I want to be nonchalantly amused by the phrase “it’s just semantics.” I think I’d look cool and impervious instead of what I actually feel – infuriated. Semantics is, by definition, the study of meaning. How anyone can expect to communicate effectively without considering linguistic meaning is utterly beyond me. Meaning matters. And because I have Dissociative Identity Disorder, both the meaning and usage of crazy matter to me.
Inaccuracy Bugs Me
I’ve been reflecting on the guests posts from last week: Words Don’t Hurt People, People Hurt People by Natasha Tracy, and Ableist Word Profile: Crazy by RMJ. One thing that struck me when reading RMJ’s post was that, like the mythology that surrounds Dissociative Identity Disorder has roots in the truth, most of those negative connotations of the word “crazy” spring from reality, however distant. In light of that, I understand why Natasha Tracy and others choose to embrace the word. Why not call a duck a duck? The problem as I see it is that while most of us reserve the word “duck” exclusively for referencing actual ducks, we don’t use “crazy” in the same way. And it doesn’t matter whether it’s used in positive or negative ways. If, from this day forward, we all used that word only to mean (1) stunningly awesome, or (2) mentally ill, it would still irk me. Because if your boyfriend is crazy hot, DID isn’t crazy. And if DID is crazy, your boyfriend isn’t crazy hot.
Similarly, people chronically equate schizophrenia with Dissociative Identity Disorder. I hate that. Not because I think schizophrenia is somehow worse than DID, or a wretched disease that sullies my name by association. It’s just that I don’t, as it happens, have schizophrenia. DID isn’t schizophrenia any more than a screaming deal on notebook computers is crazy.
Or Is It Something Else That Bugs Me?
For several years after diagnosis I couldn’t stand most conversations about Dissociative Identity Disorder. I experienced uncomfortable, visceral reactions to words like alter, multiple, and switching. Fast forward to today, when my Facebook status read:
new job + moving to a new place + DID = the perfect storm. if it weren’t for social media my friends would think i’ve been kidnapped.
It wasn’t long ago that I, thoroughly mortified, would have deleted my Facebook account altogether if a member of my system mentioned DID there. These days, I’m completely “out” about Dissociative Identity Disorder. But popular understanding of DID hasn’t changed drastically. For the most part, the most widespread ideas about it are still woefully inaccurate. And yet I don’t have a problem openly labeling myself as someone with DID. What gives?
Maybe there’s some truth to that oft-dispensed mom wisdom: it doesn’t matter what other people think of you; it’s what you think of yourself that’s important. It’s always sounded hackneyed and overly simplistic to me. Still, I can’t help but notice that the misconceptions about DID don’t get under my skin as much since I came to terms with my diagnosis.
Maybe one day the same thing will happen with “crazy.”