3 Reasons Why It’s Difficult To Talk About Mental Health
Stigma. Identity. Judgement. If you struggle with talking about mental health you are not alone.
Back on World Mental Health Day, I tweeted this:
“Mental illness is like taking a hike with a backpack full of bricks”
Unfortunately, I was limited by 140 characters and a long hashtag. If I hadn’t been limited, I would have written something along the lines of…
“Mental illness is like taking a hike on a billion-degree day with no water, a backpack full of bricks, blistered, bleeding feet, a crowd booing you each step of the way, and with little idea of your destination.”
Although World Mental Health Day was a wonderful reminder of the support people with mental health can receive, I personally still find it difficult to speak out about my mental health journey. To be clear, I’m not in denial about my mental health; there are just so many factors such as common misconceptions, ignorance and negative reactions from others that make it uncomfortable for me (and others, I imagine) to share my experiences.
Trends for You – Mental Illness Stigma
Overall, mental illness is seeming to become this trend on the internet and in the physical world, where trolls and detractors view any talk of mental illness almost like a method to seem a little less basic. This ‘trend’ (mostly on tumblr, the platform I no longer use) disregards those with troubling mental issues.
Even before I was diagnosed, I thought that I was just overreacting because I had seen people with depression/anxiety/etc. being played out as being overdramatic and ‘attention-seeking’ by people on the internet. As a result, I put up with my mental illness for much longer than I should have before seeking help – all because I thought the only thing wrong with me was that I was a dramatic cry-baby.
Another aspect of this trend is that it can mental illness as ‘beautiful’ when it clearly isn’t. There are some who condemn mental illness, and there are also some who romanticize it, even if they don’t mean to or have absolutely never thought of it that way.
Being physically afraid to go outside isn’t cute. Agoraphobia is hard work that requires coping methods which could be different for everyone. Neither is it cute to say you have anxiety because you once got socially embarrassed. You don’t have OCD for washing your hands three times a day – OCD isn’t just about cleanliness and quirks. You’re not ‘so depressed’ because your plans got cancelled.
Of course, I don’t want to slam down on your experience. If you’re mentally healthy, I hope you’ll think again before you use mental illness as fuel to add humour and colour to your normal, healthy habits. If you’re not sure about your state of mental health, research and talking to someone can be a very important step for you.
One of my favourite bloggers and poets, Savannah Brown, talks very eloquently about this in her video ‘romanticisation of mental illness’ if you want to hear her opinion.
Ignorance and Judgement
Along with the trending of mental illness came another issue for me, the judgement. I honestly thought no one would believe me if I told them I had a mental illness since I tried to put on a happy face with the aim of not bringing other people on the emotional rollercoaster with me. That only made me worse, because I had no one to talk to about how I was truly feeling. I couldn’t balance myself out between being between polite and being honest.
Ignorance was also an issue when it came to talking about mental health. Not many people are aware that simple yet damning statements such as ‘SUCK IT UP,’ ‘IT CAN’T BE THAT BAD,’ ‘GET OVER IT’ or ‘SNAP OUT OF IT’ are like a slap in the face for someone who is attempting to trust you with how they are feeling. Reactions like these that negate their experience may discourage people from seeking help elsewhere.
I don’t want my mental illness to define me.
However, I do want to help others because I know not everyone will be as lucky as I have been.
Then again, I worry that it will become the only ‘interesting’ thing about me.
I fear that people will look at me and think ‘oh look it’s the chick with the mental illness’ and it will cloud over any accomplishment I make.
There is also the stigma that anyone who speaks out about their mental illness, even in a positive way, is attention-seeking and just being overdramatic.
If you have mental illness, you can end up constantly thinking about how big a part it plays in your identity, and how/when to express it.
If you are struggling, certainly find someone who is compassionate and trustworthy enough to vent to. They don’t have to understand completely; they just have to listen and be open-minded. If you feel comfortable, feel free to widely share your experience to help others. If you’re on social media, consider how you present yourself and how you represent others with mental illness.
Speaking out to either friends, family and/or a professional is an important step towards improving your mental state. Sharing your experience can encourage others to find help themselves. With knowledge, consistency and respect, we can break down stereotypes and walls and help others in need.