(Don’t) Call Me Crazy Summary

Kelly Jensen

(Don’t) Call Me Crazy

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(Don’t) Call Me Crazy Summary

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(Don’t) Call Me Crazy is a 2018 collection of short stories, essays, poetry, and art published by American author and former librarian Kelly Jensen. Formatted like a scrapbook, the collection contains thirty-three works written by different authors who have in some way grappled with mental illness. They explore the personal and public dimensions of illness, including rhetoric about mental health, the science of the brain, and misconceptions and stereotypes. Notably, the works in the collection refrain from biting off more than they can chew, utilizing vignettes and episodes rather than huge narrative arcs that tend to simplify in popular literature. Taken as a whole, the works seek to normalize discourse about mental health, making clear that no one suffers in solitude.

(Don’t) Call Me Crazy comprises a diverse range of authors and genres. In one, formatted as a comic strip, author Gemma Correll brings an illustrative depth to an anxiety disorder, inviting readers into her stylistic universe while suggesting that anxiety’s emotional universe is open to everybody. Another comic, by Yumi Sakugawa, uses calm imagery to transmit her journey from despising to loving her body and mind. Hannah Bae writes about growing up in a Korean American family with a paranoid mother and emotionally abusive father, and how she struggled to form an identity while constantly worrying about them. Bae ultimately left her parents to forge her own path, exchanging anxiety for guilt but soothing it through therapy.

Jensen takes care to include authors who are diverse along several spectra. Aside from a racially diverse cast, she includes LGBTQ voices and the voices of those who live with disabilities. In an essay by Shaun David Hutchinson, the author acknowledges that his depression is part of his identity, but not essential to it. He writes in response to the reductive language used by his boyfriend and employer that characterizes him as “depressed” first and foremost. Other authors, such as S. Jae-Jones, have similar problems with reductive language. Jae-Jones terminates a friendship after she finds that her friend has always seen her as a manic pixie dream girl. Having experienced a real manic episode, she knows exactly how damaging the stereotype can be.

Meredith Russo, who identifies as a gender other than the one assigned at birth, recalls a terrible experience in a psychiatric center, where staff refused to treat her as a woman and reported that she was simply hallucinating. Reid Ewing writes about his struggles with body dysmorphia, which led to an endless series of plastic surgeries. Central to his piece is his acknowledgment of the irony that, the harder he tried to become physically perfect, the more surgeries he needed, and the more dissatisfied he became. Some stories address less common disorders such as trichotillomania and obscure phobias, but all portray their mental health journeys as equally valid.

(Don’t) Call Me Crazy attempts to spark new, vital conversations around mental health by training readers’ empathy to many different conditions and experiences. The real epidemic, Jensen’s collection suggests, is not depression or dysphoria, but a chronic unwillingness to talk about mental illness.