Bookworm Sez: ‘(Don’t) Call Me Crazy’ offers a chorus of writers on surviving mental illness

Bookworm Sez: ‘(Don’t) Call Me Crazy’ offers a chorus of writers on surviving mental illness

Ouch, you twisted your shoulder and it hurts.

That’ll last awhile, but you’ll be okay. Might need a sling, maybe, but it won’t cramp your style; your friends will help. That’s what people do when someone’s hurt and they see that’s the case — but what about the illnesses they can’t see? In “(Don’t) Call Me Crazy,” an anthology edited by Kelly Jensen, you’ll read about diseases that often stay invisible.

Hang around older folks for more than a minute, and you might hear them mention their arthritis, bad back, bad knees, and other aches and pains. They do it openly because we have no problem talking about physical hurts or disabilities. So why is it hard to talk about mental health?

It shouldn’t be. People deal with mental health issues all the time, and saying they’re “crazy” can mean different things. It can include an aversion to sounds or a way of looking at one’s body. It can be sadness or compulsion. Overall, though, the thing to remember is that even when it feels the messiest and most overwhelming, “crazy” does not define an individual. You can be a “Latina Feminist Mental Health Activist or a psychiatrist-in-training or someone who’s trying to deal with family issues, whatever, but the disease is not you.

Or maybe you don’t know even you have mental illness.

That happens. You go about living life, enjoying your quirks until someone says you’re “crazy,” and you go look it up. Surprise! Your quirk is suddenly in a book somewhere and you learn, to enormous relief (and maybe ill-placed embarrassment), that you’re not alone in this. And that’s the whole point: you’re not alone.

Whatever you’re feeling, there’s a chance that someone else has been through something similar. They’re not you, but they know your mania, your body dysmorphia, your OCD or PTSD or depression or anxiety or the isolation all these things might bring. They know and they’ve survived. They know “there’s always someone there to help…”

Baby steps. That’s the simple takeaway from “(Don’t) Call Me Crazy”: just two words that a teen will learn when facing mental illness.

It takes 33 “voices” to get there, and each one hammers across the point — some with humor, others with fear that leaps between a reader’s hands, still others that offer a facts-only account that will comfort readers who don’t want embellishment. The writers featured here also come from different backgrounds, including those of color and a trans woman, all of whom are the least-discussed in mental health discussions.

The biggest help, though, comes from the sense of community that this book offers in the form of been-there stories from survivors and those who are works in progress. Either overt or implied, the words “It’s okay, you’re not alone” are here, everywhere.

Though it’s meant for 12-to-20-year-olds who desperately need its compassion, this book is a good start to a long adult conversation. “(Don’t) Call Me Crazy” could also offer good insight for professionals, parents, and friends to help shoulder the pain.

More in Life

Tom Kizzia, author of “The Wake of the Unseen Object,” in a photo taken Aug. 10, 2012, near Homer, Alaska. (Photo by Don Pitcher; courtesy of Tom Kizzia)
Local author’s ‘Wake of the Unseen Object’ back in print after 30 years

Literary travel book had roots in newspaper series about rural Alaska.

Victoria Petersen / Peninsula Clarion
Chicken noodle soup is a bowl of comfort during challenging times.
Kalifornsky Kitchen: Chicken soup for the stressed

Maybe you’ve been feeling stressed, and are just looking for something comfortable and nourishing.

A few days after surviving an Aug. 2, 1967, crash in this single-engine Maule Rocket, Dane Parks poses near the front end of the wreckage. (Photo courtesy
Dr. Gaede drops in, Part 3

This is Part Three of a three-part story of an airplane crash more than a half-century ago.

Nick Varney
Unhinged Alaska: So, now what 2021 ?

The new year has started out in an interesting way, mainly because many of us are still dealing with some hang-around issues from the previous 365 days.

My favorite breakfast bagel sandwich from my favorite neighborhood coffee shack, on Jan. 5, 2020, in Anchorage, Alaska. (Photo by Victoria Petersen/Peninsula Clarion)
Looking for a few good bagels

Simple ingredients to make your own breakfast sandwich

File
Minister’s Message: Have faith; we are in good hands

Whether or not this new year will continue the wild adventure of the year most recently ended or not, we are going to make it.

In the early 1890s, one of the few men willing to stand up against the bullying and brutality of Alex Ryan was the Russian Orthodox priest, Father Alexander Yaroshevich. (Photo from the Alaska Digital Archives)
Exerting control in Old Kenai — Part 1

This is a complex tale of a changing Kenai and of four men — not just the two dead ones — and their perhaps inevitable fatal collision.

The finished product should have a light, flaky crust and moist fillings, as seen here on Christmas Day, Dec. 25, 2020 in Crystal Falls, Michigan. Finished off with a Michigan made beer, it’s hard to find a better second lunch/early dinner on Christmas Day. (Photo by Megan Pacer/Homer News)
Kalifornsky Kitchen: Pasties two ways

Peninsula Clarion columnist Victoria Petersen and Homer News reporter Megan Pacer team up to make the traditional hand pie.

Virginia Walters (Courtesy photo)
Life in the Pedestrian Lane: And the Winner Is …

I hope Joy is the one universal tradition we all maintained throughout this season, difficult though it may have been.

Two cookie boxes our household received from nearby friends, photographed on Dec. 21, 2020, in Anchorage, Alaska. (Photo by Victoria Petersen/Peninsula Clarion)
Kalifornsky Kitchen: Spread Christmas cheer with cookies

I’ve always enjoyed holiday baking and sharing, but wanted to do it on another level this year.

Will Morrow (courtesy)
Food for thought

I’ve found that the best way for me to cope with stress is a nice dose of nature therapy.

file
Minister’s Message: Just be in heavenly peace …

I don’t know what your to-do lists look like these days, but I hope and pray that you can find some quiet peace now, today, rather than waiting for Christmas Eve or Christmas Day.