Sometimes our greatest strengths come from within. Being a child and watching your father about to slam a television into your mother’s head would cause many children (and adults) to freeze in fear. However, for AJ Lee, she stood up to the man she loved and admired. Coming between the two, he stopped in complete shock and utter amazement. Dropping the television, he left the room without saying a word. As if she was wrapped in Wonder Woman’s cape, that would just be the beginning of Lee’s superpowers.
Before entering into the WWE spotlight, captivating men, women, children and even Vince McMahon’s heart, Lee’s battles were far greater than any WWE Creative writer could imagine. The daughter of a bipolar young mother and a father with substance abuse issues, Lee had to grow up fast, becoming an adult to her parents all while trying to accomplish her dreams of wanting to belong. With numerous roadblocks in her way (insecurity, a panache for violence, and battling bipolar disorder) she somehow managed to accomplish more than she could ever imagine.
Crazy Is My Superpower: How I Triumphed by Breaking Bones, Breaking Hearts, and Breaking the Rules is not a wrestling biography. While readers are treated to her early start in the WWE and snippets of her work relationships with others wrestlers, this is not about wrestling. This is about dysfunction. Written with brutal honesty, AJ Lee doesn’t shy away from admitting her teenage parents were ill-equipped to raise a family. She reminisces with candor about her father going from eating dog food in order for his family (his wife, three daughters and a dog) to eat, to wasting rent money on beer… and then drugs. Bouncing from home to home to eventually living in their car, Lee watched as her family fell deeper into the mental illness rabbit hole until one day it came for her.
Dealing with bipolar disorder is an eye-opener that not even a Cymbalta commercial can make you understand. Fortunately, Lee is a perfect storyteller (something Batista:Unleashed failed to accomplish) and is able to take you into the depths of her chaos and creativity. You feel her pain, confusion, and emptiness when she accidentally overdosed. You wonder, just like she did, if it was truly accidental. And yet you sympathize, never passing judgement.
As a daughter of a bipolar parent, you are always walking on eggshells. A wonderful moment could easy turn into a night of verbal and/or physical abuse. You feel yourself escaping deeper into the darkness, where despite everything, you feel alone, scared and often dreading what’s to come. However, unlike so many other people who suffer with bipolar disorder, AJ Lee was able to recognize something was wrong and sought help before it was too late. Unfortunately, it was too late for her mother who went from an alpha female to pulling out her own hair in cycles of depression.
AJ Lee struggled with her disease, and faced setbacks because of a misdiagnoses and anxiety issues often originating from her childhood. Despite this, she found the strength within to pull herself together to accomplish her dreams as not only a professional wrestler but as a proud woman who no longer suffocated under society’s mental illness stigma. Yes, she’s bipolar and so are millions of other people. As you further understand AJ Lee’s struggle you learn that this is nothing to be ashamed of. It’s a source of strength. Unlike other books about mental illness, she never whines or complains about her struggles. She looks them in the face, accepts them and moves on — just like that little girl who confronted her father.
While Crazy is My Superpower touches on a heavy subject, AJ Lee is able to insert much needed humor. Despite her circumstances, Lee was always able to find escape in video games, TV shows, wrestling and anime. Pokemon battles with her siblings fueled her competitive nature, Buffy the Vampire Slayer gave her strength, while Metal Gear Solid’s Snake gave her the googly-eyes. What was a source of entertainment for some, became her outlet and then her passion.
Being a natural born storyteller (thanks to years of writing fan fiction when her parents sold their PlayStation 1), her ability to tell a vivid story shines through each page. Each chapter reads like a diary, a conversation between two close friends who are so comfortable with each other it’s intoxicating. At 288 pages, it is a quick yet deeply engaging read. Each chapter a cliffhanger that you just need to continue (a Netflix’s version of bipolar and chill). Her words make you fall in love with her story, her spirit, and nerdish style (Chuck Taylors FTW).
While she doesn’t spend much time writing about her career as a wrestler (unlike Mick Foley’s Hardcore Dairies trilogy), wrestling is a large part of her journey and it could be argued that it saved her life. Even though she doesn’t go into detail about the backstage politics involving CM Punk, personal rivalries, or the alleged WWE bullying mentality (read Justin Roberts Best Seat in the House: Your Backstage Pass through My WWE Journey for that insight), you feel her passion leap off the pages when she offers insight into sexism, the vile stalking incidents women often face in the industry, and the all important “Divas Revolution” which would see female wrestlers going from being pieces of ass to kicking ass and finally being rebranded as “Superstars” (basically the Women’s Equality Movement just 50 years late).
She talks in great detail about wrestling insecurities which were made worse by being passed over for other unnamed females who were less talented (*cough* Bella Twins *cough*). Even though she was an integral part in training other females in NXT, she wasn’t considered good enough for the main roster. Always trying to fit into the “WWE standard” she changed her personality and style in hopes that it would improve her chances (a move that failed disastrously). It wasn’t until she accepted herself (like she accepted being bipolar) that she became successful and created memorable moments.
Utilizing her disease to work for her instead of against her, she was able to develop her “crazy” persona into the creepy/scary/uncomfortable bite-sized wrestler millions grew to love (especially during her RAW in 2013 pipe bomb segment) which caused her to break barriers that female wrestlers of tomorrow will no longer have to face. Gone are the days of being ignored. Because of her efforts, women are now respected, successful, able to partake in matches longer than 3 minutes, and have merchandise without having to convince men that women can make the company money.
Unabashedly sincere, Crazy Is My Superpower: How I Triumphed by Breaking Bones, Breaking Hearts, and Breaking the Rules is an inspirational book without all the corniness. Beautifully written, hilarious captivating, and at times shocking, this is an unapologetic look into acceptance, being uplifted. It also teaches us that, though struggles can hold us down, they can also help us fly like superheroes.