(Don’t) Call Me Crazy: 33 Voices Start the Conversation about Mental Health by Kelly Jensen
Publication: October 2nd, 2018
Genre: Mental Health Anthology
What does it mean to be crazy? Is using the word crazy offensive? What happens when such a label gets attached to your everyday experiences?
In order to understand mental health, we need to talk openly about it. Because there’s no single definition of crazy, there’s no single experience that embodies it, and the word itself means different things—wild? extreme? disturbed? passionate?—to different people.
(Don’t) Call Me Crazy is a conversation starter and guide to better understanding how our mental health affects us every day. Thirty-three writers, athletes, and artists offer essays, lists, comics, and illustrations that explore their personal experiences with mental illness, how we do and do not talk about mental health, help for better understanding how every person’s brain is wired differently, and what, exactly, might make someone crazy.
If you’ve ever struggled with your mental health, or know someone who has, come on in, turn the pages, and let’s get talking.
Add on: Goodreads
This is not a book that I can review based on character development, plot, world-building etc. This is an anthology or better yet a discussion starter about mental health. I don’t personally deal with mental health as much as some people but I have dealt with anxiety and have family members who battle with mental health. This anthology of essays/comics/stories from authors, actors, athletes etc. is a great insight and conversation starter into this taboo topic. If you battle with any form of mental health in any capacity I recommend reading this because you are not alone. There are many people like you who get it and this isn’t some 10 step self-help book. This is a book about real people who have not magically recovered because they battle this every day but, they have survived it and you can too. Somedays are easier than others and some days you will feel like you are drowning in your battle but you will make it through another day.
“We have thoughts, feelings, and internal struggles. They’re all apart of what makes us human. Our brains are complex, intricate, and unbelievably fascinating machines that serve as central command for our bodies and our lives day in and day out.”
This book is powerful because it reclaims the word “crazy” and gives insight to the very struggles that people fight every day. Mental health needs to be taken seriously and not something overlooked or just deemed “crazy.” A singular person is NOT their mental health. They are a human dealing with something but they are not depression, anxiety, OCD, etc they are human. Plain and simple. This book takes back the power that people who refuse to understand mental health think they had. It breaks down the different struggles and has an intersectional and diverse range of people talk about these different battles. Some people deal with it more and some less but every perspective is important. I felt in awe of all these people have dealt with and how strong they are in their fight to stay positive and take back their life. No, some people aren’t so lucky and the pain is too much but, this book doesn’t look down on them either. This book is a celebration of the warriors you all are who deal with this but it doesn’t romanticize it. It’s real and raw.
“There is power in language, and there’s power in what a word or label can mean to each person. “Crazy” is not a singular—or definitive—experience.”
I am going to talk about certain stories that really touched me. Shaun David Hutchinson’s essay, Defying Definition, is all about how the world reduces people down to one word and not the person themselves. He talks about how every word or action you say becomes reduced to your depression. But here is the thing to paraphrase his words: You are not, however, depression. It does not define you. There are different words to describe you but those just facets of the person people see when they see you. They are useful to describe your behavior at a time but they do not define you as a whole (Hutchinson, 2018). “Because we define words, not people” (Hutchinson, 2018, p. 3).
What I Know and What I Don’t Know by Dior Vargas (2018), talks about the tabooness of speaking about mental health in communites of minorities. I related to this essay a lot as a Latina because in the Latinx community, especially for me, I notice many of them think mental health=insane asylum, straight jackets like some thriller film. They don’t understand the complexity of mental health and while yes there are asylums for extreme cases, not every person who deals with mental illnesses of any range means they need to be thrown into an asylum. I have an uncle on my dad’s side who battles with bipolar disorder, depression, and schizophrenia. We don’t talk about it much because my grandparents refuse to acknowledge what it is so he doesn’t get the real help he needs. This is a problem for a lot of people and we need to get to a place in society where we can discuss this without people automatically thinking the worst possible things. Many people in my family battle depression and anxiety and I myself deal with bad anxiety. That doesn’t mean I have to go straight to an asylum or that I am the next Shutter Island film. This needs to be something that people can talk about to prevent more people, especially teens, from harming themselves because society tells them to keep it quiet and that something is wrong with them.
