Are Bipolars Crazy? I Am.

Wednesday, June 9 2010 Natasha Tracy

I am crazy. I say this, but people don’t like the word crazy. Most often, what people say is, you’re not!. Well, actually, I am. I'm bipolar and I’m crazy.

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.

Definition of Crazy: See 'Bipolar'

Some selected definitions based on the Random House Dictionary:

cra•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 shortcut 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.

What’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.

Author: Natasha Tracy

Natasha Tracy is a renowned speaker, award-winning advocate and author of Lost Marbles: Insights into My Life with Depression & Bipolar.

Find Natasha Tracy on her blog, Bipolar BurbleTwitterGoogle+ and Facebook.

View all posts by Natasha Tracy.

Are Bipolars Crazy? I Am.

Donda
says:
June, 9 2010 at 7:32 pm

I totally agree! I take crazy as a compliment! "Gurrrl...your soooo crazy" when I say or do something outrageously funny. That's a good thing right?

Natasha Tracy
says:
June, 9 2010 at 7:36 pm

I'd say so. You B crazy. :)

BlackEyedDog
says:
June, 9 2010 at 10:33 pm

That's right...I always consider myself crazy because I'm not normal, compared to others. But when it comes to being crazy in a negative way I tend to blame myself for what's going wrong sometimes....I should really blame my brain instead.

xoxo

Denise
says:
June, 10 2010 at 12:48 am

I totaly agree with you too. I also have a problem with my brain. I wa dx Bipolar in 1999. I too dont mind being crazy. i also tell everyone Im crazy. My favorite saying is "I may be crazy but Im not stupid. Thank you for your story it was refreshing.

Dana
says:
June, 10 2010 at 4:27 am

I Prefer “Crazy” Over “Mentally Ill”---I completely agree. I know a lot of people have an issue with "crazy." I don't take a negative connotation from it. In fact, I use it as an adjective and a noun "I'm crazy" or "My crazy's acting up again.

Natasha Tracy
says:
June, 10 2010 at 5:27 am

I'm glad to see so many are responding positively at "crazy". Crazy Power!

benpolar
says:
June, 13 2010 at 7:44 am

I definitely use crazy to describe my past. Now that I'm over it, it doesn't seem to hurt to call it that anymore. I'm past it. Yeah, I was crazy. I also don't like the term mentally ill. Somehow mentally ill sounds like a killer. Just like psychotic is conflated with psychopath.

Melissa Mashburn
says:
June, 13 2010 at 6:45 pm

I prefer the word crazy. My daughter likes to tell people I am crazy and have papers to prove it (I spent a short time in a psych hospital) a saying she got from me.

However, I use mentally ill and mental health issues frequently in my blog posts because there are people who are offended by the word crazy and I do not want to offend them.

Normally, I am not big into political correctness, but seeing as I want to touch people in a positive way, I made the decision that in certain places and certain circumstances I would use caution when I speak.

jilled
says:
June, 15 2010 at 9:36 am

Once I was diagnosed, and began to get used to the idea that I had bipolar and I wasn't just some raging lunatic, I realized that I'd been right all along -- I WAS crazy!

madelyn
says:
June, 15 2010 at 1:14 pm

i completely agree. everytime my therapist says something like, "it's not your fault that you have a mental illness" i cringe. i love her to death and she helps me SO much but for some reason that term smacks me in the face everytime and i get so upset. i feel like being "mentally ill" makes me lesser. like, oh poor baby, you're mentally ill. as for crazy, who isn't?? i'll take that label any day.

Natasha Tracy
says:
June, 15 2010 at 4:03 pm

Well, seeing as everyone agrees with me on this, we should see if we can get "crazy" in the DSM. ;)

AS
says:
June, 15 2010 at 11:45 pm

No offense, but in 36 years of life on this planet I've never met a "sane" person.

Roger Thompson
says:
June, 18 2010 at 8:06 pm

I am not bipolar but I have bipolar disorder. The word "crazy" is just an abstraction. It's just a word used to describe how one chooses to characterize yourself. You ARE crazy; yet most of those types are brilliant. You ARE crazy; and yet most of those types are the ones who innovate. The crazy ones are the ones who change the world by inventing tools the normal ones figure out how to use 50 years later.

