Wednesday, October 15, 2014

– A little something about mental illness and prejudice –

Today’s topic is a little bit different. I think you have already come to that conclusion.

A while ago, I received an anonymous message on “Why problems and psychical disorders so popular now?” (I am not responsible for that grammar, no).

I still have not been able to answer it properly. Why?
Because it made me furious, that is why.

So, today I am not going to write some sort of thorough sob story about the things I have been through, even though I will mention some of it briefly. Like I have done before. I want to talk a little bit – which means I a lot, you know me – about prejudice. The general judgment and misconceptions surrounding mental illness.

First, let me ask you, what do you think of when you hear the words “mental illness”?
Here is the image that immediately pops into my head: A car pulling up to a driveway of a suburban home, men in white coats stepping out. Someone comes out on the front porch, clutching their elbows as if they are trying to hug themselves. The men comes up to the house and picks up a, slightly unwilling, person. They have tears in their eyes as they say goodbye to the other person on the porch. The men takes them to a hospital, where the real struggle begins. Screams coming from a face warped by “crazy”. Strait jacket, padded walls. Long sessions with therapists. Playing chess with other patients, mumbling. Ever seen Girl, Interrupted?

Yeah, something like that.

That is the problem I want to bring up. That is the kind of mental illness you can see, on the surface. The only kind people seem to understand. Because if you cannot see something on the surface, it is so much harder to accept as something that is even real.

When you look at pictures of me, read what I write, you do not see a mental patient, do you? Truth is, I only stopped seeing my therapist on a weekly basis about a month ago. I am now well enough and able to live with my disorder, I only need to contact her if things get bad again. I am coping. Taking care of myself. Well, as much as I can. I am only human. I should really get my sleeping habits and time management sorted. Whatever. Let us move on.

Even at my worst, it did not show. I know the last time I wrote about how I felt, I admitted getting dressed up and taking outfit pictures, despite only wanting to disappear, because it was what made me feel normal. Very silly and superficial, I know, but at least I could pretend online. It was something that kept me grounded, I do not know why, exactly. I felt guilty for those days as well. I felt like I was not allowed to have them. I constantly worried about people thinking I was only faking it, looking for a reason to stay home from school and ignoring my responsibilities. Seeking attention.

I only saw my friends on those good days, which was one of the main issues I had. See, that is the thing that seems to tick people off the most, when it comes to depression.
“Depression” does not mean it is impossible to have one good day, here and there. A day away from it all.

When people only see that good day, they think it is all a fake.
“Snap out of it, you were fine yesterday. Stop being so silly.”

People view depression as being selfish, lazy and burdening. Fake, even. People think anorexia is the only eating disorder. That anorexia is a body type, a diet. People think bipolar disorder is the same thing as mood swings. That all sufferers of personality disorders are dangerous. That “mental illness” is the same thing as “personality”.

It is like you have to weigh 35 kg or attempt suicide, in order to be taken seriously.

Not everyone feels this way, of course. But generally speaking, judging by the things I hear people say, this is what a large part of the people populating this earth thinks.

A broken leg is a legit reason for being unable to leave bed. A broken mind? Not so much.
“Just snap out of it, stop being so selfish.”
“I wish I was anorexic, at least I would be skinny.”
“I had the stomach flu last weekend. How do models do it all day?”
“Oh my god you’re being so bipolar.”
“Self-harm, yeah right. People who cut themselves only do it to be Tumblr famous, or whatever. Everyone knows it is not for real.”

First of all – here comes some personal crap: 
Being bipolar, for example, does not mean having mood swings. It is similar to it, yes, but I cannot begin to describe exactly what it feels like. I have tried before and I will try again, briefly, to paint a picture, because I think it is somewhat relevant here.

It is like being on a very slow roller coaster, that is probably what I can say. Even though I sometimes feel so happy I cannot contain myself, there is so much angst involved. Partly because I have so many thoughts it stops me from sleeping, partly because I say things I do not mean, partly because I know it will not end well. The end of that rush will come, along with the angst of everything I have ever regretted doing, or saying, ever since I was around three years old. It is brutal.

A manic period may seem fun, but it is not. A depressive period is horrible. It is not like being an emotional teenager. It is like living inside a cloud. Once I got proper help, my parents said “it was sort of like seeing you properly opening your eyes and looking at us like you actually saw us again.”

