We shun away from the term "mental illness". We don't want to talk about it, we don't want to recognize it, we don't want to admit that mental illness exists and affects more people than we realize. Unfortunately, because of this, we don't have enough of the proper tools to help individuals with a mental illness, and many times help goes unanswered or slips under other people's awareness.
Mental illness isn't the same for every individual. The signs and symptoms vary, how people cope and react varies, what mental illness(es) each individual has varied, and the severity of each case varies.
People can have one mental illness or several, and people can have one of the most common or most rare cases of a mental illness.
No matter what the mental illness, it does not make someone any less of a person.
Having a mental illness means you view the world in a different, more vivid way. For someone with depression, they view the negative aspects of life more vividly, and because of this, negativity becomes their core focus.
For someone with bipolar, they view both the negative and positive aspects of life more vividly in different, extreme ways thus causing them to gravitate severely between the two emotions as each come and goes. For someone with schizophrenia, they see between the lines and static of the world, and this becomes the main focus in their life as they see and hear things that others cannot.
Having a mental illness is like painting a picture, and everyone paints a picture differently based on our life experience. People with mental illness just paint different, more colorful, more striking and often jumbled pictures.
As someone who suffers from bipolar disorder, my pictures are filled with vivid dark colors, striking and disturbing images from my thoughts which are then painted over with bright swirls of rainbows of colors, almost as soon as the dark colors hit; this painting process goes on repeat.
As someone who suffered from an eating disorder for three years and still has the tendencies to this very day, I paint my own pictures of my struggle with this in their own unique ways. I paint both of these pictures repeatedly, day-to-day, in my own special way.
I have friends with different mental illnesses who paint their own picture in a different way. I see friends with depression paint dark, somber colors filled with splashes of color here and there when they were reminded that sometimes, life isn't so bad.
I have friends with anxiety who paint a whirlwind of pictures in blues and yellows and greys, who can't seem to find a sense of clarity or calm, save here and there when the picture becomes still for a moment and isn't so distressed and blurred. The colors we choose to paint our lives, and the images we choose to paint with them, very, from person to person and mental illness to mental illness.
We all paint different pictures of our mental illnesses because no mental illness is exactly the same.
This is why some medications work for individuals, while others don't or while others don't need medication at all. This is why some people with the same mental illness find themselves being able to function day by day with little to no help from professionals, while others see therapists every week or are hospitalized.
But no matter the case, every mental illness is valid, just like every person is valid.
My mental illnesses vary vastly from friends and family members with mental illness. I may not take medication right now, but I know people who do and need it to function. I see a therapist occasionally, but I know people who see one every week or only once a month or not at all.
I may have attempted suicide before, but I know people who have (successfully or unsuccessfully) or have not attempted or thought about doing so at all. I may have almost been hospitalized for my mental state and/or eating disorder but in the end I was not, but I know people who have been hospitalized. I may be open about my experiences with mental illness, but I know plenty of people who aren't.
Mental illness is never simple. Mental illness can never just be "fixed." Mental illness is something that a person carries with them every day of his or her life.
We learn to cope, we learn to acknowledge how we view the world and try to do something about it. We do the same jobs as people without mental illness and go to school with them, we like the same things, do the same activities, go to the same places. We may have a mental illness, but that doesn't make us any less of who we are.
There are those around us who want to help and can help, but another person can never truly understand what happens and goes on in our heads that affects our everyday lives.
Another person may think we seem "normal" on the outside, but they can't look into our minds and see what's going on.
There's a stigma against mental illness and those with it; people disregard mental illness because it's something we can't see. But just because we can't see it, doesn't mean it's not there. It just makes living harder, but it also makes living more unique and open to more possibilities than those without a mental illness.
Most days, I wish profusely that I didn't have my mental illnesses, but when I remember how I paint my world and the way it has shaped me, I feel at peace. Though it may be hard to live with mental illness, I'm thankful for the way it allows me to see the world.
Mental illness is not something to look down upon. Mental illness is something to be talked about and heard and in a sense, embraced. It makes us who we are, and we shouldn't feel bad for being who we are.
You are no less of a person because you have a mental illness.