I grew up with a direct experience of “crazy”…
I grew up with a direct experience of “crazy” when I was young. I didn’t understand it, but I experienced it firsthand.
That’s what they used to call us… “crazy.” I include myself among those that I’m referring to because I have had my own challenges, not when I was young – that I can remember – but most assuredly in recent years. I wasn’t the one that was called this lousy word, not when I was young – that I can remember. No, they called someone I loved, crazy. They didn’t call him, or ‘them’ – others like him – “people dealing with their mental and emotional health.” They didn’t call him, or ‘them,’ “someone dealing with some type of mental or emotional challenge.”
Crazy. That was the word. Still is. One word to lump all people in. One label full of stigma and hot, prickly meaning.
Who was that “crazy” person in my direct experience? My father. He had a nervous breakdown when I was 10, or 8. I don’t remember my exact age, but I do remember so much else.
What do I remember? I remember being told I wasn’t going to be seeing him for a while because he was sick. (“Sick” can be a broad label and also highly confusing for a child.) I didn’t think that while would turn into years. I mean, I was a child. I had no idea what most of it meant. But those years would be years of absence from me – miles of distance between us – and much understanding between a father and a daughter was lost in that time and in that distance.
Nowadays, we’re emotionally intelligent. But that doesn’t mean people don’t still call it, crazy. Of course, they do. Crazy is a “majority rules”-type answer. Things are changing though.
In my family there too is a level of secrecy that goes along with calling someone crazy. I mean, we may talk about it in our family – very sparingly, but you sure as hell don’t discuss it with anyone outside of the family. And don’t let one of your relatives hear it from someone else’s mouth back to them. That is definitely not on the menu, called “Keeping it in the family.” It is this level of secrecy and the stigma connected to it that make for a lethal combo. And that is why mental health is so challenging to get out into the light away from the darkness it used to inhabit in Nurse Ratched days.
When will we peel back the layers and get that there’s a level of danger attached to being crazy…? It’s why people can’t allow themselves to “fall prey” to that kind of darkness. Except… that premise is not true.
It’s not darkness and it’s not dangerous. It has been the mystery that has built the idea of darkness and danger. But those are only the meanings we’ve built around mental illness, and therefore mental health, as human beings building a collective dream1 that we all live in on a daily basis. We’ve got decades and centuries built into those meanings.
Related article from the (r)evolution of bliss
Are We Healthy, Truly?
When we can take the darkness out of mental health… when we can release ourselves from the anguish others have taught us to have about and around mental illness… when we can find the beauty of the challenge of our own emotional and mental well-being, then we will be able to release our foundation of stigma brick-by-brick, piece-by-piece. And in that release, we can easily find our own resilience.
1 Collective dream is mentioned in one of my favorite, life-altering books, The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz. You can find this book in the article, 12 Books for Your Spiritual Awakening.
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