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Are Bipolars Crazy? I Am.

I am crazy. I tell this to people in my personal life. It’s not a secret. I figure there’s no point in trying to cover it up; it’ll come out eventually. The approximately 20 scars on my forearms rather give away that something is wrong.

But people really don’t like the word “crazy”. In fact, most often, what people say to me is, “no, you’re not!”. Well, actually, I am. I’m bipolar and I’m crazy.

Some selected definitions based on the Random House Dictionary:

Crazycra•zy   /ˈkreɪzi/ [krey-zee]
–adjective
1. mentally deranged; demented; insane.
2. senseless; impractical; totally unsound: a crazy scheme.
3. Informal. intensely enthusiastic; passionately excited: crazy about baseball.
4. Informal. very enamored or infatuated (usually fol. by about): He was crazy about her.
5. Informal. intensely anxious or eager; impatient: I’m crazy to try those new skis.
6. Informal. unusual; bizarre; singular: She always wears a crazy hat.
7. Slang. wonderful; excellent; perfect: That’s crazy, man, crazy.
8. having an unusual, unexpected, or random quality, behavior, result, pattern, etc.: a crazy reel that spins in either direction.

–noun
9. Slang. an unpredictable, nonconforming person; oddball

If those definitions don’t scream bipolar to you, then you just haven’t been paying attention.

I find these definitions entirely complementary. Intensely enthusiastic? Passionately excited? Eager? Bizarre? Excellent, perfect? Unexpected or random? Nonconforming person?

I will take all of those things, thank-you.

I Prefer “Crazy” Over “Mentally Ill”

My personal short cut to all the above is simple; crazy: a person who perceives reality in an unexpected way.

That’s pretty much it. I am a person who lives in the same world as everyone else, but I perceive it differently. My brain gets the same stimuli, but somehow it fires in an unusual way. It’s different. It’s crazy.

I don’t find this pejorative; it’s accurate. I really am most of those things listed under crazy, and I’m OK with that.

Now the term mentally ill, I’m not a fan of. I use it, generally for political correctness reasons, but I don’t care for it. It sounds like I have some condition where my brain leaks out my ears. Post-cranial drip.

Orange BrainWhat’s more, it implies there is something wrong with my mind. I assure you, there is not. My mind is up and running and could beat yours in a footrace. No, what’s wrong is my brain. My brain is sick. My mind is fine. I have a brain-al illness, not a mental one.

A person with a brain tumor isn’t mentally ill. An epileptic isn’t mentally ill either. These people just have something wrong with their brain. (They don’t necessarily get to be crazy though.)

The mind-brain separation is a complex bit of business, so I’ll leave it for another day, but I will say that to me, it’s important to remember that my brain is sick, and not my mind. There’s nothing wrong with me, Natasha, there is something wrong with my brain. Just like if I break my arm, there is nothing wrong with me, but there is something wrong with my arm.

So yes, I’m crazy. I perceive the world differently than you do. My brain doesn’t fire the right chemicals at the right times. But that’s the fault of a bad brain. Me, I’m fine. Just a bit crazy, that’s all.

You can find Natasha Tracy on Facebook or GooglePlus or @Natasha_Tracy on Twitter or at the Bipolar Burble, her blog.

This entry was posted in Being Crazy, Brain vs. Mind, How Others See Bipolar and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

81 Responses to Are Bipolars Crazy? I Am.

  1. Norma says:

    Thank You. I think I prefer crazy as well. Mentally ill is so stigmatizing and I agree I simply perceive things differently. However, I think there are so many sick and mentally ill folks out there that are ashamed and don’t get help. These are the people that like to micro-manage and control others and then they say things like “Norma…I have known you for a long time”. Passive aggressive insults when they are mentally ill or crazy but workaholics in denial……………. call me what you want but don’t say you know me because I am the only expert on me!

  2. RonPrice says:

    You make a good point, Natasha. I like ‘crazy’ to some extent but the word, like ‘mentally ill’ or even ‘mental health problems/issues’, has its downside. In some ways, the problem you have raised is one of language. There is a world of language associated with attempts to describe one’s experience with BPD over the short term or over a lifetime.

    For me the words short term apply to: today, this week and this month; medium term applies to a period of two months to a year and the two words long term applies to all the time after one year in my personal medical history, retrospectively or prospectively. I try, as far as it is logically possible to use the term mental health or mental distress and not mental illness. This has been a recent emphasis in mental health discussions and in the literature.

    There is also the problem of the use of complex language. The field of mental health is replete with complex terminology. It is helpful for those with different types of mental health problems to become as familiar as they can with this language. I try for the most part to use simple language—but I do not always achieve this aim.

