Image via Pinterest.
The word crazy seems to divide opinion of late. When I was growing up it was a fairly inconspicuous word that we used to tease our friends when they said something daft, or perhaps to describe the folk that we couldn’t quite understand in our teenage years. Now I often see people popping up on Twitter saying they find the informal and everyday usage of it problematic. The worry I think is that when we use the term crazy we’re perhaps minimising mental illness or making light of a wide range of genuine mental states that many people live with.
In my family history, we have very specific incidents where the word crazy doesn’t even begin to cover the level of insanity that was present. Unhinged, psychopathic and deranged are far more suitable. The effect that person/people had on the world will never be my story to tell but suffice to say their existence led to other people’s lives ending.
That said, I use the word crazy. The reason being that I have had times in my life where I’ve felt crazy, where I’ve sat with my doctor and sobbed because I’ve felt like my brain was spiralling out of control and I couldn’t explain to anyone why. All the other words I could have used in those moments would feel either too extreme or not extreme enough. Crazy always felt just about right. I look back on my families history with mental health and I know I am susceptible to things I’d rather not be, but I am and I’ve made my peace with that.
I’ve had anxiety. In fact, it’s settled in my brain right now, probably worse than I’m currently accepting. I actually think it’s become worse over the last few months. Anxiety is often not what people think it is and it can manifest in a wide range of ways, some of which will definitely appear crazy to outsiders. I’ve also suffered from depression and there is honestly nothing rational or sane about how that made me feel. Again crazy about sums it up. I don’t think everyone who’s depressed is crazy, but it’s such a good description of how I feel during those episodes.
I’m not always great at addressing these matters when I should. For example, I haven’t exactly addressed my current anxiety levels, but I am getting there, sort of. I am however not embarrassed to share what goes on in my brain, even when it isn’t that pretty and pretty it is not.
A while back I wrote ‘Between the Worlds’ which was a watered-down version of a night terror I’ve had for probably not all of my life, but certainly for the last 15 years or so. When I fall asleep the worlds I get to exist are the darkest versions of every fear and insecurity I’ve ever had. I have always been this way, I remember being a small child and having dreams so horrible that I didn’t truly understand their content until I was much older.
Joyfully my issues with sleep get worse when my anxiety increases, as do a whole host of other manifestations. Many of which I’m not entirely sure I realise are symptoms of my anxiety until I see other folks point them out as things they have themselves. Honestly, I have spent most of my life, certainly the last twenty years of it with some form of anxiety the symptoms of which I see as part of my personality, not as symptoms of something else. Which seems fine, because maybe they’re just my quirks, maybe I’m not anxious at all. It’s not really quirky to have an increased heart rate though. Or to have various bits of your body that you pick at, especially when you’re stressed. It’s also not that quirky to wake yourself up with screams of terror as you sleep.
I’ve taken medication for both my anxiety and my depression and personally, that has never bothered me, but it has bothered me that other people seem upset by the necessity of medication in my life. It’s also other people that have caused me to question if I really do have these issues, that doubt is the only time I felt a bad kind of crazy. That place of not believing my own truth is a place I hate being. That is the kind of crazy that hurts, that is when I can understand that crazy could become a word you never want to see used.
The way people can make me doubt myself is by minimising my experience and trying to compare with stereotypes of mental illness while saying, ‘but you’re not like that so you’re fine’. No one has ever done this to be cruel, more out of disbelief because apparently, I seem like a fairly together kind of lady. I can confirm I am not a very together kind of lady at all, it is all an illusion.
Well-meaning or not, this is one of the most hurtful things someone can do when I confide in them. I can’t confirm that this is the same for everyone, but it is certainly true for me. While I appreciate that I am very functional, and in some ways extra productive, whilst in a period of anxiety it doesn’t stop all the physical and emotional manifestations. I’m still a fairly outgoing and confident person, with or without anxiety being parked in my brain. Being told I’m okay because I can leave the house or manage new social situations just makes me feel defensive, not only of myself but of other folks too.
Not only is it hurtful it’s also dangerous. Why on earth would we speak up again once someone has shown themselves to not be open to our honesty? The issue with mental health is that it is fraught with up and downs. If you rebuff me when I’m feeling mildly anxious then the chances are I’m not coming to you when I’m drowning in the stuff. Which means I have in the past suffered in silence until I could stay silent no more. I don’t think I am alone in having done this. Perhaps it isn’t always for the same reason, but knowing that we will be heard and supported is a vital part of feeling able to open up to people.
I suspect many people who read this will have extremely negative thoughts and experiences surrounding the word crazy and I in no way intend for my personal thoughts to be indicative of yours. I think for me accepting my brain foibles and being okay with sometimes veering into those crazy spaces is what keeps me willing to look out for myself and more importantly what keeps me willing to reach out to the right people when I need to.
I chose the quote in my featured image to accompany this post because it feels like a perfect summary of my anxiety. I get so convinced by it that I forget it exists, it is the demon that convinces me it’s my friend. Crazy is the state of being aware that the demon exists and in knowing it exists I can stop it manifesting in unhealthy ways. I get that crazy doesn’t work for everyone, but in some ways, it really does work for me.