My Mental Illness Isn't A Punchline

My Mental Illness Isn't A Punchline

So why do I treat it like one?

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.

Cover Image Credit: Volkan Olmez

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I Weigh Over 200 Lbs And You Can Catch Me In A Bikini This Summer

There is no magic number that determines who can wear a bikini and who cannot.

It is about February every year when I realize that bikini season is approaching. I know a lot of people who feel this way, too. In pursuit of the perfect "summer body," more meals are prepped and more time is spent in the gym. Obviously, making healthier choices is a good thing! But here is a reminder that you do not have to have a flat stomach and abs to rock a bikini.

Since my first semester of college, I've weighed over 200 pounds. Sometimes way more, sometimes only a few pounds more, but I have not seen a weight starting with the number "1" since the beginning of my freshman year of college.

My weight has fluctuated, my health has fluctuated, and unfortunately, my confidence has fluctuated. But no matter what, I haven't allowed myself to give up wearing the things I want to wear to please the eyes of society. And you shouldn't, either.

I weigh over 200lbs in both of these photos. To me, (and probably to you), one photo looks better than the other one. But what remains the same is, regardless, I still chose to wear the bathing suit that made me feel beautiful, and I'm still smiling in both photos. Nobody has the right to tell you what you can and can't wear because of the way you look.

There is no magic number that equates to health. In the second photo (and the cover photo), I still weigh over 200 lbs. But I hit the gym daily, ate all around healthier and noticed differences not only on the scale but in my mood, my heart health, my skin and so many other areas. You are not unhealthy because you weigh over 200 lbs and you are not healthy because you weigh 125. And, you are not confined to certain clothing items because of it, either.

This summer, after gaining quite a bit of weight back during the second semester of my senior year, I look somewhere between those two photos. I am disappointed in myself, but ultimately still love my body and I'm proud of the motivation I have to get to where I want to be while having the confidence to still love myself where I am.

And if you think just because I look a little chubby that I won't be rocking a bikini this summer, you're out of your mind.

If YOU feel confident, and if YOU feel beautiful, don't mind what anybody else says. Rock that bikini and feel amazing doing it.

Cover Image Credit: Sara Petty

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What My Depression Looks Like

What a typical day in a depressive episode looks like for me.

I've struggled with depression since I was 12 years old. I will be turning 21 this summer, and my depression has not, and will not, ever go away. Within the past few years, especially during my time at college, I have become more acutely aware of my depression, mainly because it never leaves me alone. When I was 18, I was prescribed Lexapro for my depression and anxiety, and within a year, my medication changed to Zoloft. Though I have sought therapy and have taken anti-depressants, I still suffer from depressive days. This is what a typical day in a depressive episode might look like for me:

I wake up in the morning after hitting my snooze consistently for the past hour or so. I roll over, turn off the alarm and stare at the ceiling. I don't think; I just lay there. After some time goes by (provided I don't go back to sleep), I find the energy to rouse myself from my bed and trudge to the shower. I turn the knob on the shower and stand under it for what seems like forever. I don't care about the time, I just care about how the warmth comforts me and allows me to exist in an almost womb-like state. I rest my head on the wall of the shower wonder if I will even have the energy to put on clothes and go to class.

If I am not late, by some miracle, I will find clothes clean enough to pass and run my fingers through my hair. If I make it around to brushing my teeth, I dare not look in the mirror. If I look in the mirror, I will hate what I see, and I don't have the energy to hate anything right now.

If I don't miss my class, I will sit in lecture and doodle on my paper. The professor's notes will come and go, like a river that brings new water and clears the old as it flows, leaving no information behind. The minutes will seem to drag on forever, and I find myself staring at the clock, wondering when I can go back to my dorm room and let myself be empty.

Class after class goes by, and I sit there staring blankly as the professor lectures so passionately about the subject. I think to myself, I wish I could be passionate about something. I wish I could feel anything at all. By this point it is mid-afternoon, class is over, and I find myself growing hungry. I pass by the cafeteria and the other restaurants on campus without batting an eye. Food looks awful. It turns my stomach, and my brain rewards me for not eating. My brain says, "Good, you didn't need that bagel, you wouldn't want to get fat."

I neglect my homework for the day. I have no more energy left. My bed still exists in its messy, unmade state from this morning, and I crawl back into it without hesitation. Should I remain undisturbed, I will quickly fall asleep. If my friends call or text, I'll tell them that I have a cold and don't want to go out. I learned a long time ago that a physical illness is taken a lot more seriously than a mental one.

I sleep for hours on end. Eight hours of sleep become 12, then 15, then 20, and even then I am still exhausted. My sleep takes me away from a place shrouded in hues of gray and at least lets me live in a fantasy world for a time. My friends stop seeing me around. The calls to my boyfriend become shorter and shorter or stop completely. My mom asks me what I've had to eat today.

When I tell people "I'm sorry, I'm having a depressive episode," they ask me why I'm not better. They scoff and tell me to stop feeling sorry for myself. That my problems aren't as bad as I'm making them out to be. I try to explain to them that my brain doesn't function normally, and I cannot help the way I feel. They never listen.

Sometimes I wish I could just sleep forever.

Please do not be afraid to reach out to your friends and loved ones when they are battling depression. Together we are stronger than the demons that live inside of our minds. Depression works in silence, and we can defeat it by talking openly about it. It is time that we erase the stigma.

Cover Image Credit: Pixabay

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