**Trigger warning: I don't believe anything here is outright dangerous to anyone with a mental illness, but please - if you're worried you might read something here that could trigger you negatively, put yourself first and don't read. As a fellow struggler of mental health, I want nothing more than your safety and health.
As someone who has lived with mental illnesses for the majority of her life, I've heard a lot of garbage and ignorant things said regarding mental health - and so have my friends who also deal with mental health issues. Some of it really is founded from lack of knowledge and is said naively, and these people are usually willing to learn and be informed on why what they've said is incorrect or potentially hurtful.
However, most people who say any of the following things genuinely believe them. As in, they actually think what they're saying makes sense and can't understand why you...well, I'll let these statements (and my comments) speak for themselves.
Again, if at any point you read something that strikes something painful within you or starts to trigger something, please stop reading and take care of yourself. And remember - YOU ARE VALID. You come first.
"Just work out more/Try working out!"
Every person with a mental illness just rolled their eyes and/or did a major facepalm. There is a very common misconception about how exercise can help with mental health that is pretty ignorant, as statements like this misconstrue the connection between working out and mental health. While working out releases endorphins that help you feel good, it isn't a magical cure that makes depression or anxiety go away. It can certainly help, but it's not a one-fix cure.
Also, someone with depression or anxiety may not have the mental or physical energy to work out, let alone leave their bed or the house. Oh, and let's not forget that working out can bring on its own wave of anxiety for some people like me - worrying about how you look, if you're doing things right, what others in the gym might be thinking about you...it's a whole ordeal of its own.
"This will pass."
See, I know that. But when my mind drags me under a wave of depression or anxiety, it becomes very hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Your mind becomes wholly encompassed with negative thoughts and feelings that make you stuck in the moment, and it can be very hard to remind yourself that this is just now.
"Just get over it."
Wow, I'm cured! I just thought to myself "hey you, get over it" and I just was magically over it! Oh wait, that's not how mental health works. So kindly educate yourself and until you have, don't talk to me. I don't need people who make me feel worse about how I am in my life.
"Oh, suck it up."
Well, fuck you too, asshole. Also, I've actually tried "sucking it up" and let me tell you, it only makes things worse when you finally hit the point where you can't internalize anything more. The mental and emotional fallout becomes more intense and painful and just WORSE.
"Don't worry so much."
Gee thanks, I didn't try that one yet. It's not like I have absolutely zero control over the anxious reactions spurred by chemical releases in my brain that cause the anxious, worrying thoughts. But sure, I'll just "worry less!" Because clearly, it's so easy.
"If you just stopped overthinking, you'd be fine!"
Overthinking is a big part of anxiety and is not easy to stop. It feels like a nonstop cyclone of thoughts whirling around your head. It's not a simple matter of "Okay, let's stop thinking about that now" - it's an ongoing cycle of "what if's" and "But what will x think about me/say about me" and So. Much. More. It takes a lot of cognitive behavioral therapy, mindfulness, and medication to even start on "stopping overthinking." Come back to me when your mind races at a thousand miles per hour with no clear way of slowing it down.
"I get depressed/anxious too!"
No. You get sad and worried, not depressed or anxious. There's a massive difference between "sad" and "depressed," and between "anxious" and "worried." The two terms are not synonymous in either scenario, so please stop trying to make me feel better by acting as if you understand when you most certainly do not. If anything, you just made me feel worse by confirming to me that you really have no idea what I'm going through or what to say or do to help.
"But everyone gets depressed."
No, everyone gets sad. There are physiological symptoms and behaviors that occur when someone has depression, and most of the people you just implied by saying "everyone gets depressed" most certainly do not express those symptoms or behaviors. Also, re: "sadness and depression aren't the same thing."
"But everyone experiences anxiety."
Technically, yes - when anxiety is the general kind that means "worried," "nervous," or "uneasy." But that is in no way the same thing as a generalized anxiety disorder. Generalized anxiety disorders have biological and psychological symptoms that allow it to actually be determined and treated as a mental illness. So, no, not everyone experiences anxiety.
"God, I'm so bipolar" (about going back and forth on something)
No, you're not. Just because the prefix "bi" means two, doesn't mean you're bipolar. Anyone who has bipolar disorder sure as hell wouldn't be saying something like that in the completely wrong context.
"Just try and relax, it's no big deal!"
Big sigh on this one...Trying to "just relax" is so much easier said than done. There's no telling when something might suddenly occur that will inevitably send your mind off into an anxious whirlwind or depression central. Also, we've tried...relaxing is nowhere near as easy as you think when you have a mental illness. Trust me.
"Have you tried [insert natural remedy here]."
I would smack everyone who suggests CBD oil or some other natural "remedy" as the best way to resolve or assist with mental health. That stuff may work for milder cases or certain people with more intense cases, but I can assure you it probably won't completely eradicate depression or anxiety for everyone. Give me the reliable, proven-effective prescribed medication over something natural with no serious evidence of helping anyway.
"But you're so [insert complimentary phrase here], how can you be depressed?"
Pretty, smart, have a good life...insert any of these or something similar, because apparently, people seem to think that only people with bad lives or who've been through negative situations can have a mental illness. Since when does having good looks mean you're exempt from having a mental illness? If I'm smart, are you implying that I'm too smart to have a mental illness because I should know it's all in my head? I could go on. And going off this...
