I was talking with a friend last night – a rare person who loves and hates language in the ways that I do. It’s a quirky thing to relish certain words and have an aversion to others. It’s not about social connotations. It’s about how you relate to the words personally.
She’s a restauranteur who hates the word, “deconstructed” because to her it means, “Not put together as it should be.” We joked about that and her mild OCD.
The joy of mental illness is that my brain played with that conversation for a long time afterward. I’m a person who uses a lot of language that’s seen as offensive.
In my office is a throw pillow that features a variety of variations of “the F-word.” Every single person I’ve served in recent years has loved it. It has made a few professionals uncomfortable, which is great because it sorts out people who don’t belong in my life. If my pillow makes you uncomfortable, imagine what it’ll be like when I start talking!
I speak the way my people speak. Words we find offensive when outsiders use them: drunk, junkie, addict, welfare-mom, daddy/mommy issues, convict, victim. We believe in reclaiming – so we get to use those words on ourselves because to do so is an empowering reminder of how far we’ve come.
I joke sometimes about being a “cripple” because using humor to deal with the loss of my leg helps me. It’s amazing how my folks I’ve upset by making myself the butt of my own jokes.
I’d never use that term on another. Think of it this way: The lead singer of Shinedown has a tattoo on his right hand that I love. It reads, “Your pain is a gift.” While I embrace the meaning of that message, I would never offer it to others. It’s a personal choice.
I such choices offend you, lighten up. Recovery is about overcoming. Victims don’t get better. Survivors do.
I’m an ally to many. I am offended by words that any right-thinking person should be: racial epitaphs, hate speech applied to LGBTQ+ individuals, sexist language, and words that show intolerance of religious affiliation, physical or intellectual disability, mental illness or substance use disorder.
Embrace the contradiction: I am a person who preaches tolerance, yet I am intolerant of intolerance.
I am a person in recovery from mental illness helping my chosen family overcome mental illness. The polite term for that is being a “wounded healer”, but when I’m talking to someone who’s hell exists between their ears, I’m more likely to say that I know what it’s like to be twelve shades of F’ed up and fed up.
Because that’s what it’s like and it’s more liberating when we call a spade a spade. Identifying and relating don’t occur powerfully with professional jargon or sterile language.
Look at it this way: If you don’t speak our language, be grateful.
It’s almost Thanksgiving. Ever notice how similar the words “gratitude” and “attitude” are? Try having an attitude of gratitude.
If you’ve spent your life taking safety and security for granted, if your basic needs have always been met, if you’ve never felt like you know exactly what hell feels like, then you have a ton to be grateful for. You also have a lot to offer people like me who haven’t or don’t.