Thoughts from the Clinical Director: Crazy?

Sometimes I think that the work that we do at Buchanan is pretty crazy. This is a word that can mean a lot of different things. It is often considered a pejorative term for mental illness. Cultural critics sometimes say that it is a made up term used to label as deviants people who do not think and act the way the dominant culture dictates. What I mean by crazy is that we hold hope for people who often do not have any hope and whose objective circumstances are pretty hopeless. I suppose our work could also be viewed as crazy because it does not fit within the box of inpatient or outpatient mental health treatment that views people as illnesses and symptoms that need to be “normalized” or “controlled” with psychiatric medication. At Buchanan, we still use the standard biomedical treatment approach, but this is not the only way that we view human beings. We strive to see the needs and strengths of the whole person and this could be considered crazy from a reductive biomedical perspective of psychiatry.

I have heard people talk about different kinds of crazy, like “good crazy” and “bad crazy.” Maybe we’re that good kind of crazy by constantly working to bring hope to the hopeless and by taking on clients who are complex and don’t fit squarely within the categories of mental illness and who do not seem to get better in other treatment systems. I think this is good kind of crazy to do this kind of work. It does mean, though, that our work is often not easy, predictable, or straightforward. It takes time and effort to get to know the whole person. It requires patience as we work with people to change life-long patterns. But it is also really fulfilling work when we get the privilege of seeing someone change and grow, which is a double bonus, because I think that also means then that we are changing and growing, too!

In Praise of Craziness, of a Certain Kind

On cold evenings

my grandmother,

with ownership of half of her mind—

the other half having flown back to Bohemia—

spread newspapers over the porch floor

so, she said, the garden ants could crawl beneath

as under a blanket, and keep warm.

and what shall I wish for, for myself,

but being so struck by the lightning of the years

to be like her with what is left, loving.

Mary Oliver

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