Replace ‘Crazy’ With The Adjective You Actually Mean

Katie Klabusich
The Establishment
Published in
7 min readMay 25, 2016

Growing up, my family used the word “crazy” a lot. It was our way of acknowledging some of what we dealt with while avoiding having to talk about it.

The word stuck with me for years — an overused adjective for describing anything that felt indescribable or beyond explanation. Because of my family history and my own mental health challenges, I felt I had a right to use the word as I pleased. When I finally began feeling uncomfortable hearing other people with public platforms use it, I realized that I was not just contributing to the stigma that harms people with mental illness — I was being lazy and inaccurate. Now, I #ReplaceCrazyWith the word I actually mean.

Isn’t it time we finally all agreed to do the same?


My dad’s side of the family is complicated — like most families are. There’s a history of substance abuse, poverty, and undiagnosed mental illness. My dad and his two older brothers never talked much about their childhood; they used dark humor to cover pain and memories they couldn’t change.

The cousins likely wouldn’t have known much about any of it had our grandma not been in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease when we were young, causing some odd behaviors that we as kids didn’t know we shouldn’t ask about. Questions led to awkward answers and, since kids are basically human lie detectors, we realized there was more going on than just “grandma’s getting older.” By patching together stories we’d overheard our parents discuss, we realized it’s likely she’d had schizophrenia, or something similar. As for our grandfather, he died before any of us were born, so we didn’t have to know him. And by all accounts, we’re better off as a result.

I mention this to highlight that by the time my own panic disorder started at age 8 and clinical depression set in at age 13, I’d been around enough abnormal behavior to be comfortable calling myself “crazy.” Based on my experience getting to know others who have dealt with chronic mental conditions, I know this impulse is common.

“Crazy” is used to describe mental illness so pervasively that to many people, it’s come to sound like slang rather than a slight. Because of this societal conditioning, when the word is newly applicable to…

Katie Klabusich
The Establishment

Freelance writer/speaker | #KatieSpeakShow: @NetrootsRadio | @ClinicVest board | Support: &