I’ve heard that line a lot in my life. I grew up with it, I’ve heard it from all sides. When I questioned it, I learned that there are a lot of people out there who take that idea very seriously, and consider it some sort of absolute truth.
If you haven’t guessed already, I disagree.
Of course, a lot of this is about how you choose to define “crazy.” This is YET ANOTHER strange, nebulous term that’s difficult to pin down. There are so many.
See, I think a lot of people see crazy as some sort of absolute. You’re either *all the way* crazy and every tiny bit of sanity is utterly gone, or you’re sane. It’s one or the other, there are no in-betweens. I do not see it that way at all. Not one little bit.
So first of all, what is “crazy” anyway? The dictionary mentioned “insane” and “mentally deranged.” “Insane” is basically “not sane.” “Mentally deranged” is a little more interesting. It sounds really ominous (at least, it does to me), but then when I do to “deranged” it simply means “disordered, disarranged.” So crazy means being, in some way, not sane, or having some sort of mental disorder.
Now, “crazy” is definitely a word with some baggage on it (and by “some” I mean “a whole lot”). So I get that some people think they are being nice by trying to say that I’m not crazy, but actually they are totally invalidating me. See, I, along with a number of others dealing with mental health issues, want to reclaim this word. Crazy is a thing I get to call myself.
As for why… well, let’s look at depression. Depression lies. It lies really loudly. It lies with all the wit and intelligence you have, and will turn your own brain against you. My depression tells me that I’m worthless, that I’m horrible, that everyone hates me, that everything I do is pointless, that I’m a failure, and on and on and on. When I am seeing the world and myself through said depression, I am not seeing an accurate representation of reality. I am instead seeing the lies that depression is telling me. When my connection to reality gets damaged like that, I am crazy – I am not sane.
Now, I did once ask for an explanation of why we can’t be crazy if we know we’re crazy. The answer was “well if you know you’re crazy, you’ll stop.” This is just… I think it’s a really common thing people believe about mental illness, but that’s really not the way it works. REALLY REALLY REALLY. Changing a behavior, even if it’s really really obvious that the behavior is a problem, is actually incredibly hard. It’s why there’s a special branch of therapy all about changing behaviors. Changing thoughts is even more difficult. It takes work and focus and dedication to make even small changes to disordered thinking.
It is entirely possible for me to know that I am depressed and know that I am not seeing the world as it really is. That knowledge does not magically make the depression go away, nor does it magically make me see the world the way it really is. The knowledge does not fix mental illness anymore than knowledge that one’s leg is broken fixes the leg. All it does is let you know what you need help with. Once you know your leg is broken, you can go to a hospital, get it set and put in a cast, and then heal over time. If you don’t, your leg will certainly heal wrong, and if you don’t take good care of yourself during the healing process, that will also cause you problems. And with the broken leg being all out there, obviously broken, there’s a high probability that friends or family will help you if you need it.
Mental illness similarly needs help. You can’t just say “oh, I’m going to be better now” and have it happen. You need to see a professional. You need to get treatment. You need to take care of yourself. The fact that the problem is contained within your skull absolutely does not change this! If anything, help is even harder to get. People will tell you that you should be able to just get better on your own. People will calls medications a “crutch” (as though a crutch is a bad thing. aren’t crutches good when we have a broken leg?). Depression will tell you that you aren’t worth helping. Mania will tell you that you don’t need help. Anxiety will tell you that help is too scary. And seriously, when the lies are coming from inside your own head, they are really hard to ignore.
So basically – yes, you can know you’re crazy and have it be true. The basic knowledge that something is wrong does not suddenly make it better. So people, please stop saying this. It’s not really helping.