The Stigma Of “Crazy”

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Out Birding.

Bird Watching

Word has it that I’m a little crazy. Admittedly, I’m different from a lot of other people, but you’re different from everybody else, too. We can all come up with some crazy ideas. They may be foolish, idiotic, silly, farcical, laughable, nonsensical, or half-baked, but everyone gives birth to them and it doesn’t mean that we’re all mentally deranged.

I do go by the name Batty, sometimes. That’s what my grandchildren call me. My nieces call me Aunt Batty. It started when my granddaughter Zoe, now fourteen, started to talk. I don’t know why she started calling me Batty, but it stuck and is quite an apt name. I much prefer it to Granny, Grammy, or Nana.

To me, Batty simply means different. I may be what others call ditzy or eccentric, but I’m not unhinged. I’m dissimilar to many, but we are all different from one another. Janet, down the street, has red hair and thinks vanilla ice-cream is to die for. John, over on Main, has black hair and loves to skydive. They may be poles apart when it comes to religion and politics.  They are both individuals.

Some of us are more open than others and some of us are happier than others. Some people suffer from depression. Others might be bipolar, or possibly, schizophrenic. They are not crazy. They have a mental illness that in most cases is treatable, just like TB, cancer, or the common cold.

When I was small, the talk amongst family members was that my grandmother on my mother’s side was “crazy.” She apparently did some horrible things that no one ever talked about and was eventually found to be an unfit mother. She became the big, dark family secret. Everyone whispered about her and some wouldn’t talk about her at all. They seemed to think that if anyone mentioned her in public, the neighbors would find out that she was insane and shun the whole family. It was all about how they looked in other peoples eyes.

I was never told what her mental health issues were or if she was ever treated. But as a kid, I adored her. I didn’t get to see her very often, but when I did, I thought she was funny, loving, and an original. Her hair was short, frizzy and dyed a strawberry blond color. She laughed a lot in a loud kind of way and had canaries in cages all over her house. I didn’t believe what everyone said about her. But as I got older and my mother told me a few stories about her, I knew she was mentally ill.

As someone who has often struggled with depression and anxiety disorder, I sometimes thought I might have inherited my grandmother’s problems. I was ashamed and feared that someone might discover I was crazy, mad, cuckoo, loony, or wacko. For me that translated into being, “ A bad and worthless person.” My father’s parents knew about Grandma, and delighted in telling my mother that, “The apple never falls far from the tree.” Because of their cruelty, I’m sure my mother felt great shame and worthlessness.

I’ve been diagnosed with PTSD because of childhood abuse. My father had it as a result of his experiences fighting in World War II. My mother came from an abusive home and she most likely had it, too. They were not crazy, nor am I.

In seeking treatment I’ve worked long and hard to minimize my symptoms by understanding how the brain changes when a person is abused. I know that recovery is possible and can provide us with happy and peace filled lives. Sure, I can still get depressed or have a panic attack, but I know what to do to make myself feel better.

Hiding mental illness by sweeping it under the carpet or making cruel judgments about it, only makes the stigma worse. In todays world, many with mental illness are beginning to speak out about their problems, their need for support, and proper care.

 Let’s stand tall to end the stigma of “crazy” together. Speak out. If you struggle with mental illness seek treatment. You have nothing to be ashamed of.



  1. Thank you for this uplifting share Joan!
    May we all find understanding and support as we face life’s difficulties and find a way to rise above them <3
    Val x

    • Joan Rough says:

      You’re so welcome, Val. I know to many people who are ashamed of having a mental disability. It’s time to stop hiding.

  2. Joan — I second Val’s motion in THANKING you for this positive, uplifting, and constructive post. Amen siSTAR!

  3. Joan Rough says:

    Thanks, Laurie, for your kind words and second of Val’s motion. “Crazy” is something we need to talk about openly.

