Have you ever wondered whether you were going crazy? Not just as an afterthought, but as a cold chill up your spine at 3am? I’d be willing to bet that most of us have had those nights. The reality is that some of us have had to eventually face this worry as a fact of life. Some of us have had to admit that they were, in fact, crazy. So, what does the word crazy mean to you? For me, the definition has evolved over time…The opinions expressed here are based on my nearly fifteen years’ experience as a Child and Youth Care Counselor and holistic practitioner both looking through the lens of clients I’ve had and of course, through the window of truth-the bathroom mirror.
Over the years, I’ve bonded and worked with people with schizophrenia, depression, anxiety and the gamut of personality disorders accompanied by all of the definitions and sub-definitions in the DSMV. I spent time with people with PTSD, ADHD/ADD, Attachment Disorder, Asperger’s, Conduct Disorder, Separation Anxiety Disorder, OCD, Tourette’s and finally, Fear of Mental Illness Labeling (this is what I developed after sifting through bigger and bigger piles of my clients’ diagnoses sheets). I have the utmost respect for psychiatrists, but at times it was like solving a mathematical equation. And math makes me very nervous.
I worked with a client who couldn’t leave their house in the morning because his rituals of chanting/counting took two to three hours to reach the door of his bedroom. This person was altogether lovely and had a passion for theatre and documentaries. Another client used to stand with their nose against the mirror and carry on an intensely animated conversation lasting sometimes an hour. This person was also very polite and mild mannered; playing cards with me and calling me “miss”.
I tried my best to support, counsel and offer non-judgemental space to people who cut, burnt and starved themselves. I tried really hard to help those who wanted to kill themselves; for some this was a weekly/daily/hourly journey. Some chose to cut things short: RIP.
I can’t pinpoint exactly when, but at some point my attitude shifted from worker helping crazy person to person observing other person’s journey. Perhaps I needed a few knocks to the ground as life can administer at times. Maybe I had one too many thoughts like “why did I do that? what's wrong with me”? Maybe I needed to work with the fear of being or becoming like “them”. Whatever it was the real epiphany came when I realized I most certainly could be “them”. In fact, there was nothing stopping life from handing me that dance card with a note that says: you’re up next.
Once I came to terms with the fact that life can turn in an instant-one minute you’re having your morning coffee and the next minute you’re running through the streets in your nightie yelling: “the British are coming! The British are coming!”—I relaxed. I was able to see that I was not chasms away from that person; we actually shared the same thing-the human experience.
I’m not trying to alarm people, I simply want to say that we are not as different as we all think we are. We can all have mental breaks. We can all have periods of time where we are not quite “right in the head”. Or not. The point is that it can happen. With this wonderful piece of wisdom we can remove a lot of the judgement we may have that someone is a “weirdo” or “lunatic” or better yet, that we are somehow a “weirdo” or “lunatic”. We can look at people and ourselves with more compassion. We can give each other a break; we can give ourselves a break. We’re doing the best we can and we are dealing with the cards we were dealt.
And when the time comes for the word “crazy” to escape your lips, you might stop it in its tracks.