As someone who battles with a mental disorder every minute of every day, I have conflicting feelings about the concept behind the word “crazy.” I’m not sure I’d go as far as saying I have any strong feelings about the word itself, which is an important distinction. I’ve never felt the word to be a pejorative when it stands on its own. Of course, I’ve been called crazy at times, where that word has not been used for its generic definition, but rather as an encompassment of my inability to handle my mental issues.
The word itself is not pejorative. But the underlying meaning when used by someone that knows me well enough to know my mental issues… that gets… tricky.
For one, it is tricky because I use it myself to describe myself. Regardless of what my state of mind is, I am always self-deprecating. And thus, I’ve used the term as a noun. “My crazy talking there,” I’ve said.
At the same time, self-deprecation comes packed with a lot of license. I am me and I can say almost anything about myself without worry about offending others. I can call myself all sorts of names, and as long as I’m not stupid enough to use something like a racial or sexual epithet, I pretty much have free rein.
Now, how does this work if I—one who is afflicted by mental disorders—use the term “crazy” to describe someone else? Have I ever done this? Yeah, I have. And I’m beginning to think I may want to dial back the use of terms like this.
I’m not at all discussing the generic form of the word “crazy.” Where I—or someone else—flippantly says “you’re crazy” when something somewhat meaningless but a bit… zany… happens. No, I mean referring to someone as being crazy because their grip over how their mind works in our shared universe is off-kilter.
I then think back to all the times I’ve used this term in a such a manner, and I find that I most often don’t do so to the face of the person I am referring to. And it gets more complex because part of the reason for that is that I am obsessively non-confrontational. And I do mean obsessively. So I naturally don’t say a lot of things that may or may not be warranted to people directly anyway.
Let’s say I did, though. Because I think it, let’s leave my issues with confrontation aside. Am I wrong?
Or—am I an authority on this? An authority on crazy that can thus use the term when someone is acting like such a word would describe. Because most likely they’d be acting on a different type of “crazy” than my own, as every individual’s mental state is actually unique. And often difficult.
This word is benign enough that I don’t think issues of “allowance” are in play. No one’s getting banned from anything for using the word “crazy.”
But going a level deeper we delve into sensitivity. If I long for more sensitivity from others for my mental issues, I should do all I can to step back and make sure every thought I have about someone is coming first from a place of sensitivity. That’s not a question, that is what I am finding I should do.
I’m not just finding this out now, it has been something I’ve been working on for years.
I’m stuck on this word. I feel I am stuck because I both want to be able to use it freely and I know I am probably less hurt by it when it is used towards me. In essence, I know I am crazy—at times—and I know I have enough of a handle on it that the mere label does nothing to make me feel worse.
But that’s me.
That’s not everyone.
Almost everyone has some sort of issue with their mental health. No one is perfect, and many people have less of a grasp on their mental issues—for myriad reasons—then I do. And for sure many people have a better grasp than I do. I’m not at the top or bottom of this stack.
I am within it.
With many other people.
Who should not be called crazy.
Or maybe… shouldn’t be called crazy by anyone but themselves.
And to that point, maybe I should be spending less time wondering if I am crazy and more time wondering if I am an asshole.