So what is crazy? It's a compliment. It's an abstraction. It's just a word.

Robert Watson
says:
June, 21 2010 at 6:33 pm

crazy, sometimes paranoid, delusional, so on and so forth. I just can't stand being labeled a 'client'. Leaves me with a sour taste in my mouth, as if I actually signed up for something.

Natasha Tracy
says:
June, 21 2010 at 6:37 pm

And as if you're paying the bill. (Well, unfortunately, you are.) Client's definitely off the list.

- Natasha

Meriel
says:
June, 22 2010 at 10:43 pm

At first, I rejected the idea of my mental illness really only being craziness, being a brain thing. I was convinced it was part of me. Unlike the flu, it didn't come from outside. But with much therapy (and loads of pharmaceutical help), I have realized that what you're saying is spot on. There is nothing wrong with ME. It's just my brain that's a bit screwy, not my mind and not the core of who I am. Whether I'm depressed or manic, or floating in that peaceful bit in-between, I'm still the same person. It's just my brain chemistry that's different.

P.S. I love the bit "There’s nothing wrong with me, Natasha, there is something wrong with my brain". I think I'll put that up on my wall.

Natasha Tracy
says:
June, 23 2010 at 5:07 am

Meriel-

this is a tough one for most people - myself included. Clearly bipolar is a part of Who I Am - it's too overwhelming a disease not for it to have an affect, but it's also clear that it's a brain disease and not created "by me". I suppose it has affected who I am but it is not me. If that's not too complicated.

Oh and anything that helps that you want to put on your wall is ok with me.

- Natasha

Mr_Bonkers
says:
June, 28 2010 at 10:17 am

Thought provoking, which I like, and an excellent post. It made me smile and crazy is a good word to describe me.

Glad that I've found your blog, you have a refreshing way of saying things.

Natasha Tracy
says:
June, 28 2010 at 10:54 am

Hi Mr. Bonkers. Thanks for dropping by and the compliment. I always like to get another person on the "crazy" side.

crazy mermaid
says:
July, 15 2010 at 3:00 pm

My personal favorite, if I have to be pigeon-holed, is "Brain Function Impairment", which is more on the mark in my (humble) opinion. That brings it back to a physical rather than "mental" problem, under the same umbrella as Alzheimer's and all of those other illnesses affecting specific functioning of the brain like Traumatic Brain Injury. I actually did a blog on this concept. (See Article: Mental Illness Bad Press at www.crazymer1.wordpress.com.

Natasha Tracy
says:
July, 15 2010 at 4:02 pm

Hello Crazy,

Yes, that's why I say that I find it important to think of it as a "brain disease". I agree, it denotes its physical, rather than mental, nature. Which I feel is important and helpful, at least for me.

- Natasha

Holly
says:
July, 15 2010 at 6:58 pm

ummm...bio-chemically challenged for me. sorry for spelling.

Borderline Emo
says:
July, 28 2010 at 12:40 pm

I hate "mental illness", "crazy", "psychosis", "sick" and everything else people call me. I have borderline personality disorder, but that isn't who I am. I am a lot of things and I don't want to be called a sickness. You wouldn't call someone with cancer "a cancer" would you?

Natasha Tracy
says:
July, 29 2010 at 10:06 am

Yeah, I write a bit more about this here: http://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/breakingbipolar/2010/07/are-you-bipol…

Borderline: No, people aren't a cancer because that's a discrete illness and not a disorder. People are diabetic or epileptic though, and that's more equivalent.

No one is suggesting a mental illness is you in your entirety. I talk about that at the above link.

complementary therapist
says:
August, 13 2010 at 1:17 pm

complementary therapist...

Congratulations, you just earned yourself an entry in my feed reader, great blog....

crazy mermaid
says:
August, 19 2010 at 10:53 am

I like the term "brain function impairment" (bfi) to describe my bipolar disorder, rather than "mentally ill". I'm on the fence about "crazy", since I think it's tossed around more often than a Burger King hamburger. I think bfi conveys the point that you made, which is that it is a physical impairment of the brain just like Alzheimer's rather than an impairment of the mind. Physical rather than mental. Big difference.

