“Have you considered the term ‘madness'”, my therapist said with that smile, the one that tells me her brain is cooking up some interesting ideas, “to describe what it is you are going through?”
I thought a moment to myself, and did not answer her question right away. I hadn’t thought about that, no, not really for myself. Her thought struck me, but in a good way. I have read memoirs of people struggling with mental illness and calling their struggles their “madness”. I always liked the word – so full of richness, connotations, and even stigmas. The term has been used in the past, for mentally ill patients, and others, to describe insanity, lunacy, and the like. Madness is an older term, with origins stemming from between the years 1350-1400. Some would say the term is archaic, outdated, rude, and borderline derogatory.
After thinking a minute on my therapist’s question, I finally answered, “I hadn’t really thought of using the term to describe my own experiences, but it might be interesting to try it. I’ve read of a lot of people who struggle with mental illness referring to their states of mind as ‘madness’, and I’ll admit that I like the way it sounds”.
She said that since there is a lot of stigma attached to the word, and the various meanings behind it, it can be seen as a word to reclaim, for some people. She could read from my emails that I had been distraught about my doctor switching my diagnosis again, and my therapist wished to propose another way to define my experience. I like it. It’s an interesting way for me to think about the happenings in my brain, and puts the experiences into a bit of a different sort of perspective.
I am contemplating ‘madness’ today, and have been for a lot of the day since my appointment, as I finished my tasks and chores about the house. I spoke the word out loud to feel the sensations of saying it. The way my mouth formed the word with the help of my tongue, how my vocal cords vibrated to make the correct sounds come out of my throat. Madness. Madness. A different way for me to frame my mental illness and experiences. A new to me, almost exciting and nebulous description. It feels more obscure, a lot less formally described in medical terms. It’s an peculiar notion to play with in my mind.
It is fascinating to me how different language, terms, rephrasing words, can change a person’s outlook and possibly their relationship to what is being talked or written about. In the English language we have many terms to describe many different things. It provides options, as well as providing confusion due to the sheer variety. There’s something beautiful and almost sacred in the way we use language.
‘Madness’ may be a term that I adopt for myself, to describe my thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. It is beautiful and complex, while also sounding quite simple. I have no qualms with referring to my struggles as ‘mental illness’, because that is what it is. That is how my brain functions. It is a part of me, of who I am. ‘Madness’ feels almost freeing, sort of like breaking away. Breaking away from what, I don’t really know. I’ll have to think on it more.
While having the proper diagnostic label is important to me, it is also nice to stretch my wings a bit and think a little more outside the box about my mental health.
How do you like to think of your mental health? Does describing it with a diagnosis help the most? Do you use another term, or terms, to discuss your experiences?
Stay insane, friends