PTSD does not make me crazy. Thanks.

This morning I did something that I’ve tried very hard not to do — get involved in political arguments on Facebook with strangers. But sometimes someone posts something so egregiously ignorant that, ironically, my rationality is so offended that it decides to pack its bags, and lets emotions take over. This particular discussion involved cis-gendered men calling trans people “emotionally unstable” (I have so many thoughts, but that’s a different post altogether).

During the course of this discussion, someone I’d considered a friend said this:

The media is making this out to be way more than it is and nothing has happened yet so you all can relax lol Trump I swear beings out the crazy on [sic.] people lol

I shouldn’t have been shocked that this person would chose to perpetuate stigmas of mental illness. But I was. I was taken aback that someone who served in the military would so freely describe me or anyone else of being crazy, of having crazy contained within, especially when he posts about PTSD and combat trauma.

But this isn’t the first time I’ve been accused of being crazy, and I’m so over it.

A few years ago when I started graduate school, I was in throes of obtaining a protection order against a man who had psychologically traumatized me for years (you can read about it here). I was in and out of court for a few months during my first semester of my PhD program. I was frazzled, terrified, and stressed.

Not only did I have to manage my classes, lab research schedule, and other academic pursuits, but also, I had to worry about making court dates and figure out how I would psychologically cope with seeing him in person. My ego was spent. And I was exhausted. All. Of. The. Time.

And so, sure, my behavior was probably a bit more erratic than it would have been otherwise. Sure, maybe I drank a little more than I should have. Sure, maybe I was a bit more wild than a 26-year-old PhD student should have been. But the stress was real. (There’s a whole literature on stress related behavior changes, but you’ve got Google for that.)

And for whatever reason, two of my colleagues decided that I was “crazy.” (Of course, they never told me this to my face. I had to find out later from another coworker who admitted to me that she was unsure about being friends with me because of what they said.)

And maybe they were right — maybe I wasn’t exactly acting like doctoral student material. Maybe I wasn’t acting like everything in my life was peachy. Maybe I wasn’t pretending to be super calm in classes in the days leading up and immediately post court-hearings.

But what they didn’t know, what they couldn’t know, what they never asked me about was why. And it wasn’t their responsibility to ask me. But they had the option not to judge me, and they chose to judge anyhow.

They didn’t know that I spent countless nights unable to sleep because all I heard were his words: “but who am I going to take to parties with me if you leave?” They didn’t know that I would wake up crying after dreaming that I was suffocating in an apartment in Conshohocken, Pennsylvania. They didn’t know that I was convinced that he was right, that I would never find “anyone better” because I wasn’t worth more than my face. They didn’t know that I was (and still am) suffering from PTSD.

And so, this morning, when someone I thought was my friend implied that I was crazy for defending the position of trans people in the military, the feelings came rushing back. And my only retort was:

For the record, I’m over being called crazy- my crazy is from PTSD from an abusive relationship. My crazy is waking up in the middle of the night crying because the dreams are so intense. My crazy is believing that all the awful things he told me are true.
My crazy is not defending the honor of the brave people who put themselves on the line for our freedom.

…because “crazy” is not a trait. It is a subjective state of behavior that has nothing to do with anything inherent in the individual. “Crazy” is an adjective that is often used by individuals to describe some behavior, or individual, whose opinions they don’t like.

I have, thus far, refrained from calling Trump crazy for this very reason. He seems, to me, to be completely unhinged, and I refuse to follow his leadership and lies blindly, but that does not mean that I believe he is “crazy.”

Crazy is often rooted in something else — some trauma, some mismatch between the person and their context, some stress.

Crazy is not a person. Crazy is not something that “comes out” of a person. Crazy is not something lying dormant within individuals. Crazy is a terrible adjective used to insult, hurt, and demean others.

Stop with the crazy.

I am not crazy.

What happened to me was crazy.