My Mental Illness Isn't A Punchline

My Mental Illness Isn't A Punchline

So why do I treat it like one?
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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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To All The Nurses In The Making

We tell ourselves that one day it'll all pay off, but will it actually?
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I bet you’re taking a break from studying right now just to read this, aren’t you? Either at the library with friends or in your dorm room. Wherever you may be, you never get the chance to put your books down, at least that’s how it feels to most of us. It sucks feeling like you’ve chosen the hardest major in the world, especially when you see other students barely spending any time studying or doing school work. The exclamation “You’re still here!” is an all too frequent expression from fellow students after recognizing that you’ve spent 10-plus hours in the library. At first it didn’t seem so bad and you told yourself, “This isn’t so difficult, I can handle it,” but fast-forward a few months and you’re questioning if this is really what you want to do with your life.

You can’t keep track of the amount of mental breakdowns you’ve had, how much coffee you’ve consumed, or how many times you’ve called your mom to tell her that you’re dropping out. Nursing is no joke. Half the time it makes you want to go back and change your major, and the other half reminds you why you want to do this, and that is what gets you through it. The thing about being a nursing major is that despite all the difficult exams, labs and overwhelming hours of studying you do, you know that someday you might be the reason someone lives, and you can’t give up on that purpose. We all have our own reasons why we chose nursing -- everyone in your family is a nurse, it’s something you’ve always wanted to do, you’re good at it, or like me, you want to give back to what was given to you. Regardless of what your reasoning is, we all take the same classes, deal with the same professors, and we all have our moments.

I’ve found that groups of students in the same nursing program are like a big family who are unconditionally supportive of each other and offer advice when it’s needed the most. We think that every other college student around us has it so easy, but we know that is not necessarily true. Every major can prove difficult; we’re just a little harder on ourselves. Whenever you feel overwhelmed with your school work and you want to give up, give yourself a minute to imagine where you’ll be in five years -- somewhere in a hospital, taking vitals, and explaining to a patient that everything will be OK. Everything will be worth what we are going through to get to that exact moment.

Remember that the stress and worry about not getting at least a B+ on your anatomy exam is just a small blip of time in our journey; the hours and dedication suck, and it’s those moments that weed us out. Even our advisors tell us that it’s not easy, and they remind us to come up with a back-up plan. Well, I say that if you truly want to be a nurse one day, you must put in your dedication and hard work, study your ass off, stay organized, and you WILL become the nurse you’ve always wanted to be. Don’t let someone discourage you when they relent about how hard nursing is. Take it as motivation to show them that yeah, it is hard, but you know what, I made it through.

With everything you do, give 110 percent and never give up on yourself. If nursing is something that you can see yourself doing for the rest of your life, stick with it and remember the lives you will be impacting someday.

SEE ALSO: Why Nursing School Is Different Than Any Other Major

Cover Image Credit: Kaylee O'Neal

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If you only care about mental Illness when it affects celebrities, don't call yourself an advocate

Support your friends that are struggling, not just famous people.

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A few months ago, when Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain lost their lives to suicide, there was an outpouring of support and mental health advocacy, as many people looked up to these individuals as pivotal icons in their lives.

And now, with Demi Lovato's supposed overdose that landed her in the hospital this week, it's happening again. People are expressing an outpouring of love and support while continuing to disregard struggling drug addicts on the streets.

It's as if your struggles with mental illness only matter to the larger world if you make millions of dollars and have some sort of creative talent to contribute to the entire population. Let's make one thing clear, this is absolute horseshit.

People around you, thousands of people every day, suffer mental health crises. Hundreds take their own lives. Some of them have no one to support them and none of them have even a fraction of support that we pour out for famous people when news like this breaks.

I am not in any way saying that celebrities don't deserve our support. I wish nothing but the best for them. However, if you only care about mental health when it affects a celebrity and not when it affects the people in your life, you are not a mental health advocate.

Reach out to your friends and classmates that you know are struggling.

Be kind to one another. Stop putting other people down. Talk to somebody instead of about them. Reach out to people you wouldn't normally talk to. Apologize to people when you've done something to harm