I haven’t known Ann for a very long time, but what I do know of her, I really admire. She is a woman who is not afraid to stand up for herself or for others. When I think of Ann I am reminded of another amazing activist, Maggie Kuhn and something that she has been famously quoted as saying, “Speak the truth even if your voice shakes.” Ann speaks the truth. She has openly spoken about how she no longer allows people around her (including her fellow coworkers) to refer to people as a label or a diagnosis; they are people. She doesn’t allow language that perpetuates stigma, rather uses that example to educate others. She is a true advocate, and I admire that a great deal. She understands that our illnesses aren’t going away and that we need to take every opportunity to care for ourselves, make healthy choices, and try to choose the best route possible regarding our own care. So not only does she spread awareness to those who may not understand mental illness without her help, she spreads awareness to other people living with serious mental illness. She also does the NAMI walk, volunteering her time to raise money for an amazing organization. She’s also fun, and she genuinely cares for others, and she just makes the world a better place. She’s sunshiny and bright, and I think the world needs quite a bit more of that sunshiny Ann!
By Ann Roselle
Language is critical to a civilization. It is the means in which we have to express ourselves and communicate our needs, our thoughts and our emotions. It is crucial that we use language properly to be understood and not send conflicting messages. How many times have you heard one say to another “but that is not what I meant!” out of sheer frustration at the miscommunication. Were the proper words not chosen? Did the tone of voice not reflect the appropriate message?
In discussing our illnesses, we spend a lot of time debating language. We discuss how the disease should follow the person i.e. my name is Ann and I live with bipolar disorder versus I am a 40 year old bipolar woman. The placement of the word shifts how one reads the sentence and views the individual. Society has programmed us to see adjectives first, people second. Or this case, disease first, person second.
I am typically quick to point out offensive labels and language when dealing with mental health. I have found my voice and don’t hesitate to call out stigmatizing statements and seize the moment to teach how language can be used to maximize a person in lieu of minimizing them. I do not condone the seemingly casual use (or any use) of describing someone by a medical diagnosis. From where I sit, it is commonplace and acceptable to those who lack understanding to refer to individuals as “psycho”, “OCD”, “bipolar”, or even “schizo” to explain away ordinary events like a reaction to a parking ticket, quickly changing weather patterns, keeping a clean house, and sometimes for simply expressing justified emotion. I cannot accept this, nor allow it in my presence.
However, there is one word I would like to claim back in all its linguistic glory. I am claiming “crazy”. I love this word and all the delightful connotations it carries. We get too caught up in the negative. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, crazy holds three definitions:
- Full of cracks and flaws: unsound
- Mad, insane or impractical, erratic, unusual
- Distracted with desire or excitement, absurdly fond: infatuated, passionately preoccupied: obsessed.
Here’s the thing. I am full of cracks and flaws, I am human. Those very cracks and flaws are what makes me unique, funny, spirited, driven and lovable. While I would argue I am not insane, I just happen to have bipolar disorder; I am at times impractical and known to be erratic (any one who drove with me as a teen-ager, SIT DOWN!). And yes, there are things that excite me to the point of distraction (House of Cards on day of release, anyone?), I am absurdly fond of many things starting with my husband, children, Gossip Girl, all things Starbucks… shall I continue?
I want crazy back. I want to use the word and shout it from the rooftops. I want to talk about my crazy good time at the beach, or the crazy delicious chicken salad I had for dinner or my crazy inability to drive past a Starbucks without stopping. I want the word back for all the good memories I have associated with it and the belief that new memories of that caliber are within my reach because I take care of myself and work hard to keep my disorder in check.
So, this May, I am claiming crazy. You can keep the rest.
Ann Roselle is an Acute Care Nurse Practitioner at the Heart and Vascular Center at Yale-New Haven Hospital in New Haven, CT. She has been practicing nursing since 1998 and a nurse practitioner since 2006. She was diagnosed with postpartum onset bipolar disorder in 2013 and has been a vocal advocate for mental illness since, either blogging or volunteering for various organizations. She lives in Bethany, CT with her husband and three boys. In her spare time she can be found blogging at Bipolar & Me or playing in mud puddles.