The Line Between Genius And Insanity
A look into my neurological illness and its relationship with deep ideas
This was a very personal post to write. I am nervous to share it. I don’t know how it will be received. With that said, I feel like it would be a disservice not to write and send this out. This is a major part of who I am. Who a lot of people are. I hope you get something meaningful from this.
I was grilling Impossible Burgers on the poolside grill for my fiancé and I to have a nice dinner three weeks ago. We never have had Impossible Burgers before, so we were experimenting and trying it out. Outside, we had a little plate of patties, onions, tomatoes, and a container of mustard. It was a very nice spread and was looking to be a nice night to follow. At the grill next to us were two other neighbors that we were making small talk with. Everything seemed normal. Just another Friday night by the pool, right?
After we finished eating, we moved away from the other neighbors to do a little wedding planning. If I remember correctly, we were looking up different color schemes we could use for the wedding. I think... I honestly don’t remember. Interesting right? Why did my memory of the grilling stay clear in my brain yet just 10 minutes later, my memory is foggy. What happened?
What happened is my brain chemistry decided to send me into an episode at that very moment. Something in my brain triggered which caused an extremely rapid onset of Kleine-Levin Syndrome. In a span of 5 minutes, I went from feeling fine to being on another planet. From Madeline’s recollections, as we were looking at photos, she looked back at me as I wasn’t responding to her questions, and she could tell immediately I was in an episode by the look on my face.
This is a picture of me deep in an different episode. This is the best picture I have of my face in an episode.
This wasn’t Madeline’s first rodeo. She has taken care of me in two other episodes up to this point. She knew the drill. Get me to bed, remind me to take my meds, and take my car keys (which I didn’t have anymore because I recently sold my car). She walked me upstairs, I hit the bed, and shortly after I fell asleep around 9pm + didn’t wake up until 4pm. Before I fell asleep, I let Twitter know what was coming. At least, I told them I was in an episode.
I sent that Tweet, my let my head lay on the pillow, and I slept until 4pm the next day. by the time I woke up, I was gone. Completely gone, and into another world. I let Twitter know.
I was in the deepest realm of my episode, no memory recollection at all. I probably went back to bed at like 6pm or 7pm that night and slept for another 14-20 hours. This is the first phase of KLS. It’s where I sleep a majority of the day, eat, and go to the restroom. That’s it. Well, and I tweet… The remainder of this post will be largely about my tweets in the episode and my reflections on them.
Video of me from 2014 in an episode
If you want to learn more about KLS, check out
From the physical world to the digital one
When I’m in an episode, I know I’m in an episode. I know the only thing I can do to get better is to just take my meds and to wait it out. Its a horrible waiting game. Which gives me A LOT of time to think and to long for the moment I feel normal again. This was also the first episode that I was extremely active on Twitter in my life. Due to the nature of it being okay to Tweet 20, 30, 40+ times a day on that platform, this episode gave everyone a rare look into my stream of consciousness. Hell, it gave me a look into my stream of consciousness. When there is literally nothing else I am capable of doing, I just spent most of the episode tweeting.
Initial Tweets about KLS + Mental health
I’m just obliterated while I’m tweeting these. I’m not even coherent enough to tweet general thoughts on business. I’m just too tired. One thing that is important to mention is to share WHY I tweet links about KLS and about how i’m feeling. I didn’t only start sharing this stuff on Twitter. I’ve shared on EVERY platform I am active on on the time of the episode, including:
Tumblr back in 2012
I’ve always been a share-er. I think people sometimes wonder why I share KLS so openly when I’m in episodes. Some think its brave. Some think its weird. The fact of the matter is that it’s actually a cry for help from the Mat stuck inside of KLS. I share KLS and how I feel because I literally don’t know how else to communicate what i’m going through.
Also note, my behavior used to be way more reckless in episodes. I was public about KLS year-round so when I acted weird online/IRL, people already knew I had something wrong with me, so they weren’t too weirded out. It’s a strange tactic, but I will have KLS for a little longer (It goes away be early to mid 30s). I can either explain it 1,000 times on a one to one basis or go very public about it so then when it happens, everyone kinda gets it. It’s a security mechanism for me. Sound weird? Maybe, but you go through 25 motherfucking episodes of this hell in a fucking box, and you tell me a better strategy. So that’s why I share. It’s damage control. But it’s also something else. It’s also education.
Mental health is only getting to the place where its normal to talk about in public and online, and it’s still in its marketing and PR phase. I truly think 80% of people write posts about mental health because it’s on trend to talk about, not because they actually get it or want to help. Now, neurological illnesses are 3 steps down on the totem pole of what’s acceptable to talk about in public.
Would you talk to a Schizophrenic?
I’ve been misdiagnosed with Schizophrenia before. Does that weird you out? If it does, don’t feel bad. The public is REALLY not used to talking about neurological illnesses. So when I am in the middle of an episode, I see it as an opportunity to educate people on what KLS is. It’s a pattern matching disruptor. Tech bro. Check. White male w/ privilege. Check. Rare neurological illnesses. Huh? And I share the posts and my journey with the public to get to the “huh” moment. I do it for me. I do it for my friends with KLS. I do it for everyone with something that isn’t easy to understand in their brain. The more I can share KLS, the more this type of stuff is normalized.
