So long as you are not annoying other people, you are merely eccentric. The character Daphne Moon, from the television sitcom "Frazier" was merely eccentric. Don't step over that line from eccentric to crazy, by annoying other people with your eccentricities.
Frasier: [about Daphne] "She's psychic. We've decided to find it charming."
What is the definition of crazy? It layman's terms, that is. Psychologists and Psychiatrists may have clinical definitions for all sorts of mental illnesses, afflictions, and conditions. But for you and me, we find someone to be "crazy", "really crazy", and "batshit crazy".
And why is it that some people are merely deemed eccentric, while others are called "crazy"?
I think the difference occurs when a line is crossed. Eccentric people are odd, but do no harm to others or themselves. Crazy people cross this line and annoy the snot out of others, and cause harm to themselves and others or constantly put themselves in peril and expect others to "save" them. And that is why we find Eccentric people "charming" and Crazy people dangerous and annoying.
And I've been around enough crazy people in my life for, well, several lifetimes. Family members, roommates, girlfriends, boyfriends, you-name-it. Go sell Crazy somewhere else, we're all full up, here! And the one common denominator about Crazy people - the one thing that makes you lose all sympathy for them whatsoever is that they are a bunch of egotistical, self-centered sons-of-bitches that annoy the snot out of you.
And the problem with the Crazy industry (and it is an industry) is that it throws gasoline onto this un-empathetical self-centered egoistical fire. The Crazy is encouraged to be introspective, to study their "problems" and talk about them in-depth, which is frankly, the last thing they should do. This only amplifies molehills into mountains and makes stupid emotions seem important and relevant. As I noted before, emotions are like farts - everyone gets them, but they don't mean anything, and often have more to do with what you ate a while ago than anything else.
Crazies end up getting all sorts of special attention, drugs, and positive feedback for what is a negative condition. In terms of neural network programming, it is the exact opposite of what you would think to do - reinforcing bad behavior and dampening positive behavior. It becomes an role for them to play - an unhealthy role - but a role nevertheless. And roles can be comforting, even if they are destructive.
So it is no surprise that most Crazy people end up cycling through this tortuous process of "getting better" and then "going off their meds" and then starting all over again. Because, let's face it, getting better is no fun - no one wants to talk about you and your problems anymore! And also, the food at the asylum isn't all that bad, right? So, subconsciously, the sabotage their recovery, again and again.
Think about it - do you know anyone Crazy who has ever, ever been completely cured? Of course not. If you want to be cured, you have to want to get well. And getting well isn't fun and garners no attention.
And right there is the problem with the Crazy industry. To even suggest that crazy people might in some teensy-teensy way, be even partially responsible for their problems (or their failure to care for themselves) is to be accused of being un-empathetical and mean-spirited. But for the rest of us, who are "blessed" with being "normal" (e.g., no one will tolerate that sort of shit from us, if we tried it) the world is indeed a harsh and unforgiving place - and we have no shoulders to cry on, nor are we offered any. And perhaps this is what makes us "normal" - the expectation was that we were "tough" and "could handle it" and such expectations become self-fulfilling prophesies.
But if you identify someone as "troubled", particularly early on, chances are, they will live up to that expectation throughout their life. You have given them Carte Blanch to be self-centered and think of no one but themselves - all day long, all night long, every day of the year.
And that, I think, is the distinction. Yes, people can have severe emotional problems. But people can also be assholes - regardless of whether they have emotional problems. For most of us, our assholed-ness is limited by how much the rest of society will tolerate. People will only put up with so much from a "normal" person before we have to pull back and play nice. But the Crazy - well, society has written them a blank check - be a jerk, we say, it's OK, because you're Crazy, and we feel sorry for you. And once you go down that feeling sorry for someone road, well, there is no looking back.
Crazy people constantly talk about themselves and "their problems" - as if no one else existed in the world but themselves. In fact, the only time they notice other people, is when there is an opportunity to use them as an emotional punching-bag or stalking victim. But it is still all about "me, me, me" even then. The other person is just an audience for the Crazy person to play to.
And I know this because I grew up in that nightmare - night after night of Mother's fugue states, where she would rant and rave to all hours of the morning, and me being too young to drive, left all alone to fend for myself.
What I realized, having more than ample time to study the matter, was that these sorts of people are all tied up in themselves that other people basically don't exist, other than as background wallpaper. And what you say or do is irrelevant to their condition. We all walk on eggs around such folks (neatly playing into their power games) but in reality, it doesn't matter if you are "nice" or "mean" to a mentally ill person. All they care about is themselves, and chances are, they don't even hear or remember anything you say. You are just wallpaper to them.
