I Really Wish We Could Stop Romanticizing Mental Illness

Daniela Brown
Daniela Brown

A while ago I started writing about my own mental disorders to try and cope. I realized as I was writing how absolutely ridiculous it is that we romanticize mental disorders.

I can tell you right now that none of it has been beautiful.

I now know that sometimes when we’re struggling, other people think we’re beautiful. When we have anxiety people think we’re a cute sort of shy and when we’re in a manic high stage of bipolar disorder, we’re those mysterious and wildly outgoing characters like Alaska in Looking for AlaskaM by John Green. Nothing against John Green, but when I think about those characters that’s how we see mental illness a lot of the time.

We see the crazy and mysterious parts that draw us in and make the person interesting; we see the tiny cuts that have nicely healed and the strong person left.

I’m telling you right now; it’s not beautiful. I can tell you the past few years of my life have not been beautifully tragic.

They haven’t even been tragic because tragic seems like too graceful a word to describe the past few years of my life. I’ve starved myself to the point where I passed out and it wasn’t beautiful. I’ve binged and purged and I can tell you; that was far from beautiful. When that’s depicted in a movie or story all you’re going to see is some woman’s head in the toilet and then she’ll cry. You won’t see all the vomit that coats her fingers and they’ll never describe how chocking yourself feels and they won’t tell you about the yellow teeth and the puffy cheeks and they won’t tell you about the cavities and the heart burn. They won’t tell you about any of that.

Cutting yourself is not tragically beautiful; it’s ugly like when you scrape your knee on the sidewalk. Cuts puss over, sometimes a gross mix of a yellow and green colour to the point where it looks like snot has hardened on your cut. There’s dried blood and puss and the scars aren’t beautiful. They’re permanent.

I don’t pretend to know how everyone feels, but I think this piece I’m working on captures the difference between how the world sees you and how you see yourself:

God, she used to be beautiful. He thought she walked on water. She seemed to never have to sleep. She was always up and spilling rays of sunshine. She was his sunshine. She was always so happy and she took on the world. She finished project after project and never slept but still she smiled all day. She knitted, read a book a day, went for runs, wrote late at night when she was feeling ‘inspired’ because she was seemingly never tired; just inspired. She took crazy risks and he loved that. He needed that. She took risks like she took his virginity in a treehouse in a camp late at night when they were supposed to be sleeping and she stripped down to nothing and went swimming at 1AM. She laughed daily and was outgoing to what was a point of absolute absurdity for her. If he had known her before, he would have known, he would have known how absurd this was. But he didn’t, so he couldn’t and instead he thought it was beautiful. He loved her when he thought she was at her best. His ray of sunshine.

But she wasn’t happy, she wasn’t crazy outgoing and beautiful in a rare way; she was bipolar in a manic high. She used to be beautiful.

Yesterday she tried to kill herself and it wasn’t beautiful at all; none of it was beautiful. TC mark


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