*Next paragraph discusses assault/rape/abuse please be mindful of your mental health and skip if it is these topics are triggering for you. It is not graphic but it discusses an essay from the book and I don’t want you to be mentally harmed while reading.*
Many people either go to two extremes when talking about mental illness. It’s either straight jackets or something “they reduce to nothing more than an annoying habit” (Gómez, 2018, p. 24). Especially for women. The Devil Inside by Christine Hepperman (2018) discusses the roles of women in society and how they are treated/depicted and always made out to feel that they have done something wrong or are “crazy”/”hysterical” even if they are the victim. “It seemed that, for girls, there was no such thing as “good” enough” (Hepperman, 2018, p.44). Society “gaslights” women (manipulate someone into questioning their own sanity) into thinking everything is their doing. He cheats; it’s because you weren’t women enough. A woman is sexually assaulted? Well, what was she wearing? Did she say no? She is mentally/physically/emotionally abused? Well, what did she say or do to cause that to happen? Society has embedded victim blaming onto the world and makes women question their own mind and self and “force-feed us lies about ourselves until it seems we have no choice but to swallow them” (Hepperman, 2018, p. 47). Women are told to walk, talk, sit, think, speak, and everything in between a certain way to the point where some women don’t know who they are anymore. If you are one of those women then you are enough. What happened is NOT your fault. You don’t need to ask permission to exist in this world because you deserve it just as much as any man does. “Nothing is as powerful as a woman who embraces herself, without apology” (MILCK, 2018, p. 105). Never feel guilty or selfish for wanting to feel safe and loved more. YOU DESERVE TO FEEL LOVED.
*End of paragraph.*
“It’s normal to feel stress. There are many different kinds of stress we experience over the course of a single day (or even over the course of hours or minutes).”
Stress and anxiety is my kryptonite. I deal with OCD on a smaller scale but somethings have to be done and in order or I can’t function. I don’t feel weird or strange about it and even if you have even more intense rituals or things you do you’re not weird or strange either. Some people get anxiety from trauma but that doesn’t define them. My personal battle with anxiety and stress is school, my artwork, and driving. I strive to be the best at everything in school and sometimes that can mess with my head if I feel my work is not my best. This goes with my artwork as well. I can feel so proud but if I see another artist get more like or sales then I feel something must be wrong with me. I don’t think I will ever get over it. It’s something that will always cause me stress but I have learned to work around it and just appreciate my work even if no one else does. I know I am doing my best and getting better every day. The driving is where my anxiety really creeps in. It’s like water rushing around me and drowning me. I never figured out why I hate driving so much and why it has taken me so long to get my license at 24 (I am turning 24 and getting my license this year). After reading the anxiety/stress section of this book it became clear. I have always subconsciously thought of car accidents that my brother has been in and just ones that always happen and always feel I will be in one. So, when I get behind the wheel my hands go clammy, my heart beats fast, my mind is in overdrive and I struggle with having to look out of all the mirrors at once. If I slide a little bit I immediately tense up and picture a crash in my mind. It is not easy and I work on it every day but, I know it doesn’t define me and I will rise from it every day.
“Sometimes I wonder if having a mental illness is supposed to be visible. Am I supposed to bear the scars—both physical and metaphorical—of my disorder like a flag, like a warning?”
Mental health illnesses are different for everyone and none are less than others. For some people, it’s all in the mind and for some people its mind and body. “You can’t talk about the physical body without also considering the mind. And when the mind is hurting, chances are, the body is, too” (Jensen, 2018, p. 79). Bodily issues are just as serious as mental issues and vice versa. A lot of times they go hand in hand. But, no matter what it is mental health needs to be more of a forefront in health discussions. Mental health is apart of all of us from the moment you comb out of the womb to the moment we enter a grave whether it’s a personal struggle or not. “Key components of any discussion of mental health are the ways we manage our wellness, the ways we confront challenges, and the ways that we can come to accept what it means to be “okay.” “Okay” isn’t flawless, but it signals trying. “Okay isn’t a cure, but it’s a measuring stick. “Okay” isn’t perfect, but no one is. Here’s to the power of being ‘okay'” (Jensen, 2018, p. 161.) Being okay doesn’t mean you will never struggle again because for many this is a constant thing. But, it means hope. Hope that on someday things will be great and hope that on the days that aren’t so great you can look forward to the days that will be. Find people in your life that you can trust with your struggles and surround yourself with love. Get the help you need for your particular situation and if something isn’t working remove it because all that matters is YOU are safe and YOU are loved because YOU deserve it.
‘I am a whole person: complex and unique and loved.’
Define words, not people. Define “depression,” but don’t define others by it. Because we are people and we defy definition.
Call me human. I am, you know. I may be different from nonautistic people, but I’m different in some ways from every other autistic person, too, and whatever those differences may be, I’m 100 percent human.
…What makes us human is that we have emotions, some good and some bad, some comfortable and some not. If we didn’t, we’d be robots and nothing in life would have meaning. It’s when we go in the wrong direction for too long and can’t course correct on our own that we need to find what helps us to do just that.