Natasha Tracy
says:
August, 19 2010 at 10:58 am

Hi Crazy Mermaid,

Well, "crazy" is in your name, so you can't dislike it too much!

Of course, you're right, it gets tossed around all the time. It's just a word. Like nutbar or fruitcake or unhinged or wackadoo. I'm a user of words so I tend to see them as playthings and don't get too bent out of shape over it.

BFI isn't bad, the only thing is I'm allergic to TLAs (three-letter acronyms). I'm a techie which means I'm pretty much drowning in them already.

- Natasha

Lesa
says:
August, 31 2010 at 3:26 am

I can relate to this. Prefer Crazy too and its not as heavy or serious as 'mentally ill' and agree with the mind/brain difference. I was just glad in a way when I got my Bipolar I diagnosis, because it meant to me that I wasn't morally or intellectually challenged as I had convinced myself to be. Before I was just sure I was stupid and weak and a loser. Now I tell myself everyday I am just a normal human being with a disorder in my brain. I was only diagnosed a few months ago so am still letting it all settle. I guess I have not 100% come to terms with it all yet. One thing is certain; at least now I allow myself to like me and accept me for all that I am. And that is the best thing I have done in years :)

Natasha Tracy
says:
August, 31 2010 at 8:38 am

Hi Lesa,

I think many people find the diagnosis almost a relief for exactly the reasons you said.

And yes, you are a normal human being with a brain disease. Congratulations on your learning to accept yourself. That's amazing.

- Natasha

Lesa
says:
August, 31 2010 at 4:36 pm

Thanks Natasha,

Learning to accept myself was like removing Mt. Everest from my shoulders!! The disdain with which I viewed myself before was like the heaviest weight conceivable. I feel a lot more free now :)

Lesa

Natasha Tracy
says:
September, 2 2010 at 4:57 pm

Hi Lesa,

Congratulations on moving a mountain. Freedom is much better.

- Natasha

Boomzy
says:
September, 23 2010 at 10:46 am

I don't consider people with Bipolar to be crazy. It all depends on how you define it, but many people associate this word, when used in this sort of context, with the word insane. Being bipolar doesn't mean you're insane.

I, myself may or may not get offended by this word depending on who says it and how they say it.

Natasha Tracy
says:
September, 23 2010 at 12:13 pm

Boomzy,

I've listed some of the definitions and I have no problem owning many of them.

Crazy is a definition for insanity, as is "mentally disordered". Well, I _am_ mentally disordered. That's the whole problem.

I get that we all want to be seen as normal, because we are, but I don't think it's necessary to run away from words just because _other_ people use them in a derogatory manner. Anything can be derogatory, "oh, you're an _office_assistant_?" People don't suddenly run away from the words office assistant just because one nasty person decided to make it seem negative.

The word crazy is real, as is insane. I can deal with reality. If someone chooses to use those words as insults, then that's their prerogative, but that only speaks ill of them, and not of me, or of the words.

- Natasha

Wes
says:
October, 1 2010 at 11:29 pm

This REALLY cracked me up! Thank you Natasha for writing this blog. I'm going through your entire archive and so far I definitely can relate to much of what you write.

Natasha Tracy
says:
October, 2 2010 at 7:59 am

Wes, glad you got a smile.

- Natasha

Social Phobic among other things
says:
October, 2 2010 at 11:45 am

Oh dear. Now I'm laughing, imagining how AWESOME it would be if the word "crazy" wasn't always associated with murderers and incompetence, and we could use the term to "explain"...

Person: Why are you crying on the bus?
Other person: I'm crazy.
Person: Oohhh, okay then.

Person: Why did you not speak in class for almost the whole semester, then after class the other day we talked for almost twenty minutes, and now that we're in class again, you're not speaking to me?
Other Person (whispering): I'm crazy.
Person: Oh, okay then.

Person: Why do you avoid writing stories that the teacher will read, but when you were forced to write a story in half an hour you won the school's writing competition, even though everyone else had a month to write their stories?
Other Person: I'm crazy.
Person: Ohh, okay.

