Crazy on the Inside

By Diane Stark

It hadn’t been a good day, and there was no sign of it getting better any time soon. As a first-year kindergarten teacher, I was scheduled to have my performance evaluation that day. Some time that day, but I didn’t know when. The principal was simply going to walk in, sit down and watch me teach for an hour. She was going to write down everything I did and critique me on my performance. And it was going to go in my permanent file.

I was a competent teacher, and I knew that I would do OK. But today, of all days, one of my more challenging students (read: a little stinker) had decided to come to school sans Ritalin. So far that morning, he had given himself a hair cut with his green safety scissors, glued his ABC worksheet to his table and eaten pages 4-7 out of my copy of Green Eggs and Ham.

So the day wasn’t going smoothly and knowing that the principal would soon bear witness to the chaos had left me feeling a little stressed. Truth be told, I was a basket case.

Somehow, I made it through to” library time,” my only break of the day. When I delivered my class to the library, I warned the librarian that Dr. Seuss books were especially tasty that morning, and that she might want to keep an especially close eye on the aforementioned stinker. I made my students promise to behave and wished the librarian good luck.

With a sigh of relief, I left the library and sneaked into the teacher’s lounge. I shoved some coins into the snack machine and punched the button for the most calorie-laden treat I could find. As I took my first bite, another teacher came in.

“Oh, hey, Diane, how’s it going?” Susan asked.

“Oh, my crazy’s coming out today,” I muttered without thinking.

“What did you say?” She said, hiding a smirk.

Clearly in some sugar-induced form of dementia, I repeated myself and then went on to explain, “Most days, I keep all the crazy inside, and no one can even tell that it’s there. But today, it’s coming out.”

Instead of looking at me like the nut I clearly was, she laughed and hugged me. “We’re all crazy on the inside. Don’t worry about it.”

“Not you. You’re so poised all the time. But when I get stressed, I’m a nut case in here.” I pointed at my temple and nodded emphatically.

She laughed again. “Oh, no, you’ve got it all wrong. What you call ‘poise,’ I would call my façade of sanity.” She shrugged. “Ask my husband. On the inside, I’m a fruit cake. I just don’t let many people see that side of me.”

I grinned at her, glad to know that I wasn’t the only one who might be secretly certifiable. Over the next few weeks, Susan would bump into me around the building and ask me how I was doing.

“Is it staying in today?” She’d ask, winking.

On a good day, I’d say, “Yep, it’s only on the inside, where it belongs.” But on a bad day, I might say, “Help me, Susan! It’s leaking out!”

We’d laugh, and no matter what else was going on, I’d feel better just knowing I wasn’t the only one who went a little crazy on stressful days. I loved having a friend who didn’t expect me to pretend to be fine when I felt like I was going nutty. And I especially loved that, according to Susan, being crazy on the inside was actually pretty normal, psychologically speaking.

One morning, I discovered a small gift bag waiting on my desk at school. Inside was a little charm attached to a string. The charm had a bunny on it, who was going through an x-ray machine. The diagnosis read, “Crazy on the Inside.” I laughed and went to find my friend.

I no longer work at the elementary school where Susan and I met, but we still call and email one another regularly with psychological updates. So far, we’re both keeping the crazy contained without the benefit of medication, and I tell her all the time that I have her to thank for that.

There’s a saying that misery loves company. I guess crazy does too.

About this writer

  • Diane Stark Diane Stark is a wife and mom of five. She loves to write about her family and her faith. Her essays have been published in over 20 Chicken Soup for the Soul books.

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