    A good example of the language difficulties at the complex end of the spectrum is the following paragraph which discusses the neurobiological bases of behavioural differences. The language used by specialists is often way over one’s head, both the head of the sufferer from BPD and the heads of others wanting to understand the disability. (See Erik Kandel, “A Biology of Mental Disorder,” Newsweek, June 27, 2009; and C. Langan & C McDonald, “Neurobiological Trait Abnormalities in BPD,” Molecular Psychiatry, Vol. 14, pp. 833–846, published online on 19 May 2009)

    These two sources provide many excellent examples of this language complexity. The abstract of this article with this complex language is as follows: “Dissecting trait neurobiological abnormalities in BPD from those characterizing episodes of mood disturbance will help elucidate the aetiopathogenesis of the illness. This selective review highlights the immunological, neuroendocrinological, molecular biological and neuroimaging abnormalities characteristic of BD, with a focus on those likely to reflect trait abnormalities by virtue of their presence in euthymic/normal patients or in unaffected relatives of patients at high genetic liability for illness. Trait neurobiological abnormalities of BPD include heightened pro-inflammatory function and hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal axis dysfunction.”

    Language is a problem not only with respect to mental illness but also with respect to many other complex problems in society. KISS, keep it simple stupid, does not solve all problems. Whom the gods would destroy they first make simple and then simpler and then simplest. I will leave this problem here.

  3. Hi Alistair, another great comment:

    “People don’t like the word “crazy” because we live in the age of Politically Correct speech and the term crazy is beautiful in its clarity, honesty, and raw accuracy.”

    I would tend to agree. I despise political correctness. I have no desire to hurt others but I’m tired of wrapping everything in wool just so that some overly-sensitive person doesn’t get offended. I’d say intent, in language, means a lot more than people give it credit for. But then, that would be grey, and not black and white like everyone seems to like.

    “by going far into the jungle of insanity so many times I have learned more about real life – and real mental health – than most of the square shooters and so – though still technically bipolar – I am a hell of a lot more grounded and sane than most of the people I encounter every day.”

    I think that too. Odd. Could just be a greater part of insanity ;)

    - Natasha

  4. Hi Norma,

    I agree, “mental illness” is stigmatizing, but it shouldn’t be. I hate the term personally, but as far as its meaning goes, it’s about as reasonable as anything else.

    If people want to use it as an insult, try replacing it with “cancer” and throwing it back at them. It’s just an illness, like any other.

    - Natasha

  5. Norm Miner says:

    Hi Natasha,
    This morning I engaged myself in learning the language of “crazy” by reading your blog and associated comments. Wow! I am truly inspired by the pure pluck and honest courage of those who have shared. I have been a mental health worker and a consumer of mental health products over the past 35 years. Whether teaching life skills to my patients or coping with my own mental health challenges, I too have been turned off by the appellation “Mental Illness”. Anti-seizure medications (among other things that my psychiatrist and I have agreed upon like that I have had undiagnosed bipolal disorder for 30 of the last 35 yrs) leave little doubt that I get to have life saving medications to help bring my diseased brain into order. The attitude not mentally ill but “Crazy” has been just the right opportunity to get busy and do the next right thing. The term “Mental Illness”, on the other hand, seems more like a sentence and may become an excuse for inaction. “Well, you said I was ill.” Trust me Mental Health workers and their clients have more compassionate ways to develop self esteem.

  6. my doctor went me to going to hospital i sade no way she sade there can make there no let me there can not please

  7. Hi Michael-Pearson,

    I’m sorry, I’m not quite sure what you’re saying, but if you’re in crisis, please call a help line. They can listen to you and refer you to more local supports:

    http://www.healthyplace.com/other-info/resources/mental-health-hotline-numbers-and-referral-resources/menu-id-200/

    - Natasha

  8. Norm,

    Thanks for the comment. I enjoy anyone who uses the word “pluck.”

    “The attitude not mentally ill but “Crazy” has been just the right opportunity to get busy and do the next right thing.”

    Hey, that sounds like a big bonus to me. If “crazy” spurs action, it gets an extra vote from me.

    - Natasha

  9. RonPrice says:

    Here is an example of the problem of the complexity of language at the other end of the scale, the medical scale. It is difficult to win in the field of mental health: either you go to the too simplistic and labelling end of things or you go to the too complex stuff as below.-Ron
    ————————-
    This is an abstract of an article with its complex language: “Dissecting trait neurobiological abnormalities in BPD from those characterizing episodes of mood disturbance will help elucidate the aetiopathogenesis of the illness. This selective review highlights the immunological, neuroendocrinological, molecular biological and neuroimaging abnormalities characteristic of BPD, with a focus on those likely to reflect trait abnormalities by virtue of their presence in euthymic/normal patients or in unaffected relatives of patients at high genetic liability for illness. Trait neurobiological abnormalities of BPD include heightened pro-inflammatory function and hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal axis dysfunction.”
    ————————————