Empathetic people tend to get picked on by the Crazies, who pick up on your empathy like a dog does to a bone. They know there's a treat here - a human being willing to be a human punching-bag for them, on demand. And so, decent people, who like to think they "care about others" and want to be "nice" to a Crazy, end up being abused and feeling trapped in a cycle of abuse and sometimes even violence. And this sort of situation can literally destroy your life. Don't let it.
So what can you do to protect yourself from the Crazies? Well, if you are young and just starting out, make sure you don't date or marry a Crazy. Fortunately, things like schizophrenia tend to pop out in the dating years, so you will have full warning of what you are buying into. And never, ever, ever, date or marry someone because you "feel sorry" for them or want to "protect" them. It is not the basis for a healthy relationship. Just walk away from an abusive relationship before it starts - and hope they aren't stalkers (or if they are, shoot first).
As an empathetic person, I found myself drawn into this trap - dating people who seemed needy and clingy, and of course, were nuttier than a fruitcake. (And no, I have no compunction with such labels - Crazies are annoying as shit, and if they don't want to be labeled such, then stop being annoying!). Growing up with crazy relatives, it seemed "normal" to date crazy - a normative cue, if you will, or perhaps an example of imprinting. "Gee, she's just like dear old Mom!"
But the real revelation came when I dated someone who wasn't clingy and didn't need me - someone who had their own ideas and was self-assured and able to get along by themselves, without annoying the piss out of everyone around them on a regular basis. I thought, "Gee, this is novel. Let's try this!"
And the rest, as they say, is history. Never marry crazy.
But the Crazies will still try to ingratiate themselves into your life - to annoy the snot out of you one way or the other. They could be co-workers, family members, or friends. They can suck the life out of you, emotionally, and leave you spending all your free time responding to their machinations and crises - or listening to their boring conspiracy theories or political theories. You'll never have a life of your own. Such friends are not really friends. And the result of such tortured abusive relationships will have a negative affect on your health, finances, and yes, your own mental health.
What do you do if you are in an abusive relationship with a Crazy? Walk out, period. Move as far away as possible and cut off ties. Sorry to be harsh, but there is no "fixing" Crazy people, and chances are, you are ill-equipped to do so. Being selfish here isn't selfish. You are just wallpaper to them, remember that. It makes no difference to them even who you are. So why be their punching bag? Take charge of your life - take care of yourself - walk out, start over, start a new life, and stay way from Crazies!
If someone is driving their car off a cliff, make sure you are not in the back seat!
This happened to my Mother and her special friend. When Mother was done verbally abusing me for hours on end, would then call her friend (or drive there by car, if she didn't answer the phone) and then try to harangue her for hours. The friend's husband didn't find this at all amusing, and finally, the friend had to put her foot down - no more calls, no more drunken tirades, no more midnight drunken visits. End. Stop. Nada. Goodbye. Cut..all...ties. It sounds harsh, but you have to think of your own mental health and your own marriage (unless you are married to the Crazy, then get out of the house - Now!).
And what if you are a Crazy? Well think about how OTHER PEOPLE FEEL FOR A CHANGE FOR GOD'S SAKE YOU SELF-CENTERED EGOTISTICAL BASTARD. Sorry, but did that make you feel bad? Good! Now you know 1/10th of 1% of the utter BULLSHIT you put the rest of the world through. Stop thinking about your "problems" all the time and how fucking "important" they are. Life's just a ride, get over it. You are not that special or different than anyone else on this planet, and there are over 5 Billion of us to prove that point. And while you enjoy all the negative attention you get from your sick little games, it isn't helping you or anyone else. So just stop it.
Empathy. Just try it. Once. And I'm sorry if I have none for you, as that well dried up a long, long time ago. Why waste empathy on someone who will just piss all over it? And that, in short, is what Crazy people do - squander your precious reserves of empathy. Save it for someone who cares - not the Crazies.
Again, you can be offbeat and oddball all you want - and people will think you are a charming eccentric. But when you cross that line by annoying the snot out of everyone else, it goes from eccentric to Crazy in short order. And Crazy is no fun for anyone, except the Crazy person, who gets to call the shots, get everyone talking about them and worrying about them, and get to spend countless hours on a Psychiatrist's couch, blathering on about their "problems" which are either self-inflicted or just trivial.
Because on this planet, if you have a roof over your head and three squares a day and a rack to sleep in, well, you are doing better than half the population. Be grateful, instead of whining about your emotions and how they are all so balls-fired important. Because they ain't. Period.