It's patio season in Toronto. I'm sitting at one of my favorite spots in the city, side by side with King Street West, sipping on cherry-cola and locking eyes with the passers-by. At the left of me sit two guys, "bros" by society's nomenclature. They're talking about a girl that one of them used to sleep with.
"Man, she was CRAZY," says the first bro to the second. "She called me crying one night, asked me if I even cared about her."
"I told you, man. Didn't I tell you she was nuts?" said the second bro to the first. "Don't pretend that you didn't see it coming. That bitch cried at everything." I think that they high-fived each other. I took another sip of my cola and pretended not to be listening.
This is not the first, second, or thirtieth time that I have heard something like this. "Crazy" is a common insult. According to the likes of the men on that patio, thousands of women carrying any form of "emotional baggage" should be institutionalized. An interpreted weakness is the first sign of insanity. The remedy is to joke about her needing her prescriptions filled and a high five from your buddy.
I hear the exact same words come from women. "Oh my God, she is SO crazy." "I heard that she is like, certifiably crazy." "Can you believe him? He is TOTALLY crazy!" And so on and so forth until the words blur together in a menagerie of crazy/stupid. The genders collaborate to form a diagnosis that seems so scathingly official that it would hope to put each doctor out of their practice.
Being a woman between the ages of 17 and 39, I have been labelled "crazy" on numerous occasions. Whether it's because of my emotional reactions, my philosophies on life, my very basic, human character, or being in the wrong place at the wrong time, people have gained immense satisfaction by calling me "crazy." If accusations held up in court, I would have been committed countless times. It's really quite exhausting to have to withstand such "professional" scrutiny.
Out of all of the terms to be re-addressed in light of recent mental health awareness, "crazy" should be the first to go. It has become verbal leprosy, a warning to all of those who witness it for fear of spreading its sickness. A crazy girl or boy is to be avoided at all cost. They don't get to have normal things like love, or happiness, or a good time with friends and loved ones. Instead, they are emotionally quarantined and sent off into the abyss of neglect.
"Crazy" is, in actuality, a label that people use because they do not like the emotional reaction they are witnessing. Humans are insatiable control freaks, and if they see something that they can't control in another person, it is a threat to their nature. It takes more effort to empathize and sympathize, so a simple label that asserts their power over the perceived "lesser" being is sufficient effort to be used. A singular, hurtful word can give you the power to deny your own humanity and forward your own, superficial glory.
When you call someone "crazy", you are not helping them. You're taking away that person's basic right to feel whatever they need to. You may feel that calling a person in pain "crazy" gives you the upper hand, but in reality, it only helps you cover up your own fears in a shiny coat of ignorance. Your self-validation, however satisfying as it may seem, is short lived.
It is unfortunate that a large majority of the "crazies" are women. Women tend to be more emotional in nature, and generally crave human connection in a more intimate way. In the realm of paranoia's disconnect, this is the craziest thing in existence. Though men are not exempt from this label, it seems as though the emotional, opinionated, and open-hearted women are being attacked with an unofficial diagnosis on a daily basis. It's enough to drive you crazy, as it were.
If you are reading this right now and you have never experienced a thought or feeling that would be deemed "irrational" in society's eyes due to a deep-seated emotional trauma or wound, consider yourself exceptionally lucky or dead (and it's likely the latter). I have yet to meet a person who has never experienced pain. If we are honest with ourselves, we may admit that pain is the route of every experience or reaction that we would call "crazy." Look beneath the blossoms of Schizophrenia, Borderline Personality Disorder, or even Psychosis, and you will be sure to find a very deep, painful root.
I'd like to see the end of "crazy." I'd like to be able to deal with my emotions with all of the comfort that deep pain affords. I'd like to see the same for all of my friends, enemies, and beloved frenemies. It is far better to be counted as equals than it is to be counted as lessers.
The Chershire Cat once told Alice that, "We're all mad here. I'm mad. You're mad." I have yet to meet a person who has never felt broken, never suffered, and has never been accused of being crazy by some non-doctor-or-rather. We're all in this together, and if we are ever in pain, we have the right to feel that pain and be met with compassion.
When you feel the "crazy" creep up on your tongue, I urge you to remember your compassion. Although I do not wish pain on anyone, I want you to trust me on this; you will likely find yourself in the same sort of pain in your own life. And when it happens, you would be so grateful to find that "crazy" is no longer part of your diagnosis.
Let the doctors be doctors, dear readers. All you have to do is be.