  10. Magaret Callahan says:

    It has been said that Merriweather Lewis of Lewis and Clark fame was bipolar. He was the “pluckier” of the two, as I recall. Here is one example of greatness in BPD history!
    “The official leader of the epic Lewis and Clark Expedition, Meriwether Lewis has been called ‘undoubtedly the greatest pathfinder this country has ever known.’” PBS website

  11. RonPrice says:

    Here are some more sufferers from bipolar disorder:

    Steve Jobs, founder/CEO of Apple
    Tiger Woods, Winningest Golfer in History
    Bono, Nobel Peace Prize Nominee & Singer for U2
    Oprah Winfrey, Billionaire & Media Mogul
    Al Gore, Vice President & Nobel Prize Winner
    Howard Stern, Shock Jock & “King of all Media”
    Paul McCartney, Singer, Songwriter, Beatle
    Phil Jackson, NBA coach
    Russell Simmons, a hip-hop entrepreneur and meditation evangelist
    ———————-
    Here’s a list of more well-known people, according to Garret LoPorto an authority in the field:
    Jim Carey, Robert Downey Jr., Patty Duke, Ben Stiller, Robin Williams, Ludwig Von Beethoven, Francis Ford Coppola, Ted Turner, Buzz Aldrin, Peter Gabriel, Jimi Hendrix, Axl Rose, Sting, Sylvia Plath, Winston Churchill, Theodore Roosevelt, Jane Pauley, Mark Twain, Virginia Woolf.-Thanks to Garret LoPorto, CEO, Media for Your Mind, Inc. Author of The DaVinci Method. The National Alliance on Mental Illness(NAMI) can also add many people to these lists.

  12. Olivia says:

    Good point you got there girl :)

  13. Logan M says:

    Very nicely written. I believe you saw the same ABC article I saw right before finding this one. Your metaphors are accurate and insightful. I have been thought of as crazy due to having bipolar disorder, also I have resented the term crazy. I like the actual definition of crazy. However it is worth noting that when most people say something they do not always know the proper definition. Most people have a very negative connotative definition of crazy from their own personal experiences. The average uninformed person would define crazy in a menner that I would not want to be branded under, and from reading your writing here, I doubt you want that branding as well. Beware of the public’s crazy.

  14. Kyra Marie says:

    I really like this post distinguishing between the mind and the brain. I think this is the key to destigmatizing what our culture now calls “mental illness.” Mental refers to mind and our mind is often associated to our soul and identity. To be labeled as “mentally ill” essentially strips us of our identity, our soul, our very human consciousness. The brain, however, is a tangible piece of anatomy like any other body part that can become diseased, often from no fault of our own. Calling them brain diseases is much more accurate and would go so much further in protecting the dignity of our souls and identity; separate from the behavior manifested from an organ that is disordered or diseased. Saying I have depression (aka mental illness) immediately makes people judge my person, my identity, my will. They automatically think of me as mentally defective; thought by many to be a matter of attitude and willpower. No one blames a cancer patient for being sick and tired. Mentally ill people are often perceived as lazy and mentally incapable. But if we can use terminology that highlights the organ (brain) and physiological chemicals and hormones that aren’t healthy (not the person’s mind so often associated with will and soul), “mental illness” could be more properly perceived as a disease instead of the identity stealing (“mental”) euphemism (“illness”).

  15. I was very pleased to find this web-site.I wanted to thanks on your time for this wonderful learn!! I definitely having fun with every little bit of it and I have you bookmarked to take a look at new stuff you weblog post.

  16. Carey says:

    I personally use the phrase “bag of crazy” because it remains tied up most of the time but sometimes, a little spills out

  17. I cop to both ‘Crazy’ and ‘Brain Broken’ – sometimes cooperatively and sometimes in conflict. I have more alphabet soup diagnosis attached to my head than there are in a can of Campbells(tm). I particularly like definitions 8 and 9.

    8. having an unusual, unexpected, or random quality, behavior, result, pattern, etc.: a crazy reel that spins in either direction.

    –noun
    9. Slang. an unpredictable, nonconforming person; oddball

    My seemingly random, unexpected, senseless behavior may look like that from the outside, but for me, at that time, it fits into my Big Picture.

  18. Patricia Bosley says:

    I look back on the days before I was diagnosed and I was definately crazy. I was positively deranged. I can’t believe that doctors didn’t pick it up when I was a child. Today I am medicated but still crazy but not impulsive and I’m okay with that.