  4. As someone who has suffered from depression several times in my life, I have tried to speak out also against the stigma associated with mental illness. A kindly doctor once told me that if you break your leg, you need to get it set. Mental illness is not that much different. At least it should not be shameful to seek help. Sometimes we break our neural circuitry. If that happens, we need understanding friends, family, and doctors.

    So glad that you have found a way to live with the challenges of mental illness, Joan. You are an inspiring example. And I love the name Batty you have claimed for yourself!

    • Joan Rough says:

      Thanks so much Shirley. I love the name, Batty, too. It makes me feel extra special!

  5. A brave and powerful statement, Joan about the importance of seeing beyond the stigma of mental illness. I admire your courage in standing tall to share this valuable lesson. There is a person behind the label. And let’s face it, we all have issues at one time or another. The healthiest people are the ones who do seek help and are willing to talk openly about it. Mental illness is no different than “breaking a leg” and deserves the same degree of compassion and treatment. Thank you for your courage in speaking out against the stigma surrounding mental illness.

    • Joan Rough says:

      Kathy, Thanks so much for your kind words. It is no different from a broken leg and everyone should know that.

  6. I have suffered from depression often through my life – sometimes severe. Now in the second half of my sixties, I find I can manage it quite well. Mum suffered badly from it, and so have my two sisters. But we all have led and still lead productive and engaging lives. We all have wonderful families too.

    • Linda, that’s great. You can struggle with depression and anxiety and still live happily and productively. It depends upon the care you receive or give yourself, and those around us. I’m so glad your life is good and with you the best in the future.

  7. “If you were born gifted, you will never live an ordinary life.” Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes
    So put on your bright red skirt, dance under the old apple tree and sing your way to the stars. We are no longer bound by labels and expectations, cultural dictates or family traditions. We are the passers on of stories, the distributers of lessons and legacies, the wise and wondrous women who born gifted still have much to share with those still learning. Thank you for being you!

  8. Gail Livingston says:

    Your sharing here is deep and honest, Joan, I too have fought anxiety and depression, though mild, all my life. As I approach the Big 70 birthday, I feel it’s getting worse. Having tried a lot of things, I have decided to go to the Amen Clinic in Atlanta to have my head examined. They can tell different kinds of ADD, head trauma, basal ganglia dysfunction, cingulate problems, prefrontal context, etc. Please hold me in your thoughts as I under go a 2-day (outpatient) in-depth history and 2 SPECT (kind of like PET scan) of my brain to see if there is anything pathological affecting my moods. I’m high functioning and not that sick, but I want to remove all obstacles that might throw shadows on my remaining years. An Endocrinologist is also checking on possible causes of my extremely high cortisol levels. I don’t feel labeled crazy, but I think the cutting edge brain studies are amazing. High hopes!

    • Joan Rough says:

      My thoughts and prayers are with you, Gail. It sounds like you are doing a good thing and I hope you’ll find some things that help. Keep me posted!

      • Gail Livingston says:

        Amen, Sister, I’ve been to the clinic and seen pictures of very own brain. Haven’t gotten the full report yet, but basal ganglia are overactive — probable cause of my for-no=good-reason anxiety. This is called Nuclear Medicine — so I’m really OUT THERE. Mostly natural, herbal prescriptions and a certain exercise and more than I could possibly explain. Great information from doctors who actually examine the organ they are treating. And don’t just give you pills. I’m excited for the possibilities.

  9. Hallelujah! Great article Joan…your words felt so gentle and forgiving…No, we aren’t crazy and I love the concept of acceptance. I would be happy to stand tall with you.

  10. Joan Rough says:

    Thanks, Little L., for taking on the challenge!

  11. I just found this link today and love the happy affirmation I see/read here. Writing is a solitary activity, but publishing a book requires support – support from a tribe of friends. Thank you for being one of them.

    • Joan Rough says:

      Marian, You are very welcome and you are a member of my community as well. None of us would get very far with the support of friends! Thank you!