"You've hurt yourself?? But you're so pretty."
If someone admits to self-harming or that they self-harmed in the past and THIS is your response, you need to check your priorities. Self-harm is a major sign that someone is struggling at a dangerous level and need help NOW. Being good looking, smart, etc. doesn't mean you don't struggle, as I've already said. You can be pretty, smart, successful, and other positive things and still have a mental illness, still struggle to the point where you feel cutting is your only way to properly release the toxic feelings inside.
"I think people who commit suicide are just looking for attention."
This is a direct quote from a friend of mine's boss. You'd be floored at how many people have similar sentiments regarding suicide and/or self-harm. Of all the stigma surrounding mental health and mental illnesses, suicide has some of the worst ones. Unless you have personally struggled with suicidal thoughts, ideation, and/or attempts, you really can't understand just how low you have to feel to be in that place. As someone who struggled with suicidal thoughts just two short years ago, let me say now - if someone feels suicidal, they genuinely believe that death is the only path out of the awful place they're in. Life feels pointless.
If you seriously agree with this statement about suicide or anything similar, you are a disgusting human being.
"But you always seem so upbeat and outgoing!"
Just because someone has a mental illness doesn't mean they're always down and introverted. I have depression and anxiety, but I am still able to go out and be happy and upbeat while out with friends or while working. Having a mental illness doesn't put a cap on all other emotions, and it doesn't always rule our lives. (Just a lot of the time.)
"But you have so many good things in your life!"
Yes, and that has nothing to do with having a mental illness. Try again.
"Oh I also have OCD, I'm super organized/I always do ___"
No, you do not have OCD. That's not what it is at all. OCD isn't just being obsessively clean, but thank movies and TV shows for that stereotype. One of my writers wrote a piece explaining what OCD is based on her experiences, so give it a read. Also, people with OCD are not crazy, so can we please end that stereotype in entertainment media too?
"Isn't depressed just another word for 'sad'?"
NO. NO, IT IS NOT. As I've already said, "depressed" is not an interchangeable term for "sad." There is such a massive difference between the two. There is absolutely no reason that in this day and age, anyone should still be unclear about what the difference between depression and sadness is. You can easily open an internet browser tab and Google the difference.
"Stop feeling bad for yourself, it could be so much worse/there are people out there who have it worse than you."
...Well, I certainly feel much worse now. Saying something along these lines essentially invalidates the perfectly valid and legitimate feelings and experiences of someone with a mental illness, and reduces them to "just feeling bad for yourself" when that isn't what's happening at all. People with mental illnesses aren't sitting around and moping about their situation in life - they are legitimately struggling, and you aren't helping.
And yes, we know others may have it worse - but why does that make what we're experiencing any less bad? Any less valid?
"Could you stop being sad about nothing?"
One, let me redirect you back to the whole "sad and depressed aren't the same thing" point. Two, trust me, if we could stop feeling depressed so often, we would. Depression isn't something we'd wish on our worst enemies. And three, if someone is depressed, it's usually not "over nothing."
If your friend, family member, etc. is dealing with depression, please try and understand what's causing a depressive episode. Be there for them and ask them what you can do to help them through. It may be as simple as sitting with them while they fall apart so they aren't alone, or making them a cup of coffee or tea. Being there for someone with a mental illness is not always as hard as you'd think.
*anything negative about medication*
"Oh you don't need those, you just need to change your mindset and try to be happy!" "Can't you just not take them? I mean, it's all in your head." I could go on...
That last one makes me laugh, like DUH. That's why it's called a MENTAL ILLNESS. Because the source of the illness is within my brain's chemical makeup. So yeah, we do need to take our medication and trust us, you want it that way. We are a mess off the meds and take them so we can function somewhat normally.
"I think you should stop being sad all the time and just be happy!"
This was said to a friend of mine who went through an abusive relationship and came out with PTSD and depression. First off, anyone who says something like this to a person with depression clearly doesn't understand that depression isn't a choice. It's not like an on/off switch that those with depression choose to keep off. And once again, let's go back to my point of "depressed and sad aren't the same thing."
"I will never understand and I don't care to."
I know this sounds harsh - and it is. Someone actually shared with me that they'd been told this before, and by a good friend no less. This is one of the most cold-hearted, awful things you could say to someone with a mental illness. If you can't try to understand what someone is struggling with and say straight to their face that you'll never try to...I mean, how could someone even think to say something like this to a person who's a part of their life? And saying this to someone you just met would be even worse.
If you are living with a mental illness, please remember:
You are LOVED. You are WORTHY of everything your mind tries to say you aren't worthy of. You are AMAZING and have things to be proud of.
You are STRONG, even when you don't feel like it. The fact that you are still here and getting through each day one at a time is proof that you're stronger than you think. Your mind tries to stop you and set obstacles in your way, but you've made it through so far and you can keep going.
Also - just because one or several people in your life show they don't understand, doesn't mean no one does or ever will. This article and so many similar ones show that others do get it, that others are experiencing what you're dealing with too. There are social media communities out there that are filled with people who get it, too. Find them. Find your people, both online and in person, and you will be ok. You will get through this day.
If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline — 1-800-273-8255