I have had words with the director of the legal department I work in about using the word ‘crazy’. It was a pretty fruitless discussion, to be honest. I didn’t self-identify myself as crazy to her; I’m probably more in the closet about that than I am about the fact that I am attracted to more than just men*, and even THAT I almost never discuss with anyone I’ll see face to face. It’s all information I’ve had people use in ways that made me profoundly uncomfortable.
Well, this week it suddenly got worse. We were looking at custody cases, and in multiple cases my professor referred to people doing ‘crazy’ or ‘insane’ things. In none of the cases were there actual references to mental health issues – it was all things where the professor could have subsituted ‘absurd’ or ‘ridiculous’ and managed to express an almost identical concept.
Look, when you speak of crazy, you speak of people like me. People who live with mental illness. People who do occasionally do irrational things, or lose touch with reality.
That doesn’t make us people who try to cut off our child’s relationship with our former partner, who is their second mother. Nor does it make us people who donate our sperm and stay in the picture with time, gifts, money, etc, and then get shocked when they end up on the hook for child support. It doesn’t make us women who lie, cheat, get artificially inseminated with the sperm of the person they were having an affair with even though the affair ended two years before the insemination, lie to the doctor involved, and try to nail the sperm donor 5 years later for child support even though they’d had no contact since the child’s birth.
Now, don’t get me wrong, some or all of these people may have mental illness. But if you don’t have a reason like a psychologist’s testimony, don’t go attributing people doing rotten and absurd things to each other to crazy.
I’m crazy. I have bipolar disorder and PTSD. I live with swings through depression and mania, occasional episodes of paranoia, and trouble with people getting too close to me physically. I have, on a few rare occasions, hit someone because I was triggered by something they did, and I was so afraid that I needed them to get away from me IMMEDIATELY.
That doesn’t make me into someone who hurts others because they can. It doesn’t make me someone who is willing to inflict emotional harm on a child because I don’t like someone they care about. I am not them.
But I am crazy.
* I say ‘more than just men’ here because bisexual is a really, really problematic word. It’s cissexist and binarist, and doesn’t recognize that there are a lot more varieties of gender than ‘male’ and ‘female’. I personally know people who ID as queer, agendered, and bigendered, who would be made invisible by the term bisexual. I prefer heteroflexible, but even that is problematic because it still has that binarist issue.