In some of my posts, I’ve chosen to refer to myself as “crazy”, in reference to my mental health condition(s). I feel OK with this. But am I contributing to stigma by using that term about myself? I hope not, but there is enough of a doubt that I feel that I should write about it. So, I did a little research.

According to the Merriam Webster online dictionary, “crazy” is defined as an adjective meaning 1) full of cracks or flaws: unsound; 2-a) not mentally sound: marked by thought or action that lacks reason: insane; 2-b) impractical; erratic; 3) being out of the ordinary: unusual; 4-a) distracted with desire or excitement; 4-b) absurdly fond: infatuated; 4-c) passionately preoccupied: obsessed.

Well, some of this sure seems to apply (in the context of my mental illness)! So what’s wrong with using the word “crazy”? I’m afraid that I may be contributing to the perpetuation of stigma by using that term in the context of mental health discussions (even just in my blog). There is an icky feeling about it that I can’t ignore. My spidey senses tell me something is awry in using the term “crazy” to describe myself, even on my own blog.

What is stigma?

The basic definition of stigma, per the Merriam Webster online dictionary, is “a mark of shame or discredit: stain”. The dictionary goes on to explain that, “Stigma was borrowed from Latin stigmat- , stigma, meaning ‘mark, brand,’ and ultimately comes from Greek stizein, meaning ‘to tattoo.’ Earliest English use hews close to the word’s origin: stigma in English first referred to a scar left by a hot iron—that is, a brand. In modern use the scar is figurative: stigma most often refers to a set of negative and often unfair beliefs that a society or group of people have about something—for example, people talk about the stigma associated with mental illness, or the stigma of poverty.”

In their work, “Public stigma of mental illness in the United States: a systematic literature review“, Parcesepe and Cabassa explain public stigma to be “a pervasive barrier that prevents many individuals in the U.S. from engaging in mental health care.” They state that “Public stigma refers to a set of negative attitudes and beliefs that motivate individuals to fear, reject, avoid, and discriminate against people with mental illness (Corrigan and Penn 1999).” Discrimination sucks. Thus, I want to be careful to avoid perpetuating stigma in my writing. It would be counter-productive for me to do so.

In their article, “[The stigma of mental illness: Α historical overview and conceptual approaches]“, M. Economau, et al state that, “Regarding lay respondents’ correlates of public stigma…of outmost importance is personal experience/ familiarity with mental illness.” Given this, I hope this blog provides familiarity with delusional disorder and ADHD to help to reduce public stigma. In doing so, I want to be careful not to perpetuate any stereotypes – but I also want to be free to express myself creatively.

Per Penn Medicine News, “Stigma…is a situation that arises when two key ingredients are present: a negative stereotype about a group of people or condition, and actions people take to distance themselves from being associated with that group or condition. Stigma is a kind of social distancing that happens when we perceive a group as ‘other’ and ‘not like us.’”

Further, “…the ideas about mental illness perpetuated by words like ‘crazy’ include the idea that people with mental illness are divorced from reality, irrational, or incapable of making decisions. These stereotypes and the sense of blame they place on a person with mental illness tend to cast people in a category of ‘others’ that few people want to claim as their identity.”

Oh. But what if I do claim it as just a part of my identity – on my own terms? Am I screwing myself over in doing so? Worse, am I hurting others in the process? Clearly, I’m taking a risk of experiencing stigma by disclosing my conditions to the world. Am I thus entitled to use the word “crazy” about myself if I please? Or is it damaging to others like me to do so?

The other “C word”

In her article, “No, You Shouldn’t Call Someone ‘Crazy.’ But Do We Have to Ban the Word Entirely?“, Dr. Jessica Gold concludes that “At the end of the day, there aren’t universal rules about whether and how we should use the word crazy.” She goes on to compare the word “crazy” with curse words.

This makes me think of the “time, place, and manner” doctrine of the United States Supreme Court. In Cox v. Louisiana (1965), Justice Goldberg delivered the opinion and stated, “From these decisions, certain clear principles emerge. The rights of free speech and assembly, while fundamental in our democratic society, still do not mean that everyone with opinions or beliefs to express may address a group at any public place and at any time.”

I personally feel that it’s the context in which the word is used – the time, the place, and the manner – that determines whether use of the word is “OK” in my book.

So, how do you feel about using the term? Please share your thoughts below!

One response to ““CRAZY””

  1. Michael “Mike-E” DeMond Avatar
    Michael “Mike-E” DeMond

    You read my mind… HOW DO YOU DO THAT 😀 I for one would be sensitive to this word these days (along with quite a few others). Even if I feel I am included in such a group, I would be sensitive to the implications of using such a word, even if it is in jest. More importantly, it defines and reinforces a narrative around the person to which it is applied.

    This is also the reason I have a problem with calling someone an “addict” as it immediately applies a narrative around someone and frames the dynamic as such, cementing it with all the accommodating bias that is taken along for the ride.

    Liked by 1 person

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