It is different for everyone, as well. Something that is seemingly another thing hard to understand. The truly extreme cases are the ones showing, I would just like to remind you of that. Moving on.

Depression is not about laziness. Depression is about being so exhausted, you lose all sense of who you are. What your purpose is. What the meaning of everything is. It is like walking around on the verge of tears all day long, or living in a state of constant emptiness. Or being sad, without knowing why. Like a robot, when the batteries need changing. And then like a robot when the batteries are changed. Moving but not thinking, not there. Empty. Following instructions until the batteries run low again – which they do, all the time. Just getting dressed is a seemingly impossible task, for some.

An eating disorder is not a diet. It is not something you can control, or stop. It is the same thing there – losing yourself. Losing so much control of controlling everything, you eventually find yourself unable to think about anything besides food. All day long. Looking forward to it, fearing it. Pinching yourself, comparing yourself, wanting to hit yourself for eating more than planned. Or feeling lost because you have not had the time to eat an entire cake and then get rid of it within 20 minutes.

Not everyone has a visible eating disorder, either. At my worst, I was so good at hiding it I did not feel like I could even mention it, because people would see it as a lie, told to attract attention. Normal weight? No, I could not possibly be sick. Only I was throwing up 20 times per day. There, I said it. I do not think I have ever mentioned it to more than two of my absolutely closest friends ever before, and I tell them everything. That is how hard this is for me to talk about. That is how afraid I am. As melodramatic as it sounds.

Fortunately, I do not know personally what it feels like to live with other mental conditions. Asbergers, borderline, autism, antisocial personality disorder, ADHD. Not all of them can be treated as efficiently as others, either, which is really sad. I can only imagine what it is like living with the pain and confusion that I know come with them. This being said, back to the topic I want to talk about.

Even mentioning these things is such a forbidden act it will most definitely cause a very awkward silence, and it may even lead to people stepping back from the one bringing it up. It is something which makes me very worried, all the time.

It is kind of like coming out as gay, with very homophobic parents.
It is just as important to address this issue. Because just like homophobia, it causes suicide.

Despite talking about it a lot, I still feel ashamed when I mention the fact that I am in fact affected by a mental illness. I remember watching Silver Linings Playbook with my best friend once, and realizing about two minutes into the movie that “holy shit the main character is bipolar what the hell will she think of me” and I actually had to pause and say “eh, just so you know, that is a different type of the thing you know I have, you know I am not like that.” I still feel awkward about saying it. I almost feel ashamed of saying it. And when she mentions it my face gets red and I wheeze out a “ha… ha…”

(I find it funny as well so if you ever bother reading this, I love you and please do not take it as a bad thing, it feels good being able to joke about it at the same time as I am slightly embarrassed for my awkwardness).

Why do I react that way? I know I am not ashamed, really. I am living with this and treatment has made me almost completely normal. As normal as one can be, of course. The roller coaster has slowed down even more and I am so appreciative of that. I have emotions, like everyone else, and sometimes I do lose it and cry. But it is no longer all bipolar and it is very nice being able to say that.

I guess that is the thing most people do not get – it may be hard to explain, not to mention hard to live with, but it is not impossible. Just like any disease, most mental conditions can be treated. Maybe autism cannot be treated as effectively as other conditions, but still. It is not dangerous.

Again, just like homophobia, transphobia, it is a problem that needs to be fixed.
And a first step is being able to talk about mental illness like it is not something to be completely afraid of, not something awkward. Most of all, not something anyone does for attention.

So, when people talk about it, more and more people – Do not fucking see it as something anyone does in order to be popular. See it as a good thing. If you do not like it, do not read it. Or read it, and try to educate yourself.

No one wants a mental illness. No one.  
Even the ones “doing it for the attention” are calling for help, and should not in any way be ridiculed.

All it means, is that maybe you need to live your life a bit differently. Maybe some things that we should “normally” be able to do, needs to be adapted a bit. For example, some people should only work 50% or 75%, to ensure stability in life and mental health. They should be able to do so, without having people sighing and looking down on them, feeling superior and treating them like they are worth less. Like they should work at McDonald’s instead of wasting precious space, when it could be used by “better” people.

Truth is, these people may even be better at their jobs than these “better” people. Mental illness does not equal being less smart. Not understanding rules, responsibility, doing a bad job. If it means working a bit less, for some, fine. Everyone should be included in today's society, no matter what.

It does not even mean every single one needs to work fewer hours, necessarily.

