In his appearance on Inside the Actors Studio, Dave Chappelle stated,
“The worst thing to call somebody is crazy. It’s dismissive. I don’t understand this person, so they’re crazy.”
I never quite felt the gravity of this statement so much as I have this past year. I used to use the term “crazy” to describe people whose behavior I didn’t understand, people who I saw as different or somehow less than me.
It wasn’t until a traumatic experience turned my life upside down that I understood how crazy felt. Everything I thought I knew crumbled before my very eyes. In the course of a year, my relationship fell apart, my car died and I could no longer work. I was having panic attacks constantly, sobbing every day and made two suicide attempts. I began doing and saying things I never thought I would or could. Thoughts, memories and nightmares haunted me in the day and as I slept. I screamed and cried for someone to help me but help never came.
I began to feel as if I was losing my hold on reality. I questioned everything and everyone. I trusted no one, least of all myself. My life had become a nightmare I could never wake up from. I wanted my misery to end. I longed for a permanent, dreamless sleep.
I felt completely unhinged and began to think of myself as crazy. I never considered the meaning that word carries for the person who uses it to define their own behavior. Crazy is damaged. Crazy is erratic. Crazy is wrong. Crazy is also silly and stupid, not even worth consideration.
Crazy has an identity-stealing quality. You are no longer Sam or Judy or Beth with a family and friends. You are not thinking. Feeling. You’re Crazy. You don’t matter. You’re a headline, a punchline, an afterthought, a joke. If you looked at your driver’s license it would no longer say your name, it would just say “Crazy.”
Calling somebody crazy is like using a shrink-ray on them. You immediately reduce everything they are and were. Everything they ever wanted is gone. Poof! And now….you don’t have to deal with them. They’re a problem but they’re not yours. You don’t even have to think about them!
I never wanted so much to apologize to all the people I never knew but for whom I used that term. To all those people —
You are not crazy. You’re a person and you’re having a tough time. I don’t know you. I don’t know what’s happening in your life. I called you “crazy” so I wouldn’t have to think about it. But you deserve love and respect just like everybody else. You deserve to speak and have someone listen to you. You deserve to be helped if that’s what you want and need. You deserve to be seen and not ignored and I’m sorry if I or anybody else ever made you feel like you didn’t. You are so important.
This anonymous letter is a wish for me too. I want to feel real and important again. I want to stop diminishing myself as I was taught to do. I want to take myself seriously and be taken seriously by others. I’m not Crazy. I’m so much more. I’m an artist and an idealist, a thinker. I love education and learning and experiencing new things. I am kind and gentle and funny and smart. I have so much love in my heart and none of this is encompassed in “Crazy.”
We are all so much more than this. And we can show it by stopping the use of this dehumanizing word.
Thank you for reading.