Don’t Be A Jerk On The Internet About Anxiety, Depression, Or Other Mental Illnesses

lukeavoledo
lukeavoledo

I’ve been hemming and hawing over this for a while, pretending I could just blame writer’s block or some other scapegoat excuse to not actually say what I’m thinking. I’m the girl that hates confrontation so much, she’d rather hide in a corner and wait for the storm to pass. I don’t ever want to make people angry or uncomfortable. It gives me acid reflux. It makes me not want to leave the safety of my bedroom.

I guess I just didn’t know how to write this. And I still don’t. But I’ve got to try.

The internet employs me. Okay, technically Thought Catalog, but the internet is what makes us all go round, including my company. She (Yes, I’ve personified the internet and made her Queen) is probably one of my favorite things, ever. She’s given me incredible opportunities. I’ve traveled, made some of my best friends (I’m looking at you, Kendra and Jamie).

But at the same time? She can be horribly cruel. She’s that mean girl I desperately wanted to like me in high school. Because she absolutely has her moments of purity and kindness. Those times I think she’s the absolute best and I’m sorry for ever doubting her importance. But don’t let her smile fool you, girl can turn on you before you have a chance to say, “But, I thought we were BFFs???”

Here’s the truth: everyone who writes on the internet, whether they are salaried and creating #content OR just anonymous commenters, has no idea what they’re talking about. I’m not saying we’re stupid or uneducated, I’m just saying everything you EVER read is an opinion. And the internet loves taking personal opinions and blowing them out of proportion to suddenly seem like the word of God.

Maybe that’s why I feel so upset, knowing what it means to write on the internet. When I read what my peers write, I remember those are opinions, valid opinions, not my opinions to police…until something really hits. Until something really sticks in my throat and I receive multiple messages that say, “Ari, are you going to respond to this?”

So yes, I guess I’m going to. I’ll swallow my fear of disrupting the status quo and say what I’m thinking. I want to be able to sleep at night.

Here’s the truth, yet again: having anxiety is not a choice. Having depression is not a choice. Having bipolar disorder is not a choice. Having schizophrenia is not a choice. Having ANY mental illness is not a choice.

It’s true, the internet seems comfortable discussing depression and anxiety in a way we aren’t with other disorders. Everyone wants to have anxiety, unless they actually do. It’s “trendy” to be part of it, right? For us to all freak out and say, “LOLZ I CAN’T DO ANYTHING IN LIFE BECAUSE MY ANXIETY IS SO BAD!”

No.

No, that’s not it at all, actually. Because those of us who have really struggled for years, decades, etc. know nothing about feeling like you are somehow not okay, not normal, not a human being with a correctly functioning brain is adorable. We’d trade this shit in a second. We don’t want pity or extra attention because something is wrong and we don’t always know how to verbalize that thing. When we reach out and speak on how we feel? That’s bravery. That’s us taking a chance to be comedy fodder. For blogs to write about us as examples of “crazy.”

If you want to categorize mental illness as some trendy Tumblr prose, then you truly have no idea how influential the internet (in her good ways) has been for some of us.

And if you yourself have had personal experience with it and have gotten better, I am genuinely happy for you. But the way you went about it does not automatically mean it’s easy for others. You deciding to just switch things around doesn’t mean we haven’t thought of doing the same. Doesn’t mean we haven’t tried doing the same. Perhaps that “silly” self-care shit that has us all believing we’re special snowflakes is actually useful to some people. Is that so wrong? Is it the worst thing in the world that something ooey-gooey and dripping in melodramatic sweetness might make someone feel better?

Sure, anxiety is not an excuse to be an asshole. Nothing should be an excuse to be an asshole. There’s no valid reason you can slap in front of shitty behavior to say, “Welllll, I just can’t help it!” But practicing a bit of empathy, compassion, and maybe just giving people some wiggle room, isn’t that far more important?

Would it really kill to just take one damn step back from the constant slew of negativity? Doesn’t that get exhausting? To find fault in everything, everyone?

My late father (who was a psychology professor, so a lot of who I am makes sense in that regard) used to tell me to love people who seemed mean, hurt, selfish, etc. just a little bit more. Because maybe they really need it. Maybe they are going through something I can’t physically see and offering them a moment of kindness will make a world of difference. Maybe they aren’t an asshole at all, actually.

To anyone who has poked fun of mental illness, belittled it, tried to make it into something that’s just a fad you can get over by exercising or getting a dog, I’m not saying you’re the bad guy. Because I make fun of myself ALL the time. That’s why people say humor is so life-saving. Yes, I’m going to make the “dead daddy issues” jokes to off-set the sting of reality from time to time. Yes, I’m going to quip, “Why am I single? Who knows!?! Everyone loves a manic depressive girl who spills her guts on the Internet.”

But maybe, juuuust maybe, there’s room for love, too. Anxiety isn’t an excuse to be an asshole. I agree with that wholeheartedly. But honestly? Neither is writing on the internet. TC mark

Ari Eastman

✨ real(ly not) chill. poet. writer. mental health activist. mama shark. ✨

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