Reclaiming the Crazy

23 Jan

Went to see El Shrinko today, after three months of rescheduling due to deaths, meetings, general busyness and assholish receptionists. My doctor has THE most passive aggressive receptionist I’ve ever seen. My last few appointments I’ve had to turn down because of work commitments and snow storms, in that order. Last week she called, saying my Dr really wanted to see me, could I come in tomorrow. She had left me a message, so I didn’t call her back since I knew I had to check my calendar at work.

She calls me 2 hours later at home.

Of course I find out the next day that there is no way in hell I can change my day around, so I leave a message cancelling, saying it’s no problem to wait until today. I figured my levels were either low or high, but not really bad, or they’d be insisting.

Well today, the wench calls me in the morning to remind me, which is fine. Then she adds “Oh, so you’re actually coming this time?”

If I could have reached through the phone to throttle her, I would have.

Then I make it to the appointment, only to have my doctor be 30 mins late anyway. I know these things happen, but after dealing with Miss. Bitch, I was annoyed. So I let my doctor know just how irritating this woman is, mentioning that if I was, oh, I don’t know, really depressed, being treated the way this woman treats people would NOT HELP AT ALL.

The doctor didn’t seem surprised, which kinda weirded me out truthfully.

But really-you work at a mental health center. One would think that you would be a little more empathetic and kind. And that you’d realize that not all crazy people are on welfare with nothing to do. Hell, I’d imagine even people on disability or welfare have things to do other than jump when their doctor has an open appointment.

But I digress.


I’m a little hypo-manic lately, have been for about 2 weeks now. Nothing major, but enough that when she told me my levels were off, I wasn’t surprised. My appetite is up again, I was down at Christmas, I’m talkative as all get out-I know something was up. But I enjoy my sessions more when I am a bit manic because then we get past the “Woe is me-the sky is falling” scenario, and just talk.

I started blathering on about something, maybe about how crazy can’t talk to crazy about things (referring to how 2 crazy people don’t make sanity) and she immediately got excited.

“You’re not crazy!!!”

I stopped and stared at her. “Erm, yeah I kinda am. I mean, I’m not bag lady hiding dead squirrels under the buggy crazy, but I am mentally ill.”

“But you aren’t crazy!” she seemed offended, really bothered that I’d refer to myself this way. ” And you sound like you like saying you’re crazy!”

I tried to explain to her my philosophy of reclaiming the crazy. I’ve had other mentally ill individuals take umbrage with my matter of fact usage of the word crazy, and frankly, I don’t care.

It’s important to me to stand up and say “This is what crazy looks like. This is what mentally ill really is. Not necessarily dirty and homeless. Sometimes, just like you, just like your mother, or your teachers or your nurses. We ARE you.”

I’m tired of crazy being relegated to this Victorian idea of asylums and electroshock therapy. I’m tired of people being ashamed of having a disease over which they hold no control in it’s happening. You can, to some degree, outwit cancer, heart disease. Live well, exercise, yadda yadda yadda. Mental illness? You can’t eat your way away from crazy. It is something you have, period. And yet we act like somehow it’s a person’s fault, that they could have done something, that they are lesser beings because of a defect in their brain. Why the value judgement? Why blame the victim? Who is that serving?

I use the word “Crazy” because you recognize that. In your mind, when I say crazy, you form a specific mental image of what and who crazy it. I want to be your cognitive dissonance. I want you to have a new picture, a new understanding. I want to alter the ways in which you, and the people around me, handle a crazy in your midst.

It’s quite simple actually. Treat us like we’re real. Treat us like we matter. Treat us like you would have if you had no idea that we were crazy.

My doctor looked surprised over my little manifesto, and asked who I tell about my bipolar.

“Everyone.” I said. “I tell everyone, so maybe they’ll start to get it.”


There is no easy way to changing the public perception of mental illness. I mean, there are still millions of men who think women were put on this earth to serve them-we’re not going to change anything overnight. But with perceptions going from “Village Idiot” to ‘Autistic’, people are beginning to see that for those of us afflicted, we aren’t just putting it on for fun. (And really, who would do this for fun? I have this and I don’t want it. I’d give it away in a heartbeat) Many of you aren’t able to be as open as I am, for various reasons ranging from “I just don’t want to” to “I’d be fired”. I hate that you can’t, and I feel driven in someways to put it out there for you.

