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