All it means is having enough room to take care of yourself, in order to access all the good qualities and knowledge you carry within yourself. Whether that be 50% or 100% does not matter, neither one should be judged.

As I am writing this, I honestly find myself worrying about how you, if you have bothered reading this part, will take it. I mean every single word, but I know it may be controversial to some. In society, you have to work hard. Although working too hard means ruining yourself, for some. Is that really something you should roll your eyes at? Is that really something, you feel is worth wasting your time and energy on?

Try to be understanding instead. You would not judge someone with cancer, or a broken leg, for cutting down their workload, would you?

Yes, you may judge this comparison as well. I know that that. And I will repeat what I have been saying here as many times as possible, to raise the awareness that needs to be raised.

Judge me all you want. I myself feel like a huge attention whore, publishing this post. Just remember that suicide is caused by very, very strong emotions. Often caused by mental illness, often caused by judgment.

Think twice, ask questions before you roll those eyes of yours.

Do not judge people just because you do not understand them – try to put yourself in their shoes and imagine what you would feel like, standing there in them, surrounded by uncomfortable silence.

The reason I have started a long journey with the goal of becoming a psychologist is because of all of the things I have written here, the people I wish to help and the knowledge I hope to spread, at least to a few people, it would be more than enough. Things need to change. More people need to be seen and helped. It is real and it is not something to be afraid of. I have always been very passionate about this, this and writing. Just thought I would mention it, to explain this post, suddenly appearing on my fashion blog. It means a lot to me. 

Now I am done. 

If you have stayed with me all the way through this post, thank you very much for reading. It felt good getting this off my chest. I hope you do not mind.

Lots of love.  


  1. Thank you for this post. I don't even know what to say, I just... I feel like that, I feel empty and too tired to exist. I tried to explain it to my friends, but I know they didn't understand and I was seeing myself as an attention whore because of bothering them. I think I'm gonna ask for help today, finally. I should've done that months, even years ago, but I was afraid.
    Thank you, Saga. Thank you.
    And I'm proud of myself to finally admit I have a problem without being on anon, which can seem like nothing, but it's a big step for me.

  2. Saga, you are such an inspiring and wonderful person. I wish you the best for your goals and I'm so sure that you will be an amazing psychologist.

  3. Thank you for writing this. Recently at my university people have told me how I'm faking illness and it's not fair on them (that I have class slides in advance) and assumptions like that. As well as mental illness I have a physical "invisible illness". It's making me feel why carry on at university to be judged against these people, they wouldn't judge the same if I had a broken hand!? Argh. Thank you again and wishing you all the best in life!

  4. Thank you so much for writing this post.

  5. Great inspiring post ^^

    恵美より ♥

  6. This post is probably the most... correct? thing I've ever read about mental illnesses... Thank you for writing it, this things needed to be said.

  7. Thank you for writing this.
    Thank you for being honest and so passionate and good.
    I think it's scarry how many people suffer from illness, not able to express it, not brave enough to seek help because society can't be bothered and will just treat them like less worthy.
    It makes me angry and I am so overwhelmed and just grateful that you brought this up so directly.
    It's so important to spread awareness and there are so little people who do, so little who are not afraid and try to understand.
    I think, especially people like that, people with 'invisible illnesses' should be treated carefully, should be cared for because some are in a state where they can't help themselves anymore.
    It's so cruel that people forget about that or just don't want to see it.
    Just because you're sick in a way you can't explain, where it is hard to find words for because society teaches you to be ashamed of it, doesn't make you less of a human person.
    At the end of the day modern society lacks so much respect, so much compasion for each and everyone involved.
    I hope, that someday, soon - this will change and people will finally be able to open their eyes and look for each other in the way they should.
    Thank you again for sharing this with us.

  8. I don't know what to say... I feels like you touched my soul. Agh!
    It is a pretty terrible thing to pass through, but you kinda gave me hope that one day i would be able to feel and live like a "normal" person without worrying if i am feeling and seeing the things the way they really are or if is just my mental illness acting in my mind.

    A huge thank you!

  9. thank you for this post. i have bipolar and depression too so i can definitely empathize with your feelings. it sucks that all around the world mental illness is so stigmatized. i hope things change in the future.

  10. I cried reading this. I hadn't known anyone that could be this relatable towards my feelings. I hate writing comments but I feel like I have to let you know. Im sorry.