Is she crazy? Or are you the crazy one who is projecting your own craziness onto your girlfriend? Keep reading to find out.
“My ex is over there,” Max said, pointing her index finger sharply into the distance.
“Oh. Are you on bad terms?”
“The bitch crazy.”
I felt steam come out of my ears. I felt a proverbial horn crawl out of my frontal lobe and break through the center of my forehead. My usually set at room-temperature blood was suddenly boiling. “Is she crazy?” I hissed. “Or are you?”
Max looked taken aback. “Dude, she is.”
I stared at Max, long and hard. I’d only known her for a few months, but from what I could gather, Max wasn’t exactly the sanest bitch alive. Just this month alone, I’d seen her get into a screaming match with a bouncer who wouldn’t let her inside a club with a lit cigarette, I’d listened to her endlessly bellow about another ex of hers, and I’d busted her attempting to stuff a scented candle from a bougie NYC restaurant into her backpack. I’m not saying any of this makes a woman certifiably insane, but as a girl with a few screws loose herself, the aforementioned behavior definitely leans toward the ~unstable~ edge of the balance beam.
“Maybe you need to look in the mirror,” I spat. I walked away from Max, leaving her choking in the dust of my new Stella McCartney fragrance (It’s called “POP by Stella McCartney.” I highly recommend it).
Later that night, when tucked into my shoebox-sized apartment on the Upper East Side, I stared into the cracks in the ceiling and contemplated my existence. Why was I so triggered by Max calling her ex crazy? Why was I so fixated on whether Max was crazy or not? I’d read enough self-help books to understand that I was clearly projecting my own shit unto Max and her ex, so I decided it was time to examine my strong reaction (rather than numb it with pills, like I did in my very early twenties before I read self-help books).
I began to really think about my last relationship. It had been a “tumultuous” partnership to say the very least. It contained all the ingredients that make for a rapid-fire shitshow of a union: long-distance longing, acute jealousy, incessant game-playing, explosive fights, earth-shattering sex. She was the kind of woman that would rifle through your phone as you slept, cuddled up and clueless beside her warm body. She was the kind of woman who assumed if you were to dare glance in the general direction of another girl, you most definitely wanted (were dying!) to have sex with her. She was the kind of woman who created elaborate narratives about your intentions in her head, ones that had nothing to do with your actual behavior but were rooted from her own wild, unhinged imagination.
Suddenly I had a very clear flashback.
I was sitting at my desk typing away on my laptop just days after my breakup.
“Why did you break up with your ex?” my coworker had asked.
“She was crazy,” I answered her, rolling my eyes like a real troll.
My coworker giggled. I giggled back.
Now I was shuddering in bed. It hit me like a fist in the face from Evander Holyfield during the peak of his carer. I was so disturbed by Max writing off her girlfriend as “crazy,” because it was like taking a long, unfiltered gaze into my own reflection. And I did NOT like what I saw.
What was it exactly that I didn’t like about calling an ex-girlfriend crazy? It lacked accountability. After all, it takes two to toxic. There is not one person who is responsible for all the toxicity. If you are in a toxic relationship, you have actively chosen to pick up the rope and yank at the other end with your calloused hands, which is what keeps the game going. If you had dropped the rope and walked away, there would be no vicious game of tug-of-war. Your hands wouldn’t be bleeding.
If you keep attracting people who are “crazy,” it’s time to point the finger toward yourself. Is snooping on the person you’re dating healthy? No. Is exploding, publicly, on the person you’re dating healthy? Hell no. Is incessantly accusing them of shit they didn’t do healthy? F*ck no. But you know what’s ~really~ not healthy? Being attracted to that behavior. In fact, I would argue that what’s crazier than acting is crazy, is being drawn to crazy! Being sexually attracted to crazy! Putting up with crazy!
So me getting involved with a “crazy” girl meant I was even crazier. It was a humbling realization.
As the years began to unfold and cycles began to continue to repeat themselves, I found myself growing weary of being in relationships that were toxic. I got sick of being called crazy and I got sick of calling my exes crazy. ‘Cause if you close your eyes and really think about it, is there a word in the English dictionary more reductive than crazy?
Crazy is a cop-out. It’s utter laziness. I don’t want to be a lazy person, so I changed my behavior. I quit using that word and stopped taking the goddamn easy way out! And when you stop generalizing your nuanced relationships with a reductive word, you are forced to look beneath that word. (Which is hard, so I understand the impulse to undermine complicated shit with a dumb word. But reducing things to a dumb word doesn’t break any patterns and I sick of being a hamster circling through a wheel. I wanted to live my life).
When I stopped calling my ex crazy, I realized she wasn’t crazy. She was damaged. And I was damaged too. Which is why we were drawn to one another like moths to a flame.
Here’s the truth: Sick likes to be with sick. It feels safe. You know you won’t have to dig deep beneath the soil and unearth the frightening roots of your own problems when you’re with a sick person. The whole reason that you’re both sick is that you’ve never actually treated the traumas that infected you. You both are avoiding ripping the bandaid off the wound because you don’t want to gaze into the gory pain of the past.
So you continue to live a sick life that’s full of denial. Healthy people aren’t interested in you anyway, because they have worked hard to get healthy and don’t want to risk catching your sickness (we are all vulnerable to catching the sickness). And if they *are* interested in you, they want to help you get better. But they will never be able to, because a sick person has to get better themselves — alone. So it doesn’t work out.
I decided it was time to get better for real. I was sick of being sick. I got a therapist. I saw her twice a week (it’s funny how much cash you have laying around when you stop going to bars for a month/stop manically buying shit you don’t need from Amazon). Instead of just reading self-help books, I started to practice the golden lessons that lived inside those books. I became mindful of who I spent time with. I moved my body. I meditated. I wrote my goddamn heart out. And eventually, somehow, I began to (mostly) heal. And somewhere along my healing journey, I met a healthy person who liked me. She told me that she thought it was attractive that I was committed to bettering myself. On the contrary, my exes had told me my “hot temper” was sexy.
The whole point isn’t that I got healthy and lived happily ever after. (That first healthy relationship didn’t work out, anyway). It’s that I began to lead a happier life as an individual. I didn’t even feel like I needed to constantly be in a relationship like I had before. I realized I had been avoiding all the crazy shit stewing inside of me by focusing on someone else who also had a lot of shit stewing inside of them. Now that I had confronted my sickness, I wasn’t afraid to be alone anymore. I wasn’t helpless anymore. I was strong.
And this whole beautiful epiphany stemmed from me getting pissed at my friend Max for calling her ex crazy, which led to me getting pissed at myself for calling my ex crazy.
So if you’re finding yourself calling every girl you’ve dated crazy, maybe it’s time you looked in the mirror and faced yourself.