I notice that Sandy Naiman, fellow Psych Central blogger whose blog is entitled Coming Out Crazy, is down with the word “crazy.”
Meanwhile, fellow Psych Central ADHD blogger Kathryn Goetzke recently waxed eloquent on how much she detests the word in her post, Please, Don’t Call Me Crazy!
I’d like to weigh in on the whole crazy debate (with thanks to Kathryn for giving me the impetus to write this).
Wild & crazy gal
Since my ADHD diagnosis, I sometimes refer to myself as crazy. I use that term in a couple of ways.
I use it in its humorous sense, as a term of endearment. When I refer to myself in that vein, I mean kookie, fun, whacky, eccentric, outlandish, spontaneous, creative, exciting, energetic…
And this usage is not unfounded. I refer (as I often do) to my ancient, sacred tome (Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary):
Crazy: 2c: being out of the ordinary: unusual 3a: distracted with desire or excitement c: passionately preoccupied
I also occasionally use it when I’m referring to my ADHD: “Yup, I’m crazy.” This can spark a conversation about ADHD, which is a welcome opportunity. I don’t see this in a negative light at all – when I use the word crazy about ME.
Yet people try to rescue me, “Oh, don’t say that,” like they think I’m putting myself down. That just shows how little they know me.
Since my diagnosis, my self esteem has never been better.
Cancel my membership in Club Crazy!
One of my first reactions after my ADHD diagnosis was, “Oh my God! I’m officially crazy!” meaning, I have something that’s listed in the DSM IV (The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders). Let’s face it, nobody says, “When I grow up, I want to be crazy!” Nor was this my goal. I wanted to be a writer. Unfortunately, these things are often synonymous. But that’s another topic.
Initially, I was terrified: I self-identified with “crazies” of all stripes, and that scared me silly – AND revealed the depths of my own ignorance about mental health. I had a long, long way to go.
My journey to diffuse the term of its emotional sting is emblematic of how society is now trying to move through its own prejudices, stereotypes, and issues around the word “crazy.” People like Kathryn, me, and you, are helping to shift our culture’s relationship with the word. Kathryn, by letting you know – for her – it’s not ok; and me, by letting you know it is.
There’s room for all of it. Aretha had it right when she emphasized R.E.S.P.E.C.T. With respect for each other, we can all be safe in holding our own views. I like it that Kathryn, right off the top, told us what the word crazy means to her.
As for me, I no longer tremble in the face of the word crazy. I now find it humorous when I refer to myself as crazy, but I don’t ask (or expect) anyone else to share my sense of humor.
Presto-change-o: reclaiming & redefining
I’m attracted to the idea of reclaiming words that have been used as weapons. It’s not unlike how some African Americans have reclaimed the N-word. Similarly, if I want to leach the poison out of a word that could be used against me because of my ADHD, then damn it, I will.
I’ve had practice.
Years ago, when I was madly (hope that didn’t offend anyone) writing about the rights of adult adoptees (like me), I found a website called Bastard Nation. I joined immediately. I thought the term was hilarious, and the very existence of the website, and its community, empowering. The tagline on the site’s Google listing reads: “Dignity and Equal Rights for Adult Adoptees.” Yeah, brother!
When it comes to name-calling…I don’t
We can’t possibly know the impact of name-calling; therefore, I’ve adopted a policy to never – ever – call anyone names. Perhaps “policy” is too strong a word. Let’s say, heartfelt goal.
Name-calling is a highly ineffectual way to communicate. It hides what we’re really feeling, what we’re really thinking. I agree with Kathryn when she calls for a more direct, clear way to say things:
“If I am acting in a way that scares you or seems out of character and unpredictable, tell me!”
Right on, sister.
What matters is what you think of you
Where we differ is in her emphasis on others changing their behaviors as the solution. Sure, it would be great if everyone stopped name-calling; but they won’t. The only behavior and reactions we have control over, are our own.
Kathyrn demonstrated a great first step by realizing she’s triggered by the word crazy, but that’s not the case for all of us. So, while her post starts, “It’s as if this one word cuts right to the core of our very being and makes us question our intrinsic worth,” she’s definitely not speaking for me.
I’m well aware that anyone who thinks I’m crazy, in the negative sense, is displaying ignorance about mental health, about me, and about the effects of name-calling.
As far as my being crazy goes, I’m with Steve Martin, that Wild and Crazy Guy.
And I’m also with Kathryn – if you have an issue with me – SAY IT – don’t mask it in insults, ok? That’s just crazy.