It is another day in Memorial Day Weekend and everyone you love the most is driving you crazy because everyone decided to kick off the summer by reconnecting. I choose to try to figure out what drives me crazy and does it have something to do with the fact that I am part Italian and have family and friends around a lot. Who could be any better to help me get through some unanswered questions than Joe Pantoliano and his new book Asylum.
You know him because he has been in over 100 movies including The Matrix ,Risky Business and Memento and who won an Emmy Award for his acting work in The Sopranos HBO series. He calls his book Hollywood tales from his great depression, brain disease, recovery and being my mother’s son. His experiences in life and his many crazy characters he has played throughout the years gives him a unique kind of knowledge and experience into the minds of crazy people.
You can’t say crazy anymore but it does say it all. Yes we all can be crazy at times. Ok, emotionally challenged, or the kid who doesn’t act past 4 years old. Today we call that autistic. In his movie Momento the way he acts is called traumatic brain injury because the character didn’t have any short term memory. In his movie Canvas Joe plays the romantic lead, the husband to his wife played by Marcia Gay Harden about a Florida family dealing with a mother who has later on set schizophrenia with auditory hallucinations. The movie was about how does mental illness effect a family.
Joe is an expert without any medical degree from just knowing his movies and dealing with his family especially on holiday weekends. His mother reminds him of the woman in the Canvas movie. So, how do most people self medicate? We start drinking or smoke pot to forget stuff for awhile or even take pain killers. We all think we are fine, it is just everything else around us driving us nuts. How do we even know we are going crazy?
In the book Joe describes his seven deadly symptoms as he calls them. What do we do when uncomfortable? We occupy us with food, shopping, shop lifting, success, sex, booze and prescription drugs. Hey! Is there anything else to do in life? Well, he means seeking these things to excess individually or collectively. He felt the need for some of these things when at age 13 his mother told him that his cousin was his real father and not that guy who lived with them he called dad. Ouch.
Joe has been in therapy since 19 years old and still hasn’t recovered from how his mother seemed to seek love from the two men in their lives. Depression or happiness can be controlled by your moods. Like the rest of the world we all just want some peace of mind. He says that 80% per cent of our mood uneasiness is recoverable. 70% of bi polar disorder, 65% of schizophrenia which is a mental disorder that makes it hard to tell the difference between what is real and not real; can be controlled by just trying to focus.
It took him many years to even realize all the problems and label them, Because of shame, bigotry, discrimination that surrounds the mental uneasiness people retreat and do not confront it. Society says it is ok to discuss at a party your high cholesterol and tell a group that you take Lipitor now so you don’t get a heart attack but it is not cool to discuss your mental issues at a Memorial Day Party or any get together. Even for young people it is acceptable to have their drug dealer on speed dial than to have someone they can talk to about their mental uneasiness.
Mental disease is environmental, genetic and spiritual in nature. If you don’t cut the unfinished emotional traumas of your life, you think it is ok and you do it to others. He cut and forgave his mother and is able to deal with the who’s your daddy crap he had to go through in his life otherwise perhaps he would have been one of a few daddy’s too. All his secrets are literally discussed in his open book that he just wrote.
Joe has played crazy characters all his life so maybe he is an expert on trying to cope with everything emotional. That is why some people just scream when angry or displeased or frustrated. The release makes you feel better. You have built up the dopamine and serotonin and it is pumping through your body. Screaming doesn’t get you any better. You are just screaming. Get better. Confront whatever is bugging you and deal with it and do not be afraid to discuss it. Happy Holiday.