People (Memorable quote – Berger: “What shit have you pulled? [pause] Hey, remember, I'm talking proportion here, now what shit? [pause] C'mon, you must be able to come up with at least one example. And don't give me, ‘I tried to kill myself.’ That's old turkey.”),” I would stand by the homage school of self-therapy, even if I'm the only student and there are no teachers.

I won’t go into details here (except to shout out to Portland’s finest child psychologist, Dr. Willis), but ever since I was little, I’ve always been a bit suspicious of these so-called “professionals” who want to talk about my mental state for an hour in exchange for my 40 hours of paycheck and maybe subscribe me to some happy-as-a-lamb meds that will render me incapable of feeling angry towards that girl on our rival soccer team who always tries to start shit with me for no reason and Republican congressmen who think it’s a good idea to do away with the filthy rich hatin’ Estate Tax. For your convenience, in a shorter, more compact sentence: Shrinks - they're suspect.

Now, before you put me over on Team Cruise, I wouldn’t equate my resistance to the psychological profession as anything but personal and private. I've got no lofty motives related to aliens and the human quest for self-improvement. Yes, the personal can be political, but come on - there are bigger fish to fry than the antidepressant industry and Matt Lauer. The Scientology Way, much like the Mormon Way or the Communist Way, may be the Right Way, but in this day and age, L. Ron Hubby is never going to convince the entire world that psychiatry kills and body Thetans need to start flooding out of our eyelids if we’re ever going to survive. Maybe celebrities can afford it, but ridding myself of extraterrestrial energy (or whatever) is way too expensive, so I don’t buy it, and neither do all the people around the world who bet all their money on their mental health professional of choice keeping them from becoming cranially imbalanced (see also - pessimist's terms: permanently suicidal; also, see also - layman's terms: just plain batshit crazy).

But still, what's so wrong about being a little crazy? I'm not speaking for Hitler and Osama here, but extreme hatred craziness aside, things have changed since '50s housewives would traquilize themselves into Stepford complacency and no one knew what was wrong with austisitic kids until they saw Rain Man. In a society so beautifully, detrimentally fucked up as ours, there’s no longer reason to be ashamed of such impairments as depression, bipolar disorder, OCD, and barbiturate addiction. Mental sickness is just another physical disability, a glitch on the perfect specimen (that doesn't exist), restricting for some and enlightening to others, treatable and manageable. Sickos live normal lives every day, often fitting in as if nothing is off, as commonplace as the guys playing wheelchair basketball, coexisting peacefully in our midst, only disrupting order when absolutely necessary, when the logical checks out and the nonsense takes over, we all start walking around in circles downtown shouting at the people in their heads with no hope of being locked up because thanks to latter-day Reagan-era budget restructuring, all the state mental hospitals have been nicked, leaving many homeless crazies unable to take care of themselves, wandering in and out of jail, on and off meds.

I might be wrong, but there’s one thing I know for sure about mental health: the human brain is a very heavy, complex mass of maze-like coils of, um, squishy thought activities and understanding nerve cluster DNA helix cellular configurations…and, um well, yours is probably more complex than mine, in a completely different way. No, but seriously, the only thing I know for sure about mental health is that my head hurts just thinking about it. I know there are a lot of you hoo-hahs out there who prefer discussing the intricacies of your cranium with complete yet "professional" strangers, completely removed from your normal social surroundings, and you feel better afterwards. If psychologists can help my Dad, Tony Soprano, and Conrad Jarrett battle their inner demons and finally acknowledge their inner angels, it is a great, great thing indeed. Me, personally? I don’t trust ‘em.

Even at my most critically-minded, whether of the Man or myself, I seek refuge not in the things that I think might be wrong, but in what I know is right. When I write a public display of respect to a person or a work of art, it always feels right to send that message out, regardless of whether anyone receives it. Tonight I was going to do an homage to a rock song or something of that predictable nature, but alas, predictably, I ended up going way off subject and writing this homage to mental health dynamics instead. Call me crazy, label me mad, prescribe me a straight-jacket, diagnose me as insanely affected by the phases of the lunatic moon, or just accuse me of scraping the bottom of the barrel for maniacal synonyms, but I feel much better now, and that’s worth more hours on Freud’s couch and ProZoloft candy than I could ever afford.


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