I’ve recently entered the big wide world of mental health bloggers. I’ve struggled with my mental health since I was 16 (from what I remember — my psychiatrist says it seems I was showing symptoms even before then), but didn’t get into blogging until earlier this year and didn’t become a mental health advocate until a few months ago.
And I’m so, so happy I did. The people I’ve ‘met’ are incredible survivors of diseases that are plaguing not only my nation but the whole world. Disorders that far too many people misunderstand. I’m honored to be among so many beautiful souls in helping to raise awareness and open people’s’ eyes in our plight to eradicate stigma, help others suffering, and so much more.
That being said, I’ve noticed a common feeling among most of those living with mental illness (or mental difference, as some prefer to call it, and I’m trying to train myself to do the same). They do not like to be called crazy. They won’t call themselves crazy, the won’t let you call them crazy, they won’t do I what I do and refer to their symptoms as their ‘crazies’.
It’s like Hancock up in here.
I’m not saying their points aren’t valid. I completely understand and respect their feelings. From a certain standpoint, crazy does add to the stigma; instead of seeing us as people with diseases, it’s arguable that the c-word makes us into flawed objects and contributes to spreading misinformation.
Because we’re not crazy — we’re just like you, only different. Pretty much like how you’re just like us, only different. We don’t want to be seen as our mental illness. We want to be seen as people living with mental illness. You wouldn’t call someone with cancer cancerous, would you?
So I get that view.
* * * * *
However, crazy has become common. It’s normal. Everyone is ‘crazy’ — everyone is called ‘crazy’ at some point or another. As I said above, I call my symptoms my ‘crazies’. Because they are crazy. Becoming so attached to my therapist after three weeks that I nearly have an emotional breakdown when I can’t see her for two is crazy. Hating Jack with such a passion that I fantasize about horrible, horrible things happening to him, but then throwing a fucking fit, screaming, crying, dropping to the floor and begging when he tries to leave is crazy. Not being able to shower for three weeks is crazy. Not wanting to shower ever is crazy.
Some of the things we do are crazy. Some of the things mentally healthy people do are crazy. At this very moment, people are pouring buckets of ice water on their heads to ‘raise awareness’ for ALS, only half of them don’t mention ALS at all. That’s crazy. I even heard that the Ice Bucket Challenge started as a jokester thing between celebrities, but somehow ALS took it over. That’s crazy. Growing up, my friends would try to make their own versions of Jackass. That’s crazy.
When I search for “crazy” photos on Flickr, I find stuff like this:
The consensus seems to be that crazy means silly animals, funny faces, and Obama-haters. I’m okay with that. (Although I’d rather not be linked to Obama-haters, because they are cray.)
The world is crazy and the people in it are crazy. That’s just how it is.
* * * * *
According to Dictionary.com, the adjective crazy has 10 meanings.
1. mentally deranged; demented; insane.
2. senseless; impractical; totally unsound.
3. (Informal.) intensely enthusiastic; passionately excited.
4. (Informal.) very enamored or infatuated (usually followed by about).
5. (Informal.) intensely anxious or eager; impatient.
6. (Informal.) unusual; bizarre; singular.
7. (Slang.) wonderful; excellent; perfect.
The first one, yes, it’s rude and hostile and contributes to stigma and shouldn’t be said about anyone. If you didn’t know, those are derogatory words when referring to a human being. (Insane is arguable, but that’s not why we’re here.)
However, I can tell you for certain that I am often senseless and impractical; enthusiastic and excited; enamored or infatuated; anxious, eager, and impatient; unusual and bizarre; and I am most definitely wonderful, excellent, and perfect. And you know what? I become those things tenfold (or perceive that I do) during an episode.
Sometimes I am likely to break or fall to pieces. Does anything better describe how one feels when they’re depressed?
I am not weak, but occasionally I feel weak. Infirm and sickly, though, describe my worst times.
And this last one, well, who doesn’t have unusual, unexpected, or random qualities? Isn’t that what mental disorders are all about?
* * * * *
After the adjective, Dictionary.com has two more definitions for the plural noun crazies.
11. (Slang.) an unpredictable, nonconforming person; oddball.
12. the crazies: (Slang.) a sense of extreme unease, nervousness, or panic; extreme jitters.
You read some of my posts and tell me if I’m unpredictable, nonconforming, and an oddball. Because I’ll be the first to admit it.
And oh, look at that. My tell-tale sign, the crazies. Although mine aren’t limited to extreme unease, nervousness, panic or extreme jitters. Instead my crazies are pretty much any weird little (or big) quirk I have. (I also call them quirks.) (And weird.)
The world doesn’t seem to perceive crazy all that horribly.
* * * * *
On the other hand, there’s the term mentally ill. Honestly, I don’t know if this is an accepted term or not. Mentally different is (and again, I’m trying to teach myself to use it), but when we talk about our mental illnesses most people correlate that with the label mentally ill — not crazy.
What do you think when you hear the words mentally ill? Because I am living with mental illness, and I sure as hell don’t think happy, sugar-plum thoughts. I think the same thing Flickr does:
Keep the stereotype alive, Flickr users.
I do not want to be associated with these things. When people find out that I have Bipolar Disorder and Borderline Personality Disorder — when they learn that I am ‘mentally ill‘, I do not want them to think of padded rooms and old, abandoned, creepy mental institutions where patients endured inane, inhumane, and insane experiments. I don’t want them to think that I am unfit for the real world.
Because I’m not.
* * * * *
Dictionary.com has only one definition for mentally ill:
having a mental illness.
And of course, that’s true. But I can’t help but wonder why there is only one definition. Is it really that clear-cut, or are the stereotypes too crude to publicize?
* * * * *
To be crazy is to be normal nowadays. No, it’s not particularly kind to call someone struggling with their mental health the c-word. After all, any seemingly simple word can affect people differently.
But I’ll take crazy over mentally ill any day. So go ahead, call me crazy. A million more times. I promise I won’t throw a car at you — instead I’ll just laugh along.
To (mis)quote the Cheshire Cat: We’re all crazy here. I’m crazy, you’re crazy. You must be, otherwise you wouldn’t have come here.
* * * * *
- Subscribe to Tidbits & Smidgens — the biweekly newsletter from Nonsense & Shenanigans, chock full of stuff you won’t find on the blog. It’ll be like our own secret bond.
- Contribute to The Confessional! Set your secrets free.
- Participate in Tired Toddler Thursdays — your chance at making your cute sleeping baby (or dog, or significant other, or cat, or bird, etc.) pics go viral.
- Facebook: Nonsense & Shenanigans / Twitter: @nonsenanigans / Tumblr: nonsense-and-shenanigans / Bloglovin’: nonsenseshenanigans(dot)com
What do you think about the term ‘crazy’? ‘Mentally ill’? What about all the others — ‘mental disorder’, ‘mental illness’, ‘mental difference’, etc. Do you have a preferred term? Do you use the word ‘crazy’ in any aspect of your life? Why do you think it’s different for those suffering from a mental disorder? Let me know!