  19. dina marie says:

    Well, I can’t keep up with some of the other comments- too smart for me, but I do have an opinion. I call myself crazy. Others can call me crazy if it is coming from someone I love and they are using it in a lighthearted way. If someone calls me crazy and I know they are being mean spirited and derogatory, that does not go over too well. I may be one of those sensitive ones you talked about. I will blame that on the Bipolar. :) I loved this line, “Me, I’m fine. Just a bit crazy, that’s all.” My brother in law hates that I call my cupcake business, Crazy Lady Cupcakes. He says he takes offense at that. Hmmm…not sure why he would be taking offense. I told him sometimes I need to laugh about it or I would cry. I am intrigued with your thoughts on mind/brain separation. I would love to hear more about that in a future post.

  20. Hi Dina,

    Well, others will take offence to our words, I have found, but that doesn’t mean we have to stop using them. I agree with you in that it’s all in the context. And who wouldn’t want a “Crazy Lady Cupcake!”

    The mind/brain separation has been one of my more interesting lessons from my mental illness.

    You can read more about it here, but keep in mind that this is my own personal blog and not in any way affiliated with HealthyPlace:
    http://natashatracy.com/mental-illness-issues/brain-vs-mind/mind-brain-split-enlightenment-mental-illness/

    - Natasha

  21. Sue says:

    THANK YOU! This is great, made me laugh! However, sometimes I do feel like my brain is oozing out my ears!

  22. Boris says:

    I understand and respect your opinion. I used a very similar line of reasoning for quite a few years until I found out about neuroplasticity. Basically, we have the ability to change how our “broken brains” work and have the real possibility of healing them. One such tool that I used in Recovery is Mindfulness meditation. I now no longer suffer as I once did from out of control mood swings and have been med free since February of this year.
    I also use Peer Support, WRAP(Wellness Recovery Action Plan) and take a holistic approach to my health. No longer do I think of myself as “crazy”, “broken” or “mentally ill”, but rather “Boris”.

    Recovery is possible.

    Thanks:)

  23. Miranda vd Broek says:

    Post-cranial drip…. Whoahahaha! Fabulous

    Crazy I was only when I was psychotic, only once. I’m a pretty serious person, really. But creative, yes. In hypomania I just talk louder and faster, laugh and cry more and work harder if I wouldn’t stop myself.

    Your brainly ill (not dripping yet),
    Miranda

  24. sarah zamora says:

    I really don’t care what people use to label a bipolar as myself…everyone has opionions. Most are uneducated thoughts or statements. People who are not educated about Bipolar disorder are simply afraid of what they don’t know! It’s amazing and quite sad actually how little people understand or know about affective disorders,manic depression,bipolar etc. whatever term you might use. I believe its our duty so to speak to educate society on us CRAZYS! I don’t consider myself as CRAZY,mental,insane really. I am just me!!! I have always been just me. I know nothing else but ME.

  25. lynne says:

    Thank you. You are great. I just found you, but needed to about 20 years ago! I’m going to keep reading. I spend so much time hiding the craziness to seem normal, it’s good to know others feel the same.

  26. Andrew says:

    Heck, what we want is people to be in the bell curve. Sadly, that means those who think they are sane, when in reality, they cause more harm to others then any.

    Like Megalomaniacs, or Priests or others that people worship without question —show me the heart of the man or woman, their intentions and dreams. That is what counts in the end

    Nuts or creatively Male Adjusted to Crazy Society and Human Race!

  27. Able says:

    Heck, what we want is people to be in the bell curve. Sadly, that means those who think they are sane, when in reality, they cause more harm to others then any.

    Like Megalomaniacs, or Priests or others that people worship without question —show me the heart of the man or woman, their intentions and dreams. That is what counts in the end

  28. miscorl says:

    ty so much for this inlightening blog made my day

  29. sandracobban says:

    I disagree.
    I think many people think people like Charles Manson when they hear crazy or the dude that killed John Lennon.
    I was rather disappointed & surprised how many people accepted crazy over mentally ill or simply,just bipolar …I refer to myself as BIPOLAR.
    I think if I were crazy I would be electric chair material not ECT material.
    I totally am offended by the C word as I call it.
    I know my family would agree with me on this,as would my Drs. & support team.
    Honestly,it’s made me pretty upset,so I’m going to post this.
    Yes I’m outspoken …in ALL AREAS OF LIFE.

  30. Sergio says:

    I guess I’m fine being crazy, but still I don’t really know what it means to have hypomania. I use to be and smoke weed and feel free, but now when I do I really trip out, do any of y’all know why?

  31. Lynn says:

    In my own space – I call myself crazy; but if I used that word in public or to my family, everyone would scatter like dried leaves in the wind. Heck, even my therapist would object to that “word” – and in reality, saying you are mentally ill conjures up images of a serial killer or child molester, etc. in the minds of the uneducated about our illness. Regardless of what it’s called, neither provides comfort to others. You may as well say you have the plague, you would get the same reaction, – everyone would run like hell in the other direction. Yes, I am crazy, and that is okay with me – however, being PC is a fact of life, so saying nothing (for me) in public or to family, works for me.

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