“Bilbo was meant to find the Ring. In which case, you were also meant to have it. And that is an encouraging thought.” – Gandalf, the movie version.
The above phrase is what I comfort myself with when I wonder as to why I have psychological problems. Was I “meant” to have them? I don’t know. Yet viewing them in terms of the One Ring, which does eventually bite it in “the fiery chasm from whence it came,” is encouraging indeed.
My specific issues are PTSD-related. I went through trauma as a wee little girl, and didn’t really start dealing with it until much later. My parents did the best they could, but the full extent of what had happened to me wasn’t apparent for many years.
Recently, I was reading Jill’s post on whether or not words like “crazy” constitute ableist language. I find the usage of the word and others like it to be highly subjective.
When my stomach does back-flips as I prepare to go out (sometimes, there is the nagging thought that someone’s going to harm me if I do something as daring as go outside), I call myself batshit nuts. When I’m wondering if I’ll ever miss out on a job opportunity on account of someone reading a post like this and deciding that I’m “damaged goods,” I tell myself that they will be the ones crazy-making, not me.
The word “crazy” can be very useful to someone who needs to be able to laugh at themselves as opposed to cry at the banality of it all. Not only that, it can also be gratifying when the word is used against people who basically have no excuse for acting the way that they do – such as anti-abortion activists who “celebrate life” by killing doctors. See? They’re crazy. Me? Not so much.
The word becomes problematic when used to dehumanize people who suffer from disorders and afflictions, especially when it is coupled with words like “schizo” (amandaw pointed this out in the thread to Jill’s post). It can take on an insidious meaning when older women are dismissed as “crazy menopausal bitches” or “crazy cat ladies,” not to mention the generalizations regarding female hysteria.
Having said that, our ideas surrounding the very state of “being crazy” are not uniform. Some individuals are allowed a space to “act out.” In many Russian Orthodox parishes, you will meet Blessed Fools. These people at the very least appear to be mentally ill in one way or another. They are treated with kindness, and oftentimes deference, because they are seen as having a unique connection with the divine. Many cultures also have holidays that involve acting… abnormally (observe the jumping over bonfires on Ivan Kupala’s Night in Ukraine). This says that the definition and application of “crazy” isn’t uniform.
Using “crazy” as a negative term depends on the situation. I don’t appreciate being called a “crazy bitch” if I do something as horrifyingly unladylike as rebuff crude advances upon my noble person. But if a friend tells me I’m “crazy-making” if I stay up ’till 4 a.m. feasting on my nails and stressing out over work, I’ll agree. I also believe that it should be OK to talk about the dangerous side of insanity. When a distant relative of mine had his episodes, which he refused to get help for, he’d fling his kid against the wall like a sticky hand toy. Awesome, huh? The word “crazy” doesn’t begin to cover it.
Having said all that, the aforementioned concept of “damaged goods” is just as real. It can be used against rape survivors, war veterans, and anyone who has had any kind of psychological disorder or breakdown. It can make you feel like shit, or wreck your career, or cost you a friend. You may need help, and feel too scared to ask for it, lest someone think you are, once again, “crazy.” You may be living on the street, suffering from a crippling disorder, and people will just view you as “that crazy drunk” who deserves no help or pity.
The mere fact that it’s hard for someone like me to write about these things under my own name is a testament to the power of the word “crazy.” Of course, I’m not ashamed of having to deal with PTSD. The experience has taught me a lot about pain, not just my own, but the suffering of people I have met on the way. It’s like… being in a Fellowship (har har!). It’s like having a little bit of intimate knowledge about the cracks in the foundation of this world. Is it not a problem? Am I just different? No, I don’t see myself that way. It is a farking problem. I just know how to deal with it and try to derive something good from it. Many people do.
The mere utterance of “crazy” isn’t what gets me upset. It’s other, more insidious things, that do. But I don’t speak for anyone but me, of course.
I’d also like to add that I don’t think Jill was laying some stupid “PC guilt-trip” on people with her post.
Comments are appreciated.