On Saturday night I went to a bar with two friends to watch the Eurovision Song Contest. I anticipated an evening of ridiculous dresses, flags being waved violently in my face, maybe even the odd dancer dressed as a potato. My hopes of such merriment were dashed when one of the presenters made a derogatory joke about mental health that did nothing but boost the stigma that we need to destroy. AND there was no dancing potato. The joke? The "advertising" of a Eurovision Song Contest straitjacket to wear in celebration of the event because, as the presenter stated, "crazy is the new black". Now I am not one to follow fashion trends so I don't want to pass myself off as a fashion blogger, but in my opinion, that kind of statement and jokey interpretation of mental health problems went out of style around the 18th century and the fact that it was paraded on TV in 2016 is quite frankly something that has left my "flabber" well and truly "gasted".
At first, after the comment had been made, I simply hated the presenter who had said it. I was ready to fly to Sweden to pull her off the air, but then I realised (around the time I was trying to hitch a ride to Sweden on the back of a pigeon who, alas, was no help in my mission whatsoever), that this joke was scripted and had therefore been approved by multiple people. Hell someone had even made a prop strait jacket, so this isn't a little blip or misjudgement, this is a carefully considered statement that makes mental illness out to be a "cool trend", that was viewed as acceptable for two hundred million viewers across the world.
I hate to whip out the "if this was a physical illness" card here, but seriously, think about it. Imagine if the woman had been advertising a Eurovision themed chemotherapy pump with feathers on it and claimed that "cancer is the new skinny jean". People would have been up in arms, it would have been in newspapers, the demand for the removal of the presenter and script writer would have been widely documented, and Facebook would have been awash with furious people voicing their opinions. However, being mental health related, it was just swept under the carpet, nobody batted an eyelid other than a few distressed tweeters and bloggers online. Forgive me, but I have to ask what on earth is the difference between stating mental illnesses are "the new black" and saying cancer is "the new skinny jean" or whatever fashion trend is "in" these days? Cancer kills thousands of people a year? So do mental illnesses.
Maybe I am deluded to think that crazy isn't a fashion trend and maybe I should pick up a copy of vogue ASAP, but in my eyes that joke is nothing like what "crazy" is to me.
Crazy is spending an hour putting on make up to go out with a group of friends and then crying it all off because you were so scared of tying your shoelaces incase the germs on them were to cause the end of the world. Crazy is being watched 24/7 for months, in the shower, on the loo, all of it because you are not trusted to keep yourself safe without constant supervision. Crazy is yelling at your mother because she cut a bagel incorrectly. Crazy is having to sleep with your hands on the pillow so the nurse watching you sleep all night can be sure you aren't clawing your skin off under the duvet. Crazy is having to ask your friend to come into the bathroom with you to turn a tap on because you are scared to touch it yourself. Crazy is failed relationships because your partner cannot handle your mental illnesses anymore. Crazy is initially refusing to take an aspirin from a paramedic in the back of an ambulance who thinks you have had a heart attack, because he mentioned it was "lemon flavoured" and you fear that that may mean the tablet has calories. Crazy is having a separate room for exams at university so that you can cry and have panic attacks without disturbing other people. Crazy is being locked inside for months on end because the last time you were allowed out you tried to climb over a fence to escape the hospital you were detained in and had to be rescued by the fire brigade. Crazy is having to shower until the top layer of skin comes off and you are bleeding all over because only then can you be sure that the dirt is gone. Crazy is being the only person in your friend group who doesn't have a job because you are mentally too unwell to work. Crazy is waking your mother up at 4am for a hug because you are too anxious to go to sleep. Crazy is taking menopause oestrogen supplements at 23 because you can't eat enough to produce the hormone yourself and as a result your spine is riddled with Osteoporosis. Crazy is not being able to go to the toilet because your OCD says that it isn't time yet. Crazy is going back a year in school because you missed yet another chunk of education being stuck in a psychiatric unit. Crazy is having nothing to say when family members ask what you have been up to, because they don't count "I haven't killed myself and have got out of bed every morning", as an achievement. Crazy is being unwell for so long that you honestly can't remember what normal is. Crazy is all of these things plus a hundred others that nobody can ever put into words. "Crazy" is the hell experienced by the millions of people across the globe who are struggling right now, but are too embarrassed and scared to speak out incase their worries are belittled, brushed aside or used as fodder for the next stigma supporting "joke".
You can describe crazy in an infinite number of ways, but as the "new black?". That is not what the word means to me.
If anything, crazy is the new "crisis in humanity", and it is killing more people every day than your average fashion trend.
For more, visit Katie's mental health blog at www.bornwithoutmarbles.com
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