If I can help one person understand, if I can comfort one person who’s going where I’ve been, then it’s worth my time and effort. If I change someones mindset, and they go on to support a spouse, a sibling, a parent, then I’ve done at least a little good in the world.

And I will have reclaimed Crazy, and made it something to be proud of.

13 Responses to “Reclaiming the Crazy”

  1. anna January 23, 2008 at 9:00 pm #

    I once facilitated a group for clients with psychotic disorders and one of the clients kept saying that he was “pathetic’ for repeatedly having a particular delusion. Finally, i said to him, “you know, i don’t think that’s pathetic. It’s crazy. But it’s not pathetic.” i think it was the most effective moment i ever had as a group facilitator. the people in that group were the hardest working people I have ever met. They all acted crazy from time to time. i wish they could have been proud of themselves.

  2. Marcy January 23, 2008 at 10:17 pm #

    You rule.

  3. tulip January 23, 2008 at 10:29 pm #

    I do the same thing. I use that word to mean ME, and I think you are right that sadly it’s up to us to reframe the word to mean US.
    Hugs and I’m glad you are still here. I am a sucky lurker but I’m always here nodding my head and hell yeah’ing and reading, reading, reading. 🙂

  4. radical mama January 24, 2008 at 12:01 am #

    Reclaiming is important. It’s much more than just semantics.

  5. Freya January 24, 2008 at 4:15 am #

    I use the word crazy to describe me, and it always opens up the discussion quite nicely. Especially if someone else used it in a negative way and I spin it to be positive and they’re left their wondering where they went wrong.

  6. Hannah January 24, 2008 at 11:04 am #

    I’m a little surprised that the doctor reacted that way. I would think “reclaiming your crazy” was a positive step forward.

    Any time you want someone to call you crazy, you give me a call. 😉

    Not trying to be offensive, by the way. You know I think you’re awesome.

  7. thordora January 24, 2008 at 11:07 am #

    My doctor explained that to her, crazy is still a bad word, hence her shock. She seemed to get what I was saying…I think.

  8. Nikita January 24, 2008 at 3:48 pm #

    I love your views on mental illness! As a psych major (yeah me and the rest of the freaking world) and person in therapy I appreciate how open you are about this. The more we know the less ignorant we become, the less ignorant we are the less fear we will have towards people with mental illnesses!

  9. Sara January 24, 2008 at 8:05 pm #

    I’m proud to know you. You are inspiring me to be more honest about who I am, instead of trying to always figure out what normal looks like and be it. I’m rapid cycling and exhausted from it, and today, because of reading this, I finally told mom. You know, a trip to walmart isn’t going to magically undepress me, just like telling me I need to calm down isn’t going to magically un-manic me, and calling me six times a day and asking me how I feel, on a day like today, is making me feel like the neighborhood retard that has to be reminded to wipe their butt. Um, it felt really good. Thank you.

  10. thordora January 24, 2008 at 8:07 pm #

    I’m glad Sara. 🙂

    And honestly, sometimes people have to be told. They just don’t get it until we throw things it seems.

    I rapid cycle off meds, and I can totally relate to the exhaustion of it, the delerium of it all. I do not miss it.

    Send your mom over. 🙂

  11. misspudding January 25, 2008 at 2:28 am #

    I thank you for reclaiming the crazy.

  12. bipolarlawyercook January 25, 2008 at 7:03 pm #

    Brava! I am somewhat cautious about to whom I disclose the crazy in “real” life, and generally wait until I know someone well. It’s considered a real liability in practicing law, so I only come out after I’ve established a solid working relationship with someone.

    You know what? Every single time I disclose, the person I tell knows someone who is bp, or has themselves experienced mental health, and are so relieved to know someone “professional” with whom they can also talk crazy shop.

    Great post. May I link?

  13. thordora January 25, 2008 at 7:08 pm #

    That’s been my experience as well. People feel freed to talk about it. It’s so neat.

    Link away. 🙂

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