Language gives us the power to express love, appreciate beauty, and seek support. Language is nuanced and beautiful in so many different ways.
However, as I have learned several times on the journey to mental health recovery, where there is the potential for good, there is also the potential for harm and neutrality and everything in between.
One thing is certain, the words that we say matter--they have power. Over ourselves. Over the people around us. Over society as a whole.
What do you choose to do with that power?
The world I was raised in, provided me a wide-ranging vocabulary of ableist language. When something does not make sense or seems impossible to believe, it's called "crazy," or "insane." When you are not happy about a given result, you say "that's lame." If you find something frustrating, you call it "stupid," or "retarded." When a person appears frightening or you are not able to empathize with their motives, you call them "psychotic."
We all do it. I am just as guilty as anybody in using these words. However, if we really knew the etymology of these words, and understood the harm that they are doing when we release them into the ether, we would be able to take the first step to being able to extinguish the harmful connotations of these words not just from our vocabulary, and also from our language itself. Over the next few weeks, I will be publishing a series on just that.
Over the next four weeks, I will be taking you on a journey to understanding the etymology of the following words:
The purpose of this journey is to grow together as a community and learn what we, as individuals, can do to limit the stigma against mental illness and all other forms of disability.
Because our words have power.