Stop Glamorizing Mental Illness
I've been thinking of how I can word this nicely, but the truth is...it's better to just come out and say it. Stop making mental illness trendy.
We all have a story. I'm no different. While I might seem like a goofy, carefree person through the airwaves, I struggle just like the rest of us. We all have our demons...some are just more powerful and consuming than others.
I noticed at a very, very young age that I was different. And no, I don't want you to feel sorry for me. No, I wasn't picked on in school. I didn't get teased or harassed any more than the next kid...but I was very aware that my mind didn't think the way other kids' did.
I worried insistently. What would I pack for lunch? What shoes matched which outfit? But didn't I wear those yesterday? Would someone notice? Would that be comfortable to wear all day? What if I missed the bus? Did I remember to get my agenda signed? Would I have to get up and do math problems in front of the class again?
They thoughts never stopped. My mind was running in a continuous circle and my brain never got tired. I would worry myself sick, literally, about the smallest things.
My family noticed, although I can't sit here and pretend that they understood. They still don't understand.
"Just calm down."
"Just let it go."
"Just relax, Maddie."
"It's not that big of a deal."
I've heard it all. And it's not their fault, they're just talking to me like they'd talk to themselves in any stressful situation. It's hard for them to understand that I am completely and totally hopeless when it comes to any sort of control of my anxiety. It consumes my mind without warning.
Fast-forward to my teenage years and early adulthood. I was "normal", I had friends, I partied, I was "popular" I guess...even though I don't really understand that term. Sure, I may not have had the most polished reputation, but I managed.
But through all of that, it was still there. The monster in my brain. Anxiety. It never released me from its grip. It still hasn't. But I'll admit I have gotten tremendously better through therapy and self-acceptance.
Anxiety has followed me around my entire life. Always lingering in the back of mind, waiting to jump out and say, "OH NO! WHAT IF?" It's everywhere. It's all the time.
But the older I've gotten, the more I've realized I'm not alone. Let me tell ya, that's perhaps the most amazing thing to recognize. Once you realize there's other people out struggling too, it makes you feel better...in a weird, demented way. It's so easy to feel alone and exiled.
Along with my anxiety, I was clinically diagnosed with OCD. No, I don't rearrange my kitchen counter 53 times before I leave my house, but I have obsessive thoughts. Thoughts my anxiety brings along that my OCD doesn't let go. It's a vicious, exhausting cycle.
The more I've accepted this as a part of me and learned how to cope, the more I've seen other people talking about it. Before I start ranting, please don't misunderstand my message. I'm not here to say people aren't really sick, or that people shouldn't openly discuss mental illness...because they definitely should.
I'm just hear to say that it isn't "cool" to have depression and anxiety. It isn't "cool" to talk about wanting to die or posting sad messages to your Facebook wall for likes and confidence boosters. Stop using mental illness as a way to get attention. There are real people out there that are really suffering, and more times than not, they're silent.
I'm not saying the people that are outspoken about mental illness aren't suffering, but I can't help but notice that it's become the "cool" thing to say, "Hey, I've got depression, too." It's not cool. It's not fun. There is no glamorous side of mental illness.
Is our culture desensitizing depression and anxiety? Are we becoming too detached from it because it's so "common" nowadays?
I almost want to argue that we are. Today we have the platform of social media and it's amazing. Now it's easier than ever to connect with people and befriend one another, but have we made depression, anxiety, and other mental illnesses "normal?" Because it's not. It's not normal to feel this way. And I fear that letting everyone think it's OK to think that way is going to promote even more depression and anxiety.
I don't want people to think that being depressed or anxious is normal. Because if that's normal, then what hope do we have?
Instead of making it trendy to say, "I'm depressed too," why don't we make it trendy to say, "this is what worked for me," or "this is how I'm improving every day."
Depression, anxiety, OCD, etc... isn't just a label you can slap on yourself when you're having a bad day. Stop self-diagnosing and get help if you really feel that way.
Why are we glamorizing something so cruddy? Why have we just accepted and embraced that so many people feel this way? It isn't normal and it shouldn't be the main connection between two people. Piling depression on top of depression isn't ever going to equal happiness. Instead, it should be the "cool" thing to lift people up and promote well being.
So stop making mental illness cool. Stop making it OK. The more we do this, the less that's going to be done about it. It will continue to be a problem if we're all talk and no action.
Make it cool to ask for help. Make it cool to talk about treatments with each other. Make it cool to say, "I HAD depression." It's time to stop feeling sorry for ourselves and make the change.
If you or someone you know is depressed or needing help, call 1-800-273-8255.