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6 June 2011, 2:00 pm No Comments

The C-Word

This post was submitted by Hannah Everhart

It’s my first day at a new job, and my co-worker training me tells me “whatever you do, don’t call anyone the c-word.” I’m a case worker, but my mind still goes straight to word similar to the “c’s the u’s and the t’s” from the bawdy Canterbury Tales. Yup. The really bad one. The one you do not call a lady. Unless you and the person your talking to have reclaimed that word.

The word he meant was different: crazy. Defined as “mentally deranged, esp. as manifested in a wild or aggressive way.” A word many of us toss around without thinking. “My ex-girlfriend is crazy! She called five times a day convinced I was cheating.” “That party was crazy! I had six shots of tequila.” “My friends acting crazy. I think he went off his meds.”
from WikiMediaCommons

I work with adults who are developmentally disabled. In this job I do end up seeing some eccentric folks–from questions about if the upstairs neighbors are trying to poison someone through the stove, to lighter things like talking about how awesome primary colors are (OMG. And don’t get us started about how if you mix primary colors they become secondary colors!)

We use the word crazy as a put down when someone does something that we view as odd, unreasonable, or inappropriate. Using the word crazy stigmatizes an action. (In the examples above, excessive phone calls, drinking too much/drunken debauchery, and going off prescription medication possibly resulting in an unstable individual.)

When someone says something that seems ridiculous to us, our response can be important to helping that person feel either safe or isolated–usually in the more serious situations, not the joking around ones. Example: if I had said to my client who was concerned that her upstairs neighbor is posioning her through the stove–”You’re crazy! Be quiet. Did you take your medicine?” versus “Is there any particular reason you feel that way? I’m sure your neighbor is just cooking on his stove and the ventilator is making noise. No one is trying to hurt you. Let’s brainstorm some ways that you can feel safe.” The first response would have diminished her concern and shut down communication. The second response I hoped and meant to validate her feelings and come up with a solution to make her feel safe.

Us queer folks have higher levels of depression, anxiety, and suicide. Luckily, we’ve started dialogue on suicide through organizations like the Trevor Project, and projects like It Gets Better. Let’s work on de-stigmatizing depression, anxiety, and other mental health concerns as well. Have you ever felt stigma for a mental health minority status? Have any TNGers reclaimed the word crazy?

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