Another video of me in an episode
With all of that said, only 2-3% of my tweets during this time were actually about KLS. Others were about…normal things I think about everyday. But, the tweets were better…better than my normal twitter game on an average day. Weirdly better.
My stream of consciousness
After a while, I started tweeting more normal things again. I stopped getting down on myself about having an episode, felt 2% better, and started to go back into my normal digital self. I was rendered unable to run my podcast, so I let everyone I wasn’t able to publish any podcasts because I couldn’t make it to any of my recordings.
Then soon after this one, I get on a tear about entrepreneurship.
These were all simultaneous tweets. They are coming from a different part of my brain. I’m not here pushing my company. I am here pushing a mindset. A craft. A lifestyle. Before my episode, I didn’t know I had this cognitive relationship with entrepreneurship. But in my episode, it just… came out.
You might be wondering “Mat, you seem fine in your tweets, you sure you’re in an episode”? Well, you should read my next tweet.
Note, I don’t know if the science is correct in the tweet. My Hypothalamus is affected, but not sure if that causes derealization.
How weird is that? In episodes, I am self aware enough to know exactly what is happening to me, yet not think anything happening to me is real at that time. The brain is a fascinating thing. Let me tell you, if you saw me IRL while I was tweeting, you’d think I was high. I do NOT look good. I look very ill. It’s like my body checks out from the physical world and checks into the digital one, where KLS Mat seemed to thrive. As I got slowly and slowly better, I tweet more, I pick up velocity.
This tweet got the most likes i've ever gotten, ever.
What blows my mind is that I am still GONE when writing these tweets. Very very deep in my episode. Yet, I seem to have such a clear vision for entrepreneurship. It’s all I think about in episodes, and I just tweet the thought at the time, because all I do is lay with my computer all day anyway. Wait, the tweets get deeper.
Mat Sherman @Mat_ShermanTo teach entrepreneurship is to teach naughtiness, as @paulg would say. It's not breaking the law, but it's not exactly following it. It's knowing the line, and walking down it more often than any sane person should.
Are you getting shivers like I am reading these? Maybe it’s because I wrote them, but I am reading them like someone else wrote them. These are really deep thoughts, and ones I can’t say I have consciously thought of before. Yet when i’m in a episode, they just flowed like a never ending river. Tweet after tweet, I focused solely on entrepreneurship. And the love for the craft.
This tweet is the first tweet I can recall where I was on the path to getting back to normal. A little under a week after the episode first hit.
What the fuck just happened?
Why, in my episode, can I not work at all, care for myself, take care of my cleanliness, be a normal human, BUT I can put out these deep deep theories on entrepreneurship that Jeremy and I are now going to be using for messaging for GigLoft? I never thought about this topic the way I did in this episode ever before. But now, I thought them, documented them, and they are in my head now for me to use. Is KLS Mat in some ways a genius? I have a few thoughts on this.
When there’s nothing else to do, I think a lot
I have always been a vision guy. I see the future, and I build for it. But man, on top of having visions, I need to live my life too. So I can only dream for so long. But while I have a KLS episode, ALL I have is my own thoughts and time. I have NOTHING ELSE I CAN SPEND MY TIME ON. So I spend all of it…thinking. And tweeting what I think. Is KLS Mat a manifestation of the thoughts I would be able to generate if I didn’t do anything else with my life?
Me explaining my episode as I am coming out of it
The genius/insanity line thins
Another theory I have that builds off of the previous point is that maybe people that only have time to sit with their thoughts have the opportunity to think deeply enough about a topic/subject to feel enlightened and understand it on a different level. But, many people that dedicate this amount of time to thought (all of it) might be neglecting other parts of their life so much that they also come off as an insane person. So the line between insanity and genius is thinner than people think.
Don’t get me wrong, if I was in a KLS episode all the time, I would be done. My life would be ruined, over. I would be either dead or in a psych ward by now. Guaranteed.
But because I am in an episode maybe 1% of the time, I get to understand what it’s like to be/feel normal most of the time. With that, the time I spend in a KLS episode turn me temporarily into someone who is insane, and therefore closer to the line of genius. That is my theory. I am probably going to deep than I am qualified to go to, but I want to understand who the person who wrote those tweets is. In my episode, I dug deeper on topics and now I have the pleasure to take what KLS Mat dug up and use to my benefit.
Kleine-Levin Syndrome is a very under-researched disease. There is little funding to find a cure, very few doctors out there that know how to treat it, and very few people have it. But because I am blessed with the the gift of having this son of a bitch disorder, I want to get to know it over my lifetime. I want to get rich, fund research for it, understand it and look it dead in it its eyes, the abolish it from the world to never haunt another soul for the rest of humanity. Until then, I can only hypothesize by using myself as a subject. Because at the end of the day, I want to find out who wrote those tweets. Don’t you?
This was my 25th episode. It lasted 11 days long. my longest one lasted two months. KLS is why I am who I am, for better for for worse. I welcome your questions if you have any. Thanks for reading.