I loved my last psychiatrist, Dr. H. There are things I love about my current psychiatrist too (like he spends part of his time working with the homeless), but I don’t know him well enough to know if he is as much of an advocate for me as Dr. H. was.
I used to laugh with Dr. H. and when I would tell my stories of isolation I could see tears form in her eyes. She was a real person, a down to earth person, a person who cared, and a person who would say things that I found to be incredibly supportive.
She was a big supporter of my writing, and thought it was possible for me to one day teach writing workshops to people who had been newly diagnosed with schizophrenia.
When I would complain to Dr. H about the people in my life, people that were mean to me, or that tried to manipulate me, or that acted out of spite, jealousy or envy, she would say, “Isn’t it difficult to be around crazy people?’
We would both laugh, because you see Dr. H. never thought that paranoid schizophrenia made me crazy. She had a clear line between people who suffered from a mental illness and people who are crazy. What she thought was crazy are people who act badly towards others, people with a mean spirit, or that are negative because of insecurities.
Dr. H.’s definition of crazy is one that I love. I don’t act badly towards other people just because I suffer from a mental illness. Bad people are people who do mean and hurtful things to other people on purpose. Those are bad people. I don’t know anyone with a mental illness that is a bad person.
Sure, we suffer from depression. We frequently have problems with anxiety. We may have periods where we are psychotic, but mean and hurtful to others on purpose? Not in my experience.
Of course there are exceptions to this, but it doesn’t make me love Dr. H’s interpretation of crazy any less. To have your own doctor, a very competent psychiatrist, exclude you from the word crazy when most of the world would include you, gets into your heart and mind and stays there.
Even though Dr. H. is no longer my doctor (she quit practicing), she left a legacy, because every time I write about schizophrenia, every time I open up about my diagnosis, every time I have the courage to talk about my illness, her thoughts on crazy come to mind and I become a fierce advocate for myself and those of us who have a mental illness.
We aren’t crazy. We have symptoms from a disease of the brain. Crazy isn’t a part of what we suffer from, that’s something else entirely, and it has nothing to do with our illness.