Why I stopped using the word crazy to define myself

I’m an admin on a Facebook page for people with Borderline Personality Disorder. I love doing this work and serving this community. It is one of the most meaningful things I do. Our site is set up so that when a member makes a post, an admin or a moderator has to approve it before it is posted. Last week,one of our members posted a link to a song by a young woman named Bebe Rexha, called “I’m gonna show you.” I listened to the song and was quite impressed with her voice but the lyrics…. I have not been able to get them out of my head and I have been thinking a LOT about what she has to say. Language is how we communicate with each other and the words we use to define things is powerful.

She’s crazy as bat shit!

We’ve all heard it, “You’re crazy!” “She’s crazy as bat shit!” “You’re a raving lunatic!” The word crazy is almost always used in a pejorative manner when it is hurled at another person. Oh, yes, on occasion it is used in a joking manner, “Yeah, we’re crazy, aren’t we?” but even when used that way there is a bite to the word. When I was at my worst and having  a meltdown my husband would say to me, “Stop being crazy!” I always knew I was acting crazy but having him say those words to me was very hurtful. It never helped the situation.

Rexha uses the words: Loco, Maniac, Out of Control, Psychopath. So self-invalidating. 

The thing about this little word, crazy,  is that if you really listen you will hear it being tossed about in the most casual of conversations. It is almost always used as a way to insult someone. Except when it’s used as a way to “cajole” someone or call attention to behavior which is being judged by the other person.Sometimes you will hear it used as a way of praising another person as in, “Man, he is one ca-ra-a-z-y MOTHERFUCKA!”

Feeds right into the stigma of mental illness AND BPD

So I started to think about what exactly it was that I didn’t like about the word. I quickly realized that it was never a word of endearment or used to soothe me. It was a word that was used to call attention to behavior that the other person thought was undesirable and wished to change. It was a very invalidating word which was used against me and which further stigmatized me. It was always used in an attempt to change my behavior or control me in some way. It got in the way of me being able to seek effective treatment because it also caused ME to make judgements about myself, my behavior and my mental status.

But people use this word very often and most of the time they are completely unaware they are doing so and, more importantly, the effect it has on the other person with whom they are conversing. 

If you actually start to pay attention when other people are talking among themselves but, more importantly, when you are talking to yourself, you will quickly come to discover that the word is used very casually. It is used to define people, situations and even political events and politicians. It is used all across the media and is used in the titles of some very popular television programs.

It’s actually a sexist label

Most people might not even consider that the word crazy might be a  sexist label. When you start to examine the connotations of the word’s historical origins, you quickly see that at the turn of the century women were labeled crazy and locked away in institutions. The word stems from the word luna which means “moon” from a time when women were labelled hysterical and their hysteria was tied to the phases of the moon. The word crazy is associated with women being irrational, and is based in gender specific stereotypes. Because of the way in which the word is linked to gender-based stereotypes, the stigma attached to it, for women, is tremendous. Using the word in your everyday language relegates a person with a mental illness to the category of “other” and the perception that they are “not like us”.

People in families who have been diagnosed with BPD are often scapegoated by their other family members. Rather than attributing the person with BPD’s behavior as coming from a place of pain, they tend to scapegoat them, “Oh, my sister, Jenny, she’s crazy! 

People with mental illness are perceived by others as being “weak” or  somehow not connected solidly to reality.People blame people who suffer from mental illness as if they only have to “get over it” and everything will be alright. Nothing could be farther from the truth. And because no one wants to think of themselves like that, it causes the person with mental illness to experience a lot of shame about something over which they have very little control. 

The message  here is: Be careful what you say about yourself to yourself because you are listening! I believe that what you think, you say and what you say, you become.Stop victimizing yourself over and over again.

If you think you don’t know someone who has a mental illness, please think again. Like gay people, we are everywhere. They just don’t see us.