Heartbroken, Not Crazy

I visited the Winchester Mansion last year as one of my stops on a drive back to Los Angeles from Oakland. As I listened to Sarah Winchester’s story during the tour, I was entranced by the design of her home and how it was a manifestation of intense heartbreak. I thought about how she must have felt to lose her husband and her child and how the access to such a large amount of wealth led to the construction of a marvelous and haunting home in San Jose, California.

When telling a friend about my visit, he asked, “Is that the lady who was crazy?” I stopped him immediately and defended Sarah, making it clear that no one should confuse heartbreak with being “crazy.” In fact, it’s such a dismissive word. Even Dave Chapelle, during his interview on Inside The Actors Studio, defended this belief after his own struggles during season three of his show.

Several years ago I went through a nasty little split up with a guy I was dating. In his home were some valuable items belonging to me and because I knew he kept his house unlocked, I went by after work and picked up my laptop, a DVD, and some other stuff I wanted back. Because I did this, he called me a psycho. The new girl he was dating reached out to me a week later to share these things he said about me, and I told her, “I wasn’t being crazy, I was heartbroken, and the two should not be confused.”

My mother experienced the disintegration of her marriage in a way that still comes to me in bad dreams. My father, in a most cavalier tone, said to me, “Your mother is crazy.” What I saw at age ten was a woman who would wail and cry and mourn that she was about to lose her home and her husband, and my father tried to teach me that heartbreak and outbursts of emotion were actually indications of insanity.

What I have learned is that when someone calls another person “crazy” or a “psycho,” I will not take their word for it. It completely dismisses a bigger issue that should be approached with compassion and empathy. When our friends are heartbroken for whatever reason, that’s when they need us the most. Heartbreak can be so intense and alienating that it takes away from a person’s  ability to think rationally, and when that happens to you, you need someone on your side, someone who sees what is happening to you and is able to guide you out of that darkness little by little.

I can still remember the scent of flowers from the garden that surrounds the Winchester Mansion. It was as though someone held a bouquet under my nose while I stared at the wallpaper in the Daisy Room, where she once slept as a powerful earthquake cracked the walls and trapped her inside. Despite how well she treated the staff that lived in her home, they left her in that bedroom for two hours before they ventured up to help her. It feels that way, sometimes, when your heartbreak becomes so large and uncontrollable. The walls that hold up your life start to crack and you’re trapped without anyone who can understand how to pull you out in time. While there are no immediate magic words that will make a person happy again, the one word that I can eliminate from my vocabulary is “crazy.”

Featured Image via WinchesterMysteryHouse.com

  • http://www.facebook.com/MaryJoe28 Maria Jose Rojas

    girl, you are amazing! When you told me the difference between a “bast@rd” and a love-child, I just knew we are going to be good friends. I really love your approach on this subject and the fact that you defended Sarah is a statement to it, when you’re heartbroken it might feel and seem like one is cuckoo but that doesn’t mean we actually are crazy;we are just, in that phase of our lives “emotionally indisposed”
    Great post, as always ♥

    • Marianna

      Like the student in the classroom said, “Love child, that sounds softer.” It’s all in how you want to perceive it, no?

  • http://www.facebook.com/AprilcMcLean Meredith Dixon

    Gosh, I suppose since I can’t send a direct message thanking you for this, I’ll just comment. I can’t tell you how perfect the timing of this post is. I am going through a pretty cruddy time right now and am so emotional, (like crying any time I am not distracted by something,) and anyone that knows me knows that I steer clear of emotions genereally. So, I just keep thinking “Am I going crazy? What is WRONG with me?!” And this post was just.. really perfect.

    Especially this part: “The walls that hold up your life start to crack and you’re trapped without anyone who can understand how to pull you out in time. While there are no immediate magic words that will make a person happy again, the one word that I can eliminate from my vocabulary is ‘crazy.’ ”

    Its just one of those posts that kinda really understands you and helps you feel a little less alone and a little less crazy.


