The Pain of Being Labeled Insane

There’s a lot of freewheeling use of the word insane, sometimes to illustrate how epic something is or how unlikely something is, other times it’s used to describe quirkiness or just general randomness.

Derogatory use of the word doesn’t come up that much anymore, given the shifting attitudes and lessened stigma towards mental illness, but when I was diagnosed 17 years ago, the word insane was like a brick being thrown from a fourth story window, and coming down to strike me just as I walked under it.

There’s a certain kind of rejection you feel when you receive a diagnosis of schizophrenia. Especially if you don’t have a lot of understanding of the mental illness sphere.

It’s almost a death sentence, or at the very least a sentence to be shunned from the rest of society for the rest of your life. It’s a painful word and it cuts at you especially in the moment you’re most vulnerable (i.e. being in the hospital after a psychotic break).

To be told that you are not normal, that you are off and that you will be for the rest of your life is like receiving news that the person closest to you has died and you will be alone from here on. Except in this case the person closest to you is yourself (or the person your delusions made you believe you were), and now you have to essentially kill that person by taking these meds twice for the remainder of your natural life.

I chose to take the meds because I was terrified of being labeled crazy and for some reason I spent the majority of the last seventeen years reacclimatizing myself to the nuances of society and social interaction. I didn’t want anyone, even strangers to know that I was suffering with a mental illness.

I’m over that now and really couldn’t care less what people think of me, but at the time, being so concerned what society would think of me as a crazy person was debilitating. I was terrified of even the smallest social interactions. Combine that with the paranoia and anxiety that are part and parcel of living with schizophrenia and you get, well, not a very good time.

The point I’m trying to make is that the label “crazy” unless used in good fun with friends, can hurt for someone who is newly diagnosed. It can mean a life sentence of being ostracized and it can mean a complete structural breakdown of the beliefs people have held in and of themselves.

Thankfully the stigma around mental illness is lessening theses days with so many young people and celebrities talking about their struggles with mental illness, but it’s important, regardless, to be cognizant of the words you use and the way you speak because you never know who you’re going to cut.

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