Actually, it reminds me a bit of my group of friends in high school... Almost all of us were crazy, so saying "I'm crazy" was considered a reasonable explaination, lol.

Maria
says:
October, 2 2010 at 7:27 pm

I often think about this question ..if I have a mood disorder am I crazy ? That would imply that I am unreasonable would it not ? That would suggest that I am illogical because I am emotional or mad without just cause. I find that the most frustrating issue that I have to deal with. I don't like that what I am projecting into the world is not valid , the core of who I am is still very much the same . I am trying to make sense of my feelings and not get bogged by focussing on the idea that I am inferior or that my perspectives are inferior , this is a real struggle .I do find lately that I wonder about crazy ..is that really what I am ? I just do not want to be dismissed as such . I think that is really exasperating and what makes me spin my wheels. ( so to speak)

Natasha Tracy
says:
October, 3 2010 at 10:23 am

Hi Social,

Glad you laughed. Always a positive result from writing.

I see no reason not to explain everything through crazy. In fact, I think it's going to become all the rage.

- Natasha

Natasha Tracy
says:
October, 3 2010 at 10:30 am

Hi Maria,

Well, I refuse to be dismissed by crazy. Sure, you can call me that, but I don't find it dismissive.

You're not inferior nor are your perspectives. If you have a mental illness what you are experiencing is a brain disease. _You_ are not the disease, but the disease may be affecting you greatly.

This is the difference between your brain and your mind. You are you. Whomever you are. That is your mind. It's the part of you that no other person can be. Your brain on the other hand is a physical thing. It's the thing that can be hurt by being smacked by a 2" x 4". Your brain is sick. Your mind is yours. Always will be.

From what you are saying it sounds like you would really benefit from some cognitive behavioral therapy as they focus on the difference between what your brain tells you and what you then do with that input. There are therapists that specialize in this area. It can really help you find yourself in the storm of the crazy.

It's great that you're thinking about it, but others can help you find perspective.

Just a thought.

- Natasha

Art Deco
says:
April, 14 2011 at 2:00 pm

I had a girlfriend many years ago who had bipolar disorder, or manic depression as we called it in those days. I'm reading that Catherine Zeta-Jones has developed the condition after being subject to profound stress to do with the cancer of Michael Douglas, her husband. That this is possible, developing the condition, is certainly news to me as in my day we were only told (so far as I'm aware) that it was a genetic condition, you had it or you didn't have it. It sounds like more is understood about bipolar disorder these days, so that at least is encouraging news.

cnoon
says:
June, 15 2011 at 7:22 pm

I've been called crazy for years, by many and long before my bipolar diagnosis...usually the speaker was smiling. It's pretty much the same as when I'm told...Christina, you rock! Seriously, I could not become upset at that. If anything, I've always been proud of being 'different' in this way. Yes, typically more outrageous than others at times even though we are 'all' different. Note however, when I am at the lower of my two poles, I would not feel the same but hell, no one sees me then so it's all good. Crazy pride IS good!

@ Art Deco..as far as Catherine Zeta Jones 'becoming' bipolar..I'm not so sure. From my personal experience the mania just wasn't diagnosed until after some pretty hefty triggers. Until then I just got depressed alot and had some pretty wicked cases of 'spring fever'...regardless of the time of year. Looking back, with the knowledge I have now, I'm pretty sure that hypomania was an integral part of my very early years as well. I'm sure my grade school teachers would all concede..afterall...I rocked! Crazy huh? :)

Natasha, I've just found and and have been reading through your blogs most of the day and I dare say, I do love your style and candidness, thank you. I haven't read this much in months!

Natasha Tracy
says:
June, 15 2011 at 7:26 pm

Hi Cnoon,

"Natasha, I’ve just found and have been reading through your blogs most of the day and I dare say, I do love your style and candidness, thank you. I haven’t read this much in months!"

One of the greatest compliments ever. Thank-you.

