Depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety, they’re illnesses, but they aren’t like any other sickness.
I spent most of last week in bed with the worst cold I can ever remember having. My whole body hurt; I was exhausted, had a headache, stomachache, sore throat, and stuffed sinuses. I subsisted on toast and soup. A few great friends offered to bring me anything I needed and my husband doted on me hand and foot all week.
Looking back, it’s hard not to see how different it is to be sick with a purely physical illness versus a primarily mental one. No one expects you to get up and go to work when your contagious and in physical pain. But if the pain is primarily psychic, whether you believe that mental illness is as debilitating as cancer or you think that people should just pull themselves up by their boot straps, you probably still expect the afflicted person to show up to work on time.
No one wants to look at mental illness as a physical sickness, though it effects the brain as significantly as M.S. effects the body. Changing the way we treat, talk about, and react to mental illness would mean changing the way we expect people with mental illness to show up in the world. It means acknowledging a brand of suffering that is antithetic to life.
Just as we have had to change the way we treat interracial relationships and homosexuality in our society, so too do we have to change our view on mental illness. No one should be ashamed to admit they have struggled with depression, anxiety, or any of the slew of mental disorders on record. Young adults shouldn’t be committing suicide because they can’t or won’t ask for help. And the only way that will happen is if those of us who do struggle with mental illness reach out to each other and anyone who might be hurting and offer them our encouragement, advice, and help. No one is going to help us if we don’t help ourselves. The same has been true of minimized and depreciated populations for centuries.
Okay, I’ll get off my platform now. Thanks for reading.