The Language: Crazy

"Using the same language in conversation fuels the same mentality and rarely inflicts change.” -Anthony Bartlett

The comment above comes from a conversation I had with a friend this weekend. It made me think about the words that are associated with mental health and mental illness in my own social circles.

Let’s look at the possibly the most noticeable word, Crazy. Depending on who I am talking to, this word can have number or meanings.

Crazy-a situation that is hard to believe “Did you see that game winning shot last night. It was crazy”

Crazy-the person that is misunderstood and may suffer from a mental illness BUT we as a community fail to acknowledge this and treat them like an outcast instead of a person. They may also say that this person belongs in a "crazy house".

Crazy-the person that has the reputation of having a quick temper is a live wire. This may differ from the previous definition because these individuals gain respect for their level of “crazy”. Think about Debo, the neighborhood bully.

Crazy-the person who asks you to do something that you believe is irrational. This could be at work, home, or in the community. “She just asked me to give $100. She must be crazy” (I hear and use something very similar to this a lot LOL).

Our language can be a difficult thing to grasp, but the words that we speak can be powerful, both positive and negative. I am not saying we should never use this word, because even with my own battles with mental illness, I use it but I am conscious of how I use it.

Recently, I ran into an acquaintance that is aware of my work and her first words to me were “I didn’t know you were Bipolar. I never thought of you as being crazy.I always thought you were normal”. Then she laughed.

Knowing her, I understood that she did not mean any harm by her comments but this may not be received well by others. Outside of that, we were able to discuss how mental illness affects people how she believes things need to change.

Similar to the multiple uses of crazy, we utilize many other terms that professionally defined in a the field of Mental Health, but are used loosely in everyday conversations. For example, there is a quick change in the weather. A person may say “this weather is bipolar”.

Conversations about Mental Illness and Mental Health must continue to happen but it is not always an easy talk to have. It does not have to be so formal. We can have fun with it. We must use our language to formulate a connection. Especially across generations, races, and classes to educate and help.

Does the professional language of mental illness, such as a diagnosis or medication, deter you from actually having a conversation?

Social Pressure and Mental Health Part 2

In the era of social media, influences have expanded beyond just close friends and family to the virtual acquaintances you acquire through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and so on. Previously, I talked about the role social pressure can have on your mental health. Now let’s add social media to the equation.

(Sum of everything that I mentioned before) + Social Media = STRESS!

Think about how many people watch Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and allow what people post, “like”, or even not “like” influence their mood, actions, and outlook on certain things in life.

“My picture didn’t get that many likes…why don’t people like me?”

“My friend has a great job, new clothes and a new car…I need a better job, more clothes and a new car.”

In most cases, following the paths of others or trying to keep up with the Joneses leads to added stress. Don’t get me wrong. I do some of this as well and I do not mean that it is all negative, because there are great things about the Internet and social media, but we must recognize the added social stressors that both have on our mental wellbeing.

Stress to live up to the expectations of others. Stress to imitate others. Stress with comparing our lives to a portion of another person’s life that we see on social media. We must not prioritize prestige and outward appearances over our own mental wellness and happiness.

Social Pressure and Mental Health Part 1

“Will you be an athlete? Will you be an entertainer? Will you sell drugs? Will you be a revolutionary? Will you be an intellectual? Will you be a nobody?” The thoughts, words and actions of people in your life can greatly influence your decision-making and thought processes for better or for worse, and in a direct or indirect manner. When I was younger, I was always told that I should be a doctor or a lawyer because I was smart and did well in school.  Naturally, I also adopted this train of thought, and set out to pursue the “dream” that other people had created for me.

Looking back on things…when I was younger, many of my expectations were set by family, friends and the people within my community. From the type of car I should drive to where I should live, and definitely, what I should do for a living.

But, why should a person model their life based on what others believed they should do?

I held on to the “dream” of being a doctor throughout my years in college, despite the fact that I struggled with the required core courses because I hated them, or I was not interested or fully invested. I was miserable.  BUT I was expected to do it. So I did.

The result --

People say I should be a doctor  +  the fear of not passing my classes = Stress

I want to be social and make friends + fear of people not liking me = Stress (I know people say they do not care what others think about them… OH OK)

Fear of failure = STRESS

Stress, it seems, is a simple fact of life today. Schedules are tighter, deadlines are more urgent and an increasing amount of issues demand our attention. For many, the question has progressed from “are you stressed?” to “are you stressed enough?”  So why weigh yourself down with more stress?

Attempting to live up to the expectations and plans of others left me overwhelmed with stress and therefore contributed to the decline of my mental wellness, which evolved into moods of depression. It was too much bear.

As I began to focus more on my own interests, I began to drift away from thoughts built on the foundation of what others thought, and developed my own dream.

Yes, we will be faced with pressures from family and friends throughout life. And, yes, many times that pressure comes from a genuine, positive place. But when we find ourselves engrossed in those pressures and unable to find solace or happiness, or even satisfaction, we must learn to take a step back to ensure we are pursuing and preserving our own dreams, happiness and health.