On Being Unwell and On Being Crazy

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On Being Unwell and On Being Crazy
By Michelle Bunt

A while ago, I shared with my friend, Gareth, the lyrics to a song by Matchbox Twenty. The lyrics went like this: “I’m not crazy, I’m just a little unwell.” Gareth responded by saying, “Can I switch that sentence around to “I’m not unwell, I’m just a little bit crazy”? That conversation was the genesis of this blog post, a blog post which I have written many times in my head, but am only just now translating into writing.

I, too, like Gareth, would much prefer to be thought of as a little crazy than unwell. Indeed, I revel in my craziness at times, and enjoying shocking those very “sane” people with my crazy ways (I know you have met those types of “sane” people I refer to). However, I think the fact that both Gareth and I would prefer to be thought of as crazy and not unwell indicates our place of privilege. Let me explain.

Neither Gareth nor myself were always in this place of privilege though. In fact, for both of us, we had moments (which turned into years) of being profoundly depressed, bipolar, anxious and suicidal. And I know many people who are in this place right now. And this is what I think about that place. I think when you are in that place (of being committed into a mental hospital against your will by family, friends and the police, and having doctors, psychiatrists and so-called “experts” take away lots of the choices of your everyday life by telling you what medications you MUST take, what foods you MUST eat, what forms of exercise you MUST do and for how long, and who you MUST or MUST NOT associate with) I think then the lyrics to this song switch back to the originals proposed by Matchbox Twenty. Because, in that place, you probably heard your friends, family, doctors, psychiatrists and the police, use the phrase “you’re crazy” as justification for the decisions they made on your behalf. So to be able to say, “I’m not crazy, I’m just a little unwell” can be empowering. It can communicate that unwellness is just unwellness plain and simple, i.e. that having a psychiatric medical condition is no different to any other kind of medical condition, and that you deserve to be afforded the same rights and lack of stigma and discrimination as any other “unwell” person. Your depression deserves the same consideration and empathy as someone else’s broken leg or heart attack. 

“Crazy”, therefore, should never be used as a label to mock, judge, offend or exert control over another human being. However, too many people have experienced this. And to those people, I want to say sorry. I want to apologise to you for those comments that ever made you feel like being crazy (read: unique, zany, eclectic, unconventional, too smart or fun or funny to fit into society’s norms) was a bad thing. I wish that this apology could come not through me, but through those people who hurt you with these comments in the first place, but sadly some of these people might never apologise to you. So I hope that you can instead accept this apology from me. And mostly I hope that someday you get to experience the place of immense and undeserving privilege that Gareth and I now sit in (undeserving in the sense that we deserve it no more than any other human being despite working our butts off to get here). 

This place is not perfect by any means, but when you reach this place you will have an overall sense and glow of health that makes it no longer acceptable to you to be thought of as unwell. You will have so much love for yourself that you recognise that “that craziness” other people saw in you was your greatest asset and talent, and the very mechanism by which you can contribute to society and make the world a better place. No matter where you are on the spectrum of being unwell versus being crazy, I wish you much love, today and always xx

Michelle Bunt is a 33 year old kiwi who had a tumultuous childhood and has had depression and PTSD since. A professional writer by day, she is also a trained counsellor, world traveller, INFJ, Leo and cat lover. She loves coffee and the ocean. Follow her on Twitter: @MichelleBunt1 or visit her website: MB Professional Writing.