You’ve got a case of the blues. You skip a shower, watch a movie instead of going out with your friends, and maybe you cry a little too. In a few days, you’re over it and it’s back to the old routine. For people living with chronic mental illness, a period of the “blues” would be a blessing. Although treatment of the mentally ill has improved since previous decades, there’s still a stigma that lingers around, like a smell in the air you can’t quite put your finger on.
Society still upholds the notion that people suffering from mental illness are all like Miggs from Silence of the Lambs that throws semen in Jodie Foster’s face. In reality, if you were in a room with four other people, at least one of you is a sufferer. Because of this horribly inaccurate stereotype, we tend to suffer in silence, whether its because of embarrassment, fear of ridicule and cruel jokes or blatant insensitivity. You do not have to be a war veteran to experience PTSD, you do not have to have something bad happen to you to have depression/anxiety, you do not have to fit any stereotypical profile to prove that you suffer.
I want each and every person reading this to remember: not every illness is physical, not every illness is visible. Believe it or not, there are actually decent human beings who are probably reading this thinking “Wow, that’s horrible! I would never judge someone because of their mental health.” I’m sorry to say that for every decent human being in the world, there are 100,000 assholes. So, I’ve decided to put together a comprehensive list of ten things that you should never ever ever say out of respect to those of us dealing with these illnesses:
Say that to someone with depression/anxiety/OCD/schizophrenia? Ok, now say that to someone with cancer. You probably wouldn’t even dream of it. Too many people neglect to realize that mental illnesses affect your life the same as if you had a chronic physical disease. They limit your ability to perform everyday tasks, they can cause severe pain (physically or emotionally), they interfere with work, school, social interaction, sleeping patterns and eating habits.
I have dealt with major depressive disorder with bipolar tendencies and panic attacks for ten years, and I’m only twenty-three years old. Not to mention a three year bout of post traumatic stress disorder after a life-altering event. Dealing with my illnesses on a daily basis has aged me an extra ten years, at least. Sometimes the days seem twice as long, and the pain twice as painful. I always feel guilty, typically for no reason, I’m paranoid about being abandoned by my family and friends, and I have irrational fears about the people around me dying.
I’ve lost many a friend as a result, and some of the same so-called friends told me to kill myself. Over the internet. Where everyone could see it. There have been days where I thought I wouldn’t make it. And no, I don’t use that as a metaphor. I’m not just sad, I don’t just get a little angry or upset sometimes, and I don’t just cry when I get nervous. It’s like living with a broken back. Getting out of bed is hard, showering is even harder and breathing takes some extra effort. Daily tasks seem nearly impossible, and sometimes I’ll just collapse to the ground.
These issues don’t just exist on their own, they manifest themselves in some of the worst ways imaginable. I’ve gone through periods of not being able to eat, to where I eat everything in sight because it temporarily distracts me from the pain. My mental illness has caused me to gain sixty pounds.
There were days where the pain became so unbearable, that I would hurt myself because I thought I deserved it. I’ve written suicide notes, and I fantasized about all of my problems evaporating into thin air when I died. I’ve had merciless mood swings in which I hurt the people I love the most. Even moments where I feel like who I am is floating outside of my physical body, like my single entity has become completely disconnected.
There are so many people that commit suicide every single year because of societal/family pressures, work/school stressors, self-hate, neglect, trauma, etc., yet it’s made into a joke so readily. And why? Can somebody please tell me why? Why is my pain and suffering and the pain and suffering of so many others laughed at? But then the people who persevere against visible adversity are revered? All suffering is suffering in the end, and it should never be made light of.
These days, I’m doing better than I would have ever imagined. I’m on medication that has helped me in so many ways, and I saw a therapist (named Mary who has since retired and moved to Florida) who helped me save my own life. Not only am I calm, but sometimes I’m even happy, which believe me, is a true triumph. I’ve still got my bad days, and sometimes bad weeks, but the good ones definitely outweigh them. This is the first time in ten years that I am happy to be alive.
So I ask everyone who reads this to take us, the mentally ill community, and please treat us with respect. Bite your tongue instead of making that insensitive joke and eliminate those hurtful phrases from your vocabulary. From depressed to schizophrenic and everything in between, we are first and foremost human beings. I know we can be difficult to deal with at times, and may even drive you up a wall, but please just be patient and act with kindness.Tags: Amanda Spinosa, illustration, Mental Health, mental health awareness month, real talk