You Can Call Me Crazysmart. Talk About Me. That’s exactly the point.
Why call me crazysmart? Why do I love that word? Why write and speak and blog and post about it?
Because by doing so you and I can turn the stigma surrounding invisible disabilities into a conversation about the strengths of people who think differently. Talking about being crazysmart starts a national conversation about people like me: The one in five people in this country who has a learning disability. The one in four people who will suffer from a mental health issue in their lifetime.
All of these people are not ‘average’ and they will experience or learn about the world differently than ‘normal’ brains might. Some people call this a crisis — I call it an opportunity. Now is the time to take this made-up word, crazysmart, and embrace it.
The word ‘crazysmart’ is a purposeful combination of two incompatible words for a reason: To get your attention and show you the value of complicated, messy ideas.
As F.Scott Fitzgerald wrote, “The test of a first rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.” It often takes someone with a first-rate intelligence to appreciate, encourage or recognize the genius of a crazysmart thinker. To use one word (crazy) without the other (smart) would change the definition.
What does it feel like to have a brain that’s crazysmart? Sometimes its hyper-focused and strategic and problem solving. Other times it’s an inability to spell or do math. It’s often all of those things in one single person. Millions of dollars have been spent to help the public to understand our needs or differences.
In our everyday lives, however, it’s often nearly impossible to explain how we perceive things differently. Few books or experts can show the average person what it’s like to live with such persistent challenges and gifts, whether they be learning differences and/or mental health challenges—at the same time.
At no time in history have we done so much research on the brain and how it works and done so little to train people in communities and workplaces to understand, be productive, work alongside and appreciate the huge value of crazysmart minds. Our differences are our strengths.
So why does that go unappreciated? Why is difference stigmatized? There is no easy fix and change is a process, of course.
I’d start with suggesting every single person reading this considers being personally accountable — for making their workplace, neighborhood, business or school— a place that not only accepts but stands up for and promotes positive views of invisible disability.
I’m not talking about able-ism, I’m talking about equal-ism.
This isn’t a new idea, but it’s a holistic approach many people may not have thought about before.
Maybe this idea will help you see what I mean: For people who live divided lives at work and at home, think about sharing the more private you — your personal blog about anxiety, your volunteering to help parents who recently learned they have ADHD — with the people that you work with every day.
I’m calling bullshit on people who bury their own knowledge about invisible disabilities and mental health challenges—whether that be their own or someone close to them—and refuse to speak up and educate others around them.
I’m not asking you to ‘out’ yourself, I’m asking for you to speak out for others. Share any bit of wisdom or concern in a way that is empathetic and well-informed. Do your homework on how you can help others. It could dramatically change even one person’s life. Talk about people’s strengths, not stigma.
I’m also asking employers and supervisors to level up and see that creative people do things differently and how, in fact, that is very often a good thing. Yes, sometimes it takes longer for everyone involved to adapt to new patterns and people. It can get messy. And new kinds of minds will ask all kinds of questions old-think minds will want to shut down. Don’t fall into that trap. Because if you do, you miss out on a huge payoff. Crazysmart minds often work harder and produce more creative results than the average minds ever would alone.
If you relate to the idea of being crazysmart and it’s value, start writing and talking about mental health issues and learning disabilities with people who have never experienced one first-hand.
Yes, it will be both incredibly eye-opening and extremely difficult. It will feel different. Even awkward. It may also be the best damn part of your day. Instead of shouting and posting and petitioning and blocking, just start talking.
You’re thinking, maybe I could do that, but not at work, right? Wrong. Work is work, and it’s true there are boundaries. Important ones. You don’t need to know my personal life — but you do need to respect my differences. Infuse some crazysmart discussion into your office but don’t confuse that with over sharing. Nobody wants too much information.
Start small. Ask yourself: Is my position or role at home or work too unpredictable or too rigid to even start a crazysmart conversation? Can I not stop and listen or stand and speak out just a little bit?
I hope you can and I hope you will. It is time. Many of us smiled when we heard the words, “We come in peace but we mean business,” at the Grammy’s last week. For crazysmart thinkers, I would add: we ARE business. Study after study is showing that diverse minds and cultures help businesses prosper and that human connections — face to face in particular — solve problems. Knowing that, how can you not see the benefit of seeking out difference, squelching the “it-will-never-change” mentality and marching forward?
I look forward to hearing your stories and your crazysmart ideas. If you are offended by the word crazysmart, I apologize in advance. I also ask you to think about the last time something really big and wonderful and change-worthy happened without some controversy. May the word crazysmart be the worst word I have ever used to talk about the minds, ideas and brilliant people I respect so much for their difference. Thank you.
#disability #mentalhealth #learningdisability