This post was submitted anonymously.
This is very flawed, but I wrote it in a rage after hearing “mad”, “crazy” used as a slur one too many time.
“It’s just crazy.”
“He must have been insane.”
“What a psycho.”
“Where did she come up with that? Madness.”
We all hear statements such as these daily, twice daily, thrice daily, constantly. All sorts of things are labelled “mad”, “insane”, “crazy” – a statement someone makes which others question, a rash act during a sporting fixture, a decision by a politician, pretty much every murderer who makes any news. Most people do so without thinking much about it, so much do these words pervade everyday language; they’re default ‘go to’ words to describe all sorts of things, from someone another disagrees with to violent criminals.
They’re not mad, though. They’re not crazy, they’re not insane.
I’m mentally ill. I have bipolar disorder. Madness is in me.
Every time I hear or read someone casually throwing around words which describe mental illness as slurs, I feel hurt, worried, less confident, as the awareness of my condition and how hostile society is to people with mental illness is amplified. The person who used the slur probably meant no harm and thought nothing of it, why would they? This language is constantly used to disparage people and ideas. You don’t agree with someone? They’re mad! It’s said, and forgotten seconds later, unquestioned, accepted.
For those of us who are mentally ill, however, it stays with us, stabs at us. Whenever we hear this kind of thing we’re getting the message we’re not to be accepted as we are, that we’re bad, wrong, to be mocked, or worse, dangerous. To me, it’s a constant message sent by society that we are unwelcome in it.
I consider the constant usage of these slurs as similar to women’s experiences of street harassment. Street harassment isn’t “just” a one off, one comment hurled by a man at a woman as she goes about her business, it’s comment after comment, day after day, wearing her down, reminding her of how society sees her as a woman – that she exists to be judged and commented on by men. One instance of harassment on its own is demeaning, but it oppresses women due to its regularity, day after day, hour after hour, inescapable, wearing women down, putting women in their ‘place’. That’s what always hearing mental health slurs used can do to people with mental illness. Day after day, hour after hour, inescapable. This is mad. That’s crazy. They’re being schizophrenic. That murderer is a psycho. These statements all speak to us, adding to our oppression, perpetuating it, ensuring we won’t speak out, can’t speak out, can’t “discuss our experiences” as we seem to be regularly being encouraged to do these days.
People want us to be open, to “end the stigma” around mental illness? This oppressive language is to me what “stigmatises” us, not the condition itself. The notion that “mad” is “bad”, to oversimplify things.
Those things you call “crazy”, those people you call “mad”? They’re not.
The next time you find yourself doing it, do think about that. Because this doesn’t “make me mad”. I already am.