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When a Doctor Referred to My Mental Illnesses as 'Crazy'

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Up until last week, I lived in this delusion that anxiety and depression were somehow exempt from the stigma of mental illness. Only in extreme cases would I ever be discriminated against, because I’m not really mentally ill.

Then there are little moments when I’m not paying attention to my words and refer to myself as “damaged/wrong/broken/disaster/inconvenience/a complete and total mess.” I tell people that the reason I’m single is because “I’m a lot to handle.” In a conversation about relationships with a very close friend, I told her “no one wants to deal with all my baggage.” Heck, I don’t want to deal with my baggage.

I’ve smashed these feelings down so far that I wasn’t even aware of them. Until this week.

I was standing outside a patient’s room, pulling on gloves. A doctor walked up next to me and sighed. I looked up and gave her a smile. She rolled her eyes and launched into “this one is so ‘crazy,’ anxiety up to her eyeballs, always needing something,” and continued. But I didn’t hear anything after that. I don’t remember anything after that. I just heard the first six words.

I just froze. Couldn’t think. Couldn’t move. The rest of the day is a blur. I took on more work than I should have just to shut my brain up. I went into overdrive, spaceless thoughts with a smile.


I spent extra time after giving report to avoid being on my own at home because I did not trust myself until I was completely drained of all energy. The next morning, I got up and took on far more than I should have because I did not want to have time to stop and think. It worked, but only because I spent the week too exhausted to string a sentence together.

When I told my therapist this story, I wondered out loud if the perception of “crazy” had something to do with “high-functioning” versus “low-functioning,” or perhaps because I could pass as being neurotypical. She asked me if I was just trying to come up with an excuse to avoid asking for help or reassurance.

Yeah. That’s exactly what I was (unintentionally) trying to do.

Because I am a lot to handle.

Because I’m a mess.

Because I’m crazy.

I’m finally stable enough physically and mentally to see the massive double standard I hold for myself. It’s OK for anyone to ask for help, except me. It’s OK to be vulnerable — except for me. Holding everyone at arm’s length isn’t isolation, it’s protection. They can’t hate you for it if they don’t know.

One of my best friends told me “don’t worry about one person’s opinion.” But what if that person’s opinion is your opinion too?

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Unsplash photo via Dimitriy Kolesnik

Originally published: October 13, 2017
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