“Why are you acting so bipolar today?”
“Don’t you know I have like, such bad anxiety?”
It’s everywhere I turn. People so quick to self-diagnose themselves, or others, with mental conditions like it’s nothing. But it is. It’s a serious, life-changing hardship that around 57 million people suffer from in the U.S. every year. It needs to stop.
I grew up around mental illness with a family member who suffered from BPD, or borderline personality disorder. It’s characterized by impulsivity, severe mood swings, fear of abandonment and trouble regulating emotion. Besides causing significant turmoil for the victim, it causes tense relationships with others and often leaves the person feeling as though no one understands what they’re going through. Although I was lucky in having them explain what they were feeling to me and in being able to be there for them and help them, it still was and is extremely hard sometimes.
There were times I couldn’t relate and didn’t understand why they were being certain ways or how to help. I would grow frustrated, and so would they. Some days they wouldn’t want to talk to anyone, even me. Other days they would want to go out and take the world by storm. You never knew which version you would get. When I was younger, I didn’t understand this. As I grew older, they explained a lot of their disorder to me and we grew extremely close as a result. I understand that what they deal with is extremely difficult to manage and I do my best to help and be understanding, especially when others are not. But while some days are good, other days are still very hard for both of us. It’s a constant battle.
Knowing firsthand the stress and anxiety that having a mental condition can have on someone’s life, the romanticizing of these disorders in modern society is particularly frustrating to me. In the advent of social media, Tumblr and Instagram have become increasingly popular. Type in “depression” or “anxiety” and you’ll get blogs littered with black and white photos of people crying, slit wrists or quoted photos with phrases like “Life is too hard.” I feel like it’s almost as if those conditions have become trends or aesthetics much like goth or emo are. What’s worse is that people will “like” and reblog these pictures or posts, spreading them further and further. Nothing is more twisted to me than a picture of someone who has self-harmed getting “likes.” These disorders are so much more than wearing black or having a bad day. They are scary and they control people’s lives. It’s not cool or trendy to say you have them and it’s not cool to non-chalantly throw around phrases like “crazy” to describe someone every time they are being emotional.
On this same point, using these words without truly understanding them contributes to the phenomenon of those same conditions being downplayed and not taken seriously. You’ll hear people telling someone who’s suffering from depression to just snap out of it or someone who’s bipolar to stop being so moody. It’s not a phase or something that can be easily fixed. Dealing with these disorders takes all of the willpower and strength a person has. Nothing is worse than others making fun of the struggle or acting as though it’s a joke. The glorification of mental illness does just that.
I’m not sure when these trends started, but they need to stop. Sites like Tumblr and Instagram, while great, have turned into a platform for these disorders to become glamorized. It’s become acceptable for anyone dealing with a little stress or who’s having a bad day to claim they have anxiety or clinical depression. I suppose these people think there’s something edgy or cool about saying you have them. It’s produced a culture in which our generation doesn’t take mental illness seriously or understand it the way we should. It is life-changing, difficult, and nothing about it is glamorous at all. Let’s start taking these disorders seriously and realizing the magnitude of the struggle people who deal with them go through.