Saturday, April 9, 2011


     The stigma of crazy is something I never paid attention to until it was put on me.  I made crazy jokes about myself all the time, crazy was 'in vogue' when I was in school, the perfect excuse for any goofy behavior or silly mistakes.  We'd laugh and roll our eyes and say "crazy".  However crazy connected to any derogatory term added extreme insult to injury- "Crazy b@#$".  If you are wondering, the crazy part is the worst part of the insult there.  Most insulting terms can be flipped on the user with a sense of pride these days; "that's right, I'm a ___, don't you forget it".  Not crazy.  Crazy goofy is OK.  Crazy derogatory is terrible.  Because being crazy, you have no rights, no rights to pride or the right to defend yourself.  You're not allowed to say; "that's right, I'm crazy", because there is no pride with that word, and if people think you are crazy they will not take anything you say seriously anyway. 

     We didn't make this up, we learned if from society.  People with mental illness are generally treated as criminals, in fact in institutions their rights equal that of a prisoner.  They may not vote or have any sexual relations, they are confined and monitored.  They are generally treated by society as less than human because they are unable to represent themselves.  The fastest way to take credibility from a person is to call them crazy.  If they actually have a mental illness the word 'crazy' tells the world that they are not deserving of respect or rights.  If they have no mental illness (which is generally the case when people sling the word crazy at each other), people will start looking at them with unease and question the validity of anything they say or do through a "neurotic" filter.  When people are looking at you with a neurotic filter, the quickest way to fail is to show any kind of strong emotion.  Emotional is generally equivalent with crazy in society.  In fact I recently read a scientific article that said all women are slightly 'neurotic' because of their high emotional reactions to people around them (say, their baby), but this was excused due to its necessity for the survival of the species.

     I first became introduced to the stigma of crazy at home.  My father had always needed means to keep me under control, and a big one was money.  I saw his eyes narrow and he said 'hmm' the first time I responded to his threat of starving me out that I was on my own and making my own money.  After that he was very cautious about the subject of money, but then he was talking about schizophrenia, bipolar, depression.  He told me there was something wrong with me.  I quite agreed- I was being molested, sexually harassed by my father and threatened into silence and I wanted out!  His solution seemed to be he hoped to have me heavily drugged and under his care.  The thought made my blood run cold.  He left articles out for me on schizophrenia and bipolar that emphasized the symptoms I had such as listlessness, isolation, a perceived need to cut myself off from the world, strong mood changes.  All those things that he was furious at me for; being depressed, refusing to talk to him, avoiding him as much as possible, being happy talking with friends and suddenly quiet and dour around him.  I was no longer playing the game of the cheerful perfect daughter who gets felt up by her dad at night, and his threat of punishment was to call me crazy. 

     The scariest part was that people seemed to believe him.  I would overhear him talking to people about his theories of my brain, and how I needed 'help'.  With my mutiny against my father I was establishing a reputation as a 'crazy woman', lessening the validity of my words if I ever did speak out against him, a validity which would not likely have been strong anyway.  Over the dinner table he expressed outrage at the law that prevents parents from taking over the lives of grown children they think are mentally ill to have them institutionalized, glancing at me with a small warning smile when no one else was looking.  I have received many 'warnings' like this, and no less frightening than the prospect of having all your finances controlled and cut off is the idea of having your voice and rights taken away and existing as someones puppet.

     He may have actually been on to something because over a year later, after I had left, I was diagnosed with Dissociative Identity Disorder.  That is in fact often mistaken for schizophrenia or bipolar disorder.  And I did in fact need help.  However instead of being a reason to dismiss my accusations of sexual abuse, this diagnosis practically sealed it in cement.  The ONLY way a person can develop Dissociative Identity Disorder is by surviving severe and often sustained trauma.  The most common cause?  Incest.  It is absolutely vital for any kind of mental healing to be out of the abusive environment that caused it, and while drugs may be helpful for some, they are used as a stabilizer while healing takes place, not to render the patient immobile or trapped.  There is a strong link between early trauma, child abuse, and mental illness.  Severe trauma before the age of three can literally scar the brain and affect its development, the size of the hippocampus and amygdala.  Sexual abuse worldwide is at epidemic proportions, suggesting that the amount of traumatized children will yield a correspondingly raised crop of mentally scarred young adults, adding to the amount of mentally disabled adults we have in society today.  Even people without a heart should at least be concerned about that if they have a brain.  Spreading education and awareness of the effects of abuse on human-kind is not only compassionate, it is smart.  Everyone deserves and needs dignity and respect.

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