    • Marianna

      Sounds like you’re gonna be okay. :) I don’t know what has you so sad but I can promise that you’ll be better and stronger when you get to the part when you can reflect on it and pull out the lessons that you can use for future tough moments in your life.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1318210631 Lara Streeter

    Just wow….

  • http://www.facebook.com/amber.roya1 Amber Royal

    this was beautifully written. I agree with the comment above, this post does make you feel a little less crazy.

  • http://www.facebook.com/msrachelcasey Rachel Casey

    I seriously love your posts.

    • Marianna

      Thank you :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/allie.luallen Allie Kaye Luallen

    Love this. Amazing

  • http://www.facebook.com/mcmaestas83 Michelle Maestas

    As a wife and mother, I can see how it was grief not insanity that drove her actions. What a very sad life!

    • Marianna

      The website has a lovely way of explaining that situation in her life. She believed her family was cursed and haunted by the ghosts of those who died from being shot by Winchester rifles. :(

  • http://www.facebook.com/laura.j.coker Laura J Coker

    Love this! Eloquently put, beautifully written.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=609308240 Alexandra Anderson Conrad

    Wonderful. Heartbreak turned me into someone I didn’t even know was in me. This is beautiful. Thank you!

    • http://www.facebook.com/fionahelen Fiona Lyons


  • http://www.facebook.com/abbiea Abbie Anderson

    Thank you for helping me understand myself better and inspiring me to be more patient and understanding with others.

  • http://www.facebook.com/PunkRockPam Pam Newman

    This is your best work yet on Hgigs, Marianna.

    • http://www.facebook.com/MaryJoe28 Maria Jose Rojas

      I second this

  • http://www.facebook.com/girleastlikely2 Myrna Valadez

    I guess I shouldn’t go around saying, “You so crazy girl”. Ha! Take me to Winchester Castle please.

    • Marianna

      It’s a mansion, not a castle. And there’s no way I’m taking you. :) <3

  • http://www.facebook.com/sarah.m.murdock Sarah Maria Murdock

    This was bloody brilliant. I often mistake most of my moods for “crazy”… But having experienced many tragedies from all points of the tragedy scale in my 29 years of existence, I can honestly say this piece comes from a place of pure truth and I appreciate that. Most people aren’t crazy. Most people “feel” crazy when they reach points of heightened emotion… Be it heartache, anger, or even elation. Bravo lady. I hope my little spiel makes sense… But if not, in a nutshell, I’m saying thank you for writing this.

    • Marianna

      Are we facebook frandz yet?

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1514010206 Bethany Vose

    Not only does this give me more perspective on my mother and best friend, I don’t think you realize how much this helps restore some of my own self-worth. Emotions are very…complicated for me. I think this is pretty much what my therapist has been trying to help me realize and you just summed it up in a few, unbiased paragraphs. (unbiased as in, not my therapist trying to make me feel better about myself)

    • http://www.facebook.com/WritingInBed Marianna Tabares

      I don’t blame you for feeling that way. Emotions are scary because they’re sort of in the realm of the “unknown,” since we really don’t know their shape or what they will lead to. Thanks for your comment. That means a bunch to me.

  • http://www.facebook.com/faustica Jessica Faust

    My dear dear guy-friend just got dumped from his first real relationship, and through my advice (“no, don’t call her,” “no, don’t call her friends,” “no, don’t show up at her house,”) I have to confess to him that, yeah, I’m a hypocrite who has done all of those things and worse in the trenches of a heartbreak. “If you must,” I say, “but when you feel silly later, just remember that I have done wayyyy more absurdly embarrassing things before you knew me and before I swore off men for 2011.” I’ve been glad that my former-email-hacking self can at least provide advice and perspective these past few weeks. Thanks for a great article.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=681235181 Mandy Paterson

    Thank you for this. It is beautiful and necessary…a must-read for humans.

  • http://www.facebook.com/kaliska47 Erin Miuccio

    This is sooo true! I got called bi-polar for getting really upset when my ex sent another girl an “I love you” text. His friends then proceeded to tell my friends how horrible and crazy I was. WTH? It’s very comforting to know that I’m not the only one who sees the difference between really crazy and heartbroken.

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