There is a psychiatrist who is giving me a hard time for using terms like “batshit crazy” to describe myself. He thinks it is “unhelpful”. I like him and I think his disapproval is to try to help me. But he’s wrong.
This psychiatrist hasn’t actually asked me but I think is under the impression that I am using “batshit” to put myself down as if I think being mad is an intrinsically bad thing and means I think I am fundamentally flawed. That I am using it as weapon to beat myself down. I wish I could say that was completely untrue and I don’t believe that but there is some of that in there, at least a little. I do think my madness lessens me. I have let it ruin my life and I feel most normal (meaning non-mad) people look down on me because of it. You will be able to hear the psychiatric staff trudging through my head here but I don’t think it’s really the madness itself that lessens me but my inability to manage it. I know intellectually that these are not my ideas but put in my head by society. This is internalised stigma. There is nothing about madness that makes a person less than another person. People’s reactions to madness are shaped by their society and by their own particular experiences.
Some of these terms are funny. A lot of madness is ridiculous and I think there are times when it is okay to laugh at it. It makes it mine when I laugh at it. When I am with a group of mad friends and we are laughing at the absurb crap our brains are throwing at us, I feel like something is healing. Reappropriation or reclamation, it’s called. We are stripping out the power those words have and making them ours. Then we have to go out into the world and show the normal people.
My term of choice for madness should really just be “madness” as that word has a solid political history behind it but I quite like “batshit” and use it in from of psychiatric staff, normal people and fellow mad people. I have stopped using the currently favoured “person with a mental health problem” (and I detest the increasingly used abbreviation “person with mental health” because it is fucking nonsensical – everyone has mental health) as it is too long and doesn’t convey any of the severity of experience of madness. Meaning it’s not punchy enough. Meaning I am trying to make the normal people uncomfortable.
There is definitely some passive aggressiveness in my enjoyment of making the normal people uncomfortable. I do feel jealous that they have such an easy time of it not having to deal with being mad and a little splashback on them feels quite nice to me. Very mature of me.
But there is a genuine reason for making the normal people uncomfortable and that is to make them fucking notice us. Mad people are treated like shite by society and some of that is active discrimination and cruelty and some of that is just indifference. To go with the current fashion of judging whether someone is okay based on whether they have a job: only a fifth of people with long term mental illnesses are working. I would bet that most normal people would have no idea about that. I’m not convinced many would care.
First, I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Council-er or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action”; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a “more convenient season.” Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.Dr Martin Luther King Jr – Letter from a Birmingham Jail
I am not trying to draw an equivalence between the experience of mad people and people of colour fighting for their civil rights (and of course there are many people who belong to both those two groups). People who are trying to improve the lives of mad people also come across the frustration that Dr King describes here. Normal people often just want us to be quiet and grateful for what we do have. It’s not enough. We’re not just dying and we don’t just hurt because of their behaviour but we’re not having anywhere near the full and satisfying lives we could have if they didn’t discriminate against us. Life is short and we won’t get back the years wasted on dealing with normal people’s bullshit. I have had a lot of conversations with people about madness spurred on because of my use of the word “batshit”. That little bit of discomfort in the normal person’s mind might add up one day and maybe even make a difference. Fuck me, being optimistic again.