- Natasha

Faith Neff
says:
June, 17 2011 at 4:42 am

Natasha, thank you for writing this and putting it out there. I think you are quite brave because there was the strong possibility of receiving strong backlash. I live with Bi-Polar disorder along with Borderline Personality Disorder and PTSD and General Anxiety disorder. Your post helped me to realize that it is very likely that the PTSD and GAD led to my other disorders by changing the chemistry of my brain thereby making my brain go bonkers (i.e. crazy). I have never thought that I was mentally ill because I am quite intelligent and insightful. Thanks!

Heather
says:
June, 17 2011 at 5:09 am

Thanks for your insightful post. It really resonates with me. I agree wholeheartedly with everything you wrote.

Lesley
says:
June, 17 2011 at 6:03 am

I have a family member who has been diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder. She has a real struggle accepting her illness because of the stigma. She has a brilliant mind, she is funny and loving sometimes and other times the opposite. I think she would prefer "crazy" to mentally ill too, that's just the way she is. I think it would be so liberating to her if she could talk openly about her diagnosis, she tries to behave as if there is nothing wrong and it is hurting her. There is still a great deal of stigmatism around Bipolar Disorder, even close family members are ashamed, feel she has control and should behave differently. I know she tries in her own way to be "normal", but to tell you the truth I think to her being "normal" bores her to tears. I wish I could do something to help, all I can do is be supportive and be there for her.

Alistair McHarg
says:
June, 17 2011 at 6:05 am

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. For years I've said, "In my family 'crazy' is a technical term."

Of course, the great irony here is that 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.

Alistair

Natasha Tracy
says:
June, 17 2011 at 7:06 am

Hi Faith,

You're welcome.

I do get strong backlash here and elsewhere. It happens. I've learned to deal with it. "We take the backlash so you don't have to."

I'm glad my writing has helped your personal journey. That's hugely gratifying for me.

"I have never thought that I was mentally ill because I am quite intelligent and insightful."

Oh hon. That's stigma biting you. Being intelligent and insightful doesn't save you from mental illness, unfortunately. It's a disease and anyone can have it.

Being sick doesn't make you any less intelligent or insightful. But now you can use that intelligence and insight to attack the illness, and believe me, with that realization you're a step ahead of the game.

- Natasha

Natasha Tracy
says:
June, 17 2011 at 7:57 am

Hi Lesley,

It sounds to me like you're being an amazing support. And that "all you can do" is a huge thing. We crazy love and appreciate such support. Many of us aren't lucky enough to have it. And many people aren't strong enough to provide it. So, Go You!

Shame, stigma and fear surround mental illness, I know. It's extremely sad. And while there will always be closed-minded little people who refuse to see the beautiful person who just happens to have an illness, there are many others that will. All it takes is a few people around us to realize that we're accepted. People with a mental illness feel extremely alone. They feel like they are the only "crazy." But of course, they're not. Whatever crazy they are experiencing many, many others are experiencing too, it's just that no one is talking about it.

If possible, I recommend your loved one reach out to other supports. This could be a support group or telling a close friend that can be supportive. She could even go online to find supports. We're out here.

And if you're so inclined, you could try to help educate other family members. People have gotten together packets of information and given them to their family to try and explain what they can't. You can use articles here, from other blogs, from many of the informational articles on HealthyPlace or wherever you feel expresses what you need the best.

Knowledge dispels fear. And dispelling fear destroys stigma.

Good luck.

- Natasha

Marlene Azoulai
says:
June, 17 2011 at 10:55 am

Crazy is an utterly relative term. It's used in so many ways. All of my writing and art is about dis-spelling the stigma attached to mental illness. I believe in re-claiming words that have been used to keep us trapped . Crazy is one of them. So is Multiple Personality, which they changed to "dissociative identity disorder". That's what I live with. And not in the closet either. So I guess that makes me a crazy multiple...Language is too often used to keep people down. Words like slut, whore, []...all are used to put women in lesser-than positions. I say re-claim language from the mental health system ANd from the patrirachy. Take language and MAKE IT YOUR OWN. That's creativity.

ron
says:
June, 17 2011 at 10:56 am

Anyone can be mentally ill. Being mentally ill and not getting help for it, That's crazy!

Leave a reply

Follow Us

Most Popular

Comments

Mental Health Newsletter