NORMAL DOESN’T EXIST, AND CRAZY DOESN’T EITHER
I had a counselor friend who told me an interesting story, and it went something like this…
My friend was interning at an inpatient facility treating people with severe mental health issues (i.e., Schizophrenia, Bipolar, personality disorders). He walked in on his first day and was greeted by a woman near the entrance, who asked if he wanted a tour. He agreed, and she took him through the facility, explaining the day-to-day of the facility and asking him questions about himself as they went. At the end of the tour, she led him to the group counseling room but, to his surprise, sat down on the other side of the room. Another woman approached him and shook his hand, introducing herself as his internship supervisor.
Looking back across the room, he said, “Well, if you’re my supervisor, then who is that?”
She smiled and replied, “Oh, she’s a resident”.
The lesson from this story is, you don’t know if a person has mental health issues simply by looking at them. “Don’t judge a book by its cover” is a cliche phrase that’s said often yet not practiced nearly enough. For my friend, he was being guided around that facility by a person with a mental health disorder but had no idea the entire time. Similarly, we interact with people all the time with mental health stuff going on and not know it, and other people interact with us as well but may have no idea what we’re going through.
Stigma regarding mental health is a tough thing to break because you can’t see depression or anxiety, yet you can very clearly see when someone has broken an arm. Because we can’t see it, it can be as though it doesn’t exist.
So let’s talk for a second about the words “crazy” and “normal”. Straight up – they don’t exist. Crazy is an insult, and normal is a setting on the dryer, period. I can’t help but smile a little bit when a client comes to me and says, “Help me become normal” or “I promise you I’m not crazy”. If you think about those two words for just a moment, what do those look like? Polar opposites like black and white don’t exist, and normal and crazy don’t either.
One more thing I’ll submit to you about these terms – there may not be an appropriate time to use them. Yeah, you can say, “Wow, that rollercoaster was crazy”, but do you need to use the word crazy there? There are other words to use, like wild, fun, thrilling. Plus, normal is subjective. For instance, when the COVID pandemic happened, things that were normal to us were flipped completely upside down, and we experienced what people called a new normal.
So maybe, we can be mindful about removing these terms from our vocabulary, starting at this moment. Tune your ear into hearing these words, and they’ll almost begin to sound like bad words to you. Language is incredibly important, so maybe this is one small step we can take to reduce mental health stigma and even help change the way you view yourself, for the better.