Crazy Is My Superpower: How I Triumphed by Breaking Bones, Breaking Hearts, and Breaking the Rules
Publisher: Three Rivers Press
ISBN 10: 0451496671
ISBN 13: 978-0451496676
Publisher: Crown Archetype
ISBN 10: 0451496663
ISBN 13: 978-0451496669
The New York Times Bestseller
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.
"This book is for every young woman who couldn't find a seat at the lunch table. AJ Mendez Brooks writes about loneliness, mental illness and finding her place in the world with genuine vulnerability and perhaps more importantly, genuine strength."
—Amy Koppelman, author of A Mouthful of Air, Hesitation Wounds and I Smile Back
" A.J. Mendez Brooks is a stunningly gifted writer. Crazy Is My Superpower is at once breathtakingly honest, hilariously funny , self-deprecating and incredibly inspiring. I absolutely loved every page of this book.”
—Julie Klam, New York Times bestselling author of Friendkeeping and You Had Me at Woof
“This woman is 5’2” of raw talent, heroic honesty, and gut-busting humor. AJ’s story left me both breathless and feeling like I should be jumping up and down shouting, “Yes, yes, oh my god, f**k yes!!!!!”
—Deborah Copaken, New York Times bestselling author of Shutterbabe and The Red Book
“AJ Mendez Brooks’ candid account of her struggles and success offer young women a wonderful role model regarding how to be yourself, stand up for what you believe in and embrace the "crazy." AJ's story promotes empowerment, not just through physical strength, but through emotional strength as well.”
—Dr. Jen Hartstein, Family Psychologist and author of Princess Recovery
“This compelling memoir, written with genuine humor and strength, shows how AJ persevered over circumstances that a lesser human would have been destroyed by. She is truly a Super Hero.”
—Caroline Rhea, Actor, TV Host, and Stand-up Comedian
“AJ Mendez Brooks is the role model we desperately need in today’s culture! Authentic and inspiring, AJ embraces her challenges, bravely discusses her past, and shows us all how to turn pain into power."
—Emily Roberts MA, LPC – “The Guidance Girl” Psychotherapist and author of Express Yourself: A Teen Girl’s Guide to Speaking Up and Being Who You Are
“[Brooks] successfully uses her own life story to show how a perceived weakness can be an unstoppable strength.”
About the Author
AJ MENDEZ BROOKS is a former WWE wrestler and three-time Diva champion under the ring name AJ Lee. She is an animal rescue ambassador for several organizations including the ASPCA, and works with Girls Make Games, a program encouraging young women to pursue science and tech-based careers. She lives in Chicago with her husband, Phil 'CM Punk' Brooks.
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
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.