New year, same old me. I see no reason to start 2018 with a reinvention of myself. Honestly, any quality of mine that was terrible enough to warrant change should already be different by now. If I haven't changed it, it's not a problem, or, it's so much of a problem that I I'm still not really sure what to do about it. That's settled.
There is, however, one tiny thing that I'm committing to changing right now. It's not because of the new year - I'm a woman of my word - but I happened to recognize this truly terrible personal character trait right as 2017 was closing up, so this timing is pure coincidence. This is not a New Year's Resolution. This is me trying to be a better human, because I am constantly trying to improve myself. Not because a 7 changing to an 8 inspired me with the will and passion of one million suns and moons. Or whatever.
With that cleared up, let me jump right in to a brutal criticism of my biggest personality flaw to date: I make a lot of jokes about mental illness.
I was on a crowded subway earlier this month and, out loud, with no regard for the strangers within earshot, proclaimed: "If I don't kill myself today it will literally be a miracle." (Side note, I also say literally far too frequently but there's simply nothing to be done about that.)
So yeah, that's me. I joke about wanting to die at least ten times a day and I joke about wanting to make myself throw up and I joke about being "crazy".And I wish I could blame it on ignorance or indifference but I can't. Because I deal with mental illness on the daily, and I'm aware of the impact words can have on someone suffering from mental illnesses. I know that mental illness is turned into a punchline, or a trend, or a relatable meme way too often. I know that the way mental illness is spoken about needs to change in order for it to be taken seriously, because even though millions of people suffer, mental disorders are still treated as throwaway diagnoses.
I can't even say that it's a coping mechanism, because the fact is, I'm not hiding from anything. I'm perfectly comfortable talking about difficult emotions and personal experiences. I don't shy away from sharing my own battles with mental illness because I recognize the importance that has in normalizing struggling and in advocating for mental health equality.
I joke about mental illness because I don't take it seriously. I don't take it seriously because sometimes it is hard to take myself seriously, to validate my own emotions, and because I have been shown repeatedly that it isn't a big deal.
Mental illness IS a big deal. It's not something to shy away from but it's not something to joke about either. For my own sake, for the sake of my friends, for the sake of anyone else out there who struggles daily to not only deal with their mental illness, but to recognize it as real and valid, I'm done joking. I can't advocate for mental health equality while I'm simultaneously undermining the severity of these issues.
In an effort to be a more decent human, to respect the validity of my own emotions, and to respect the importance of mental health, I'm trying to stop with the jokes. My mental health shouldn't be treated as a punchline, but before others validate it, I need to learn to acknowledge it myself.