Nothing frustrates me more than people implying that mental illness is nothing more than an exaggeration of normal emotions. When you struggle on a daily basis to function, as a direct result of your mental illness, people belittling your condition can shock you. There seems to be a widespread belief that admitting mental illness is attention seeking, as if it’s some sort of achievement, when in reality you would do anything to get rid of your illness.
When I told someone I had anxiety, the response I got was “Do you actually have anxiety or…”. Upon explaining how severe my condition was and reinforcing that I had been doctor diagnosed, he was satisfied with my evidence and promptly changed the subject. I understand that people may self-diagnose themselves with anxiety; everyone feels anxious from time to time, but nerves are a natural and essential feeling whereas an anxiety disorder is debilitating. For example, feeling nervous for an exam is a good thing, as it motivates you to study, but being irrationally nervous for a multitude of casual things has no benefit. It frustrates me when people question if I actually have anxiety, as it is so detrimental to my health and it implies that anxiety is something to be desired – something that I want. In actual fact, what I want is to be able to ride a train alone at peak time again and to go out without having to organise a back-up escape plan, three different options for getting home and knowing that I will be with someone I trust the full-time.
“How do you know you’re depressed and not just normal?”, this question genuinely surprised me – is the mental health education in this country that bad? I know I’m depressed because a doctor has diagnosed me with depression because I had all the symptoms. To think that people could believe that what I’m experiencing is a dramatisation of adolescent emotions is extremely insulting and it implies that I am stupid. A “moody” teenager does not drop to a dangerously low weight and become unable to concentrate; a “moody” teenager is cheeky to their parents. I don’t comprehend why some are obsessed with disproving mental illnesses – you don’t see a girl with a broken leg being told she’s fine and that just wants sympathy.
Glamourised Mental Health Issues
Mental health issues should not be glamourised as they are an illness like any other. If you think anxiety is “cute” then you haven’t seen a panic attack and if you think depression will get you sympathy then you haven’t seen a sufferer become isolated from their friends. These illnesses have very real and devastating effects – mentally, physically and emotionally. No one thinks it’s endearing when I rush to the toilet to be sick and people think it’s strange I wear a vest top in Winter because I’m always boiling. I completely understand that people may lie about having a mental health condition to get attention, but you cannot tar everyone with the same brush. People lie about all sorts of things, but this is not a good excuse to use to humiliate mental illness sufferers.
“You’re attention seeking”
Why would anyone want to draw negative attention to themselves? There is a huge stigma against mental illness, so it is incomprehensible that someone would want to make themselves a target. I would imagine that most people prefer positive attention, the kind you get when you get a new job, pass an exam or get married, the kind that results in compliments and good wishes – not the kind that comes with rude comments. “Maniac, mental and lunatic”, are not typically words that people strive to be associated with. In reality, mental illness is a thing that is kept very private and most people I know that struggle will not admit it openly. At first, I refused to tell anyone what was wrong with me as I was ashamed but in the link above you can learn why I choose to speak my truth.
“You don’t look depressed”
I’m not entirely sure what someone is supposed to look like if they are battling depression – but apparently not like me. Is it a consequence of the media, that depressed people are supposed to be sat in corners, curled into a ball and dressed in all black? People who suffer from mental health conditions are regular people; mental illness is not selective and can affect any gender, age, religion and social class, therefore sufferers are diverse and will not all look the same. You cannot know a person from their appearance and to judge someone from what they look like is something that we have all been taught, from a young age, not to do. To reiterate, it is just as possible to be all dressed up for prom and feel severely depressed, as it is to be in a hospital gown and feel severely depressed.
In conclusion, if you admit to suffering from a mental illness then you are brave, you are strong and you deserve to be respected. People fear what they cannot understand which may explain why so many have a problem with people struggling with their mental health, as it is not visible like a broken bone on an X-Ray. Sadly, there will always be people who try to bring you down and you just have to rise above it, as they hurt you because they are hurting. People may doubt you, lie about you and try to degrade you but always remember that although some people believe mental illnesses are made up, people also believe the Earth is flat – never will everyone agree on everything.
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