Some of my best friends are crazy.

2011-08-10 21:19

No, I don’t mean eccentric. I don’t mean “differently abled”. No, I mean crazy. This is a distinction I learned about a long time ago, when a nice man in a wheelchair explained it quite succinctly:

I am not “differently abled”, I am a fucking cripple.

The word “crazy” is not necessarily a bad word. It sorta is. It’s certainly got negative connotations, and you know what? That’s because mental illness is actually pretty disruptive. It can be a big deal. And because it can be a big deal, it’s very hard for people to include any kind of mental illness in stories unless the story is entirely about mental illness, or the mentally-ill character is just a two-dimensional bit player.

So, along comes one of my crazy friends, Luka. No, I didn’t ask permission to call him crazy; I just like the word. (Followup: Better judgement arrived, and I later asked; see below.) I know Luka decently well; we lived in the same house for some years, we’ve road tripped together. Luka is a great person to know. Heck. Luka is a great person. But… Luka is a great person who will occasionally declare that some object would Give Me Food Hands, and be totally unable to touch that object. I once saw Luka get lost in an elevator. Yes, really. (And yeah, it was one of the ones which open on different sides on different floors.)

Luka has pretty strong feelings on the question of how people talk about and deal with mental illness, and decided to address this with storytelling. Luka’s a great artist and storyteller, and decided to do a fanfic for the webcomic Homestuck. The fanfic has its own blog, brainbent.

In this fic, which is based off the characters from Homestuck, various of the characters are depicted as patients in a mental health hospital. They are there for, frankly, pretty good reasons.

One of them, who has serious self-loathing issues and is definitely non-sane, refers to himself in this fic as “crazy”, and… the drama llama arrives. See, according to some participants, it’s horrible and degrading and awful to call someone “crazy”, or to use the word at all in any way, or whatever. And battles ensue. We are told that only people who have been patients in mental hospitals are ever allowed to talk about them, because otherwise it’s “triggering”.

For those who are unfamiliar with the term; “triggering” is a term of art when dealing with mental health issues, especially traumas. “Triggers” are things that hit your buttons in a way that makes you unable to respond rationally, or causes you to freak out.

Part of writing respectfully is writing truthfully. The truth is, some people do in fact consider themselves crazy. I will happily tell you how cool it is being me, and how much I enjoy living in this brain, but… Yes, my brain is defective. It does not work in the way that some other brains do, or indeed, most of them. The average toddler can do things cognitively that I can’t. And I don’t think anyone is made better off by pretending that this is not in any way a problem.

Yes, Luka is writing a story about crazy people. Luka is a crazy people. (And yes, for the curious, I asked before saying that; Luka pointed out that I have a psych degree, and ought to use the technical term, which is “cuckoo for cocoa puffs”. True dat.)

To the person all upset about this:

Yeah, it’s upsetting to you, but you gotta own your triggers, here. You don’t like it, so don’t read it. Don’t go telling the rest of us we can’t have a meaningful story in which people we might find easier to relate to are portrayed as having more than one trait, or more than one interest. You can’t demand that no one ever anywhere use nuts in food because you have an allergy, all you can do is avoid things that have nuts in them. If the very concept of a fiction set in a mental institution bothers you… Don’t read it. It is not some grave crime against humanity for someone who has real live mental illnesses of the sort you get medications and therapy for to, well, write about mental illness. Heck, it’s sort of nice to see the topic being dealt with competently and respectfully, by someone who is really, really, aware that there is more to crazy people than being “crazy”.

The theory that only people who have been in mental hospitals should ever be allowed to talk about them is… well, frankly, and pardon the term. It’s crazy talk. That is not how writing works, that is not how literature happens. For that matter, what on earth makes you so sure that all the fans, and the author, are all completely free of mental inpatient care histories? I’ve never been crazy in a way which mandated being locked up, but I’ve had more than one friend get “institutionalized” (what a clean, sterile, word that is!) for good cause. It happens.

Just… If you don’t like it, don’t read it. Don’t go around trying to convince people, many of whom have been through just as much hell as you have, that they’re not allowed to be recovered enough to talk about it, or write about it, or heck, even think that some of this can be sorta funny sometimes.

For your drama-heavy postings, I hereby sentence you to listen to the 20% cooler remix of “Giggle at the Ghosties” for an hour.

Me? I’m gonna go order pizza for the friend who hasn’t been able to eat all day because nothing sounds like food because she’s stressed, then talk to the bipolar friend about funny Internet drama, then watch My Little Pony while rocking in my chair and possibly hugging myself or flapping my hands. Crazy? Yeah, that’d be us. Thanks, Luka, for keeping it real.

Peter Seebach

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Comment

  1. Crazy Power!

    — Ariel · 2011-08-20 22:30 · #

  2. love the story :)

    — Keshia Joyce Lim · 2012-02-12 19:50 · #

 
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