These are words that hang over our heads, and haunt our lives.
These are words that the mentally healthy do not understand, no matter how sure they are that they get it.
These are the words that the mentally healthy society we live in wants us to be ashamed of.
And too often, we are.
Too long we have lived in a world where people do not understand mental illness, nor have they wanted to. It is far easier for people to look at mental illness and say, “Why, I’ve been sad. I’ve been nervous. I got over it. There’s no reason you shouldn’t just buck up too.” And so, having been shamed so regularly, we hang our heads low, and we try to force smiles as best we can, and we hide. We hide behind all sorts of lies. “I’m fine, just a little tired,” we say. “There’s just a lot on my plate right now, so I’m kind of stressed. That’s all. I’m fine.”
We don’t want to hide behind our lies, but life has taught us that to be open and honest about mental illness is to invite judgement, and scorn, and all sorts of negativity from others into our lives. Other people don’t like it when we are genuinely not okay. It makes them uncomfortable. And we live in a world where it has become completely unacceptable to make other people uncomfortable. You lie, and you hide, and you keep on smiling as best you can, because you better not let anyone see the truth, because the truth will make them uneasy, and that will make you a bad person.
This is completely unfair. Why on earth should we have to suffer in silence, and not be allowed to be sick, just because it makes other people uncomfortable? That is nonsense. We are sick, yes, but that is not our fault. To not be allowed to just be ill is something that many people would find unthinkable. Yes, the cancer analogy is perhaps a touch overused, but that’s because it rings so true. Those that are healthy would NEVER shame a person with cancer for not doing more. They understand that cancer patients are dealing with something extraordinarily difficult, and that they are not their cancer, and that their cancer isn’t them.
Those of us who struggle with mental illness are not yet afforded the same considerations. We do not deal with people who understand even a little bit of how difficult our struggles are. They see us as weak, incapable people, since they themselves are able to “just move on” from “bad moods.” They do not see, they do not understand, that we, like the cancer patients, are not our illnesses. Our illnesses are not us. We are not defined by them, we are not described by them, we just live with them. And every single day we fight them. We fight for our minds, for our sanity, and frequently for our lives. We are so much stronger than those that are not ill, and we are so much stronger than they will ever know. Sometimes, we even turn out to be stronger than we know.
We are strong.
We are fighters.
We are survivors.
We are the mentally ill, and the world cannot shame us any longer.