Since the dawn of language, men have been calling women “crazy.” It is a wonderful catch-all concept that guys sling at girls whenever they find their behavior unbecoming or simply inconvenient: “We’re going to be late. Kate has to blow dry her hair. She’s nuts.” As a result of this ongoing attack from guys who have their own share of bizarre habits (I dated someone who put his jeans in the freezer and then told me I was “crazy” for not doing the same), girls have learned to fight back. We are told by our girlfriends, sisters and mothers that we have a right to our feelings and no man has a right to label us crazy. We must trust our emotions and stand by them even in the face of male ridicule.
But what if you genuinely don’t trust your sanity? What if many male and female professionals have given you labels that colloquially translates to “crazy?” Who do you trust? The feminist movement or 20-plus years of mental health issues? I don’t just worry that my actions might be mislabeled “crazy” by emotionally stunted men; I fear that my actions might be correctly labeled “crazy” by emotionally mature ones.
I was diagnosed with severe OCD when I was four years old. I grew up knowing that there was something wrong with me. I have spent countless hours battling my instincts and many years popping pills that suppressed my worst characteristics while making me sweaty, fat and sleepy. At 25, I am incredibly proud to be off my meds and able to sit down on the grass without having a panic attack. Sure, I’m going to ask you to take your shoes off in my apartment but I won’t cry if you forget. I will just glare at you and then make a “joke” about it. I am no longer a sensitive mess that can be pushed over the edge with one canceled lunch or rejection. I live in LA now. I wouldn’t survive otherwise.
Yet, despite these improvements and my current stability, I still have trouble trusting my gut when it comes to relationships. I know that my disease makes me different from other people. My stomach flips whenever a dog jumps on me. No one else even flinches. Many people even get down on the floor and let the dog lick their face! (What? Why? So gross!) How can I brazenly assume that my emotional instincts are correct in some places but not in others? Does my need for a date to compliment my outfit come from a normal human desire or is it due to an unhealthy dependence on reassurance that is a result of my OCD and manifests itself throughout my life: “Are you mad at me, Mom?… Are you sure?… Well, I’m really sorry if you are but aren’t telling me… Ok. I’ll stop calling you.”
Here’s the other thing: I’ve acted pretty “crazy” before. Back in college, I wasn’t in a stable enough place to be dating. I got attached and dependent. I never killed a rabbit in the name of love but I kept texting boys long after it was kosher. I’m deeply ashamed of my behavior and absolutely terrified to repeat it. So I stifle my feelings. I avoid conflict. I never yell and when my sister tells me my anger is justified I assure her that I am probably “overreacting.” Overreacting: that word represents my greatest fear. I lost my best friend in high school because I overreacted. It haunts me. It is my Vietnam with a much smaller body count. If I am going to speak my mind and start something, it had better be justified and I’d better have the arsenal to win, not just tie or slink away embarrassed.
But how can you ever win an argument when the other side has the equivalent of an atomic bomb? I propose that “crazy” has an even deadlier cousin that is more subtle but just as damaging: “You’re too sensitive.” My body shudders with flashbacks of all the times this has been thrown in my face. The assault is especially devastating because there is always truth to it. I know that I am too sensitive. You don’t have to be an NYPD detective to figure that out. I cried at my 18th birthday dinner — because a man was eating alone — as they played “Happy Birthday” over the loud speakers. After years of emotional turmoil, I am resilient but not tough. I will never have an “eff you” attitude that I show off with a slick leather jacket. But when am I being too sensitive and when are you just being a dick? That, my friends, is the impossible question and the reason there should be an impartial judge present for all arguments.
A guy recently told me a first-date story where a girl almost refused to spontaneously sit down on a beach even though he had provided a jacket. Isn’t that girl crazy? While I wanted to seem “cool” and agreeable, my mind was racing, panicked that one day that would be asked of me. I hate sand and I can come into contact with it only when I am mentally prepared and wearing appropriate clothing. I felt for this girl who had to compromise her discomfort so as to appear normal and fun! Every day, I go into this same battle. Some days I win. Some days I lose. I just wish I could get to a place where I am not also fighting with myself. I’m not saying I physically fight with myself. That would be totally crazy.