“Oh my God, you’re crazy.”
17 years old. My boyfriend at the time said this when I tried to break up with him and reacted when he didn’t acknowledge, even rejected, my demand that we see other people.
Many of my most intimate, romantic relationships have defined me as “crazy.” According to my partners, my emotional outbursts and quickness to anger are merely bouts of a crazy gene implanted into me. It’s because I’m Latina or a Black Woman, but it is always an attempt to invalidate my feelings for their usually irresponsible behavior.
“Crazy” was my go-to personality trait: every potential partner was warned that their mistreatment of me would result in outbursts of emotion, random crying, and “invasive” questions. When I was cheated on, the craziness seemed to increase. I became paranoid at every encounter my partner had with another person because I had not taken the time to process what had happened. The reason the person strayed away was that I WAS crazy. When I tried to address it, this craziness became a barrier to receiving clarity and peace of mind.
When my trust was misused, I blamed myself for others’ actions, instantly thinking my “crazy” tendencies pushed people to be dishonest or close off from me. Partners have lied, to my face, and turned around and blamed me for being crazy. “Baby, I couldn’t tell you because I knew you’d act crazy.” People tag me in memes about girls burning down their boyfriend’s houses, all because they didn’t get a text back. The “Crazy Girl” persona is romanticized and considered comical, but as a result, I forgot who I was in the process.
People will abuse you then have the audacity to call you crazy. I’ve seen elements of this in many of my past relationships. Consequently, this label has prevented me from achieving full justification of my emotions. I’ve always cried — nearly everything on this planet has made me tear up, as a result of anger, frustration, sadness, or exhilaration. When I have been hurt or taken advantage of, anger makes an appearance first, stripping the validity from my emotions and labeling me as crazy. Because I thought I was mad, it felt justified. Now, I am aware that I was not taught how to manage emotions — how I cope can hurt others, and myself, but it does not make me crazy.
Crazy is also a word that has isolated many individuals and kept them from interacting with various parts of society. To be crazy means to be mentally deranged, especially as manifested in a wild or aggressive way. An author from the Harvard Crimson articulates the danger of this word correctly. Using mental illness as an insult, not only does it contribute to societal expectations that prevent men and women from expressing their emotions in constructive ways, it is also incredibly inconsiderate and stigmatizing to those who do have a mental illness by suggesting that they deserve to be mocked or dismissed. (http://www.thecrimson.com/column/femme-fatale/article/2016/3/3/mental-illness-stigma-crazy/)
The other day, in a typical conversation with a close friend, I employed my usual phrase after sharing a period of frustration about another person in my life: well at the end of the day, I’m fucking crazy, so…
My friend chuckled and said, “but you aren’t crazy. You just say that to make light of the trauma that has impacted your life”.
I’m not crazy. The only thing that makes me crazy is allowing others to call me this when they try to invalidate my feelings, my experience. What it was is an unhealthy practice in the process of emotion. I’m far from perfection — I still process emotions in harmful ways and refuse to tell others how I feel for fear of being “crazy.” I hold anxiety and experience depressive episodes. Instead of keeping and embracing this stigma, I have the power to change my narrative. Next time someone calls me crazy, I won’t let them.