Recently retired WWE superstar AJ Mendez Brooks is a powerhouse—strong, quirky, and totally confident. But that wasn’t always the case. With humor and tremendous heart, she opens up for the first time about her harrowing struggle to understand her demons and the diagnosis that helped her gain control over her life.
Everything I was told should be my greatest insecurities and weaknesses, everything that I’ve been labeled—SHORT, NERDY, SKINNY, WEAK, IMPULSIVE, UGLY, TOMBOY, POOR, REBEL, LOUD, FREAK, CRAZY—turned out to be my greatest strengths. I didn’t become successful in spite of them. I became successful because of them.
Growing up AJ was a quiet girl trying to act “normal” when she felt anything but. As her family struggled with drug addiction, poverty, and mental illness, she found escape through comic books and video games, and was inspired by the tough and unconventional female characters. It wasn’t until she discovered pro wrestling that she learned superheroes could be real.
Determined to become the superhero she’d always admired, AJ trained and sacrificed for years to achieve her dream of wrestling professionally. Yet she quickly faced industry pressure to play the role of the damsel in distress and to dress more provocatively to cater to male fans. But she fought back and created an ass-kicking alter ego that was a genuine representation of herself: nerdy, enthusiastic, and a little bit crazy.
With humor and tremendous heart, AJ opens up for the first time about her harrowing struggle to understand her demons and the mental illness diagnosis that helped her gain control over her life. What most people view as a hardship, AJ embraced as inspiration for her superhero persona, shattering the stigma attached to mental illness.
Charting her journey from a scrappy girl in an unstable home to an empowered wrestling champion, Crazy Is My Superpower is an unflinchingly honest story and brave confessional about her long road to self-acceptance.
|Publisher:||Crown Publishing Group|
|Product dimensions:||5.14(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.63(d)|
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
Sitting down with a counselor for the first time was an awkward experience. I had talked to a guidance counselor in high school, but that was primarily about applying to college and why there were so many curse words in my poetry. I had never locked eyes with someone who was so interested in finding out what was bothering me.
In a way, I felt like I was ignoring everything my parents had taught me. We weren’t supposed to reach out to anyone for help. We weren’t supposed to admit there was a weakness inside of us. I felt like I was betraying my mother by exposing her secrets to a stranger. But I didn’t think I had any other option.
I kept trying to explain that this visit wasn’t really for me, it was for my mom, but the counselor didn’t seem to pay that any mind. Instead he kept asking me questions about myself. “How does that make you feel?” “What do you think that means?” “How is this affecting you?” I told him about my panic attacks and my insomnia, and I mentioned the sporadic crying but tried to explain that these were all just normal reactions to stress.
“They’re not normal,” he plainly put it. “I think you’re experiencing depression. I would like to refer you to a psychiatrist.”
I almost stormed out. How dare he assume I was broken. I was just trying to help someone else who really was falling apart, and maybe I wasn’t handling it so well. This guy had known me for an hour’s time and wanted to deem me crazy.
But as the session went on, I began to actually listen. “Depression is not something you choose. It is a chemical imbalance, which can sometimes be hereditary. If your mother is indeed experiencing these symptoms, there’s a chance you can be prone to them as well.” He was so calm and matter-of-fact. I was a smart kid, but somehow I hadn’t connected those dots. With certainty, I had decided my mother was experiencing some sort of mental illness. But if I would’ve taken the time, I could’ve noticed my own reflection in my mother’s weary eyes.
Realizing the dark force swallowing her up was sizing me up for its next meal felt simultaneously like a ton of bricks had been lifted off and laid on my shoulders. I finally had answers for questions I didn’t even know I had. But now I was left with more than just my mother’s brain to worry about.
“If you have a deep cut, you go to a doctor and get a stitch. If you have a cold, you go to a doctor and get medicine. So what makes having something wrong with your brain any different?”
The hardest thing in the world is to accept that something is wrong with you, face the uphill road to recovery ahead, and realize that none of it makes you less than human. I had been so scared to end up as sick as my mother, I had refused to notice the warning signs. I wanted to think that I had little bouts of depression caused by the heavy situations in my life, but that was not the truth. The truth was, I was bipolar. And I had been for several years. The only difference between me and my mother was that I was catching the culprit early on. I had a chance to end up differently.
My disorder is not something that can be cured, but its severity can certainly be controlled. The process takes guts. It takes a brave person to accept they need help and go get it. It takes an even braver person to not feel shame in the process. I understand psychiatry and therapy can be intimidating to a lot of people. After I found the right treatment, and took the time to attend consistent therapy over the years, I felt so silly for waiting so long to finally find peace.
I know a lot of secure women and men who go to therapy. They don’t see it as an admission of a flaw. They see it as a luxury, serving their minds the way a massage spoils the body. And if modern medicine isn’t your deal, then try homeopathic methods. Try meditation, anything. Just taking the time to put your mental health first, acknowledging that it deserves respect and care, and accepting help when you need it, can save your life. You are worth saving. And you are not alone.
Table of Contents
1 Drowning Barbies 1
2 Mad Love 21
3 A Place Called Home 37
4 Swallow me Whole 61
5 A Step-by-Step Guide on How to Turn into your mother 73
6 Lie to me 99
7 The Robin Hood of the Express Checkout Lane 119
8 Born Again 135
9 I Want to Believe 159
10 Hello, Sunshine 177
11 No one Wants to have sex with you 191
12 Extra Whip 215
13 Girl on Girl 245
14 Crazy Chicks do it Better 259
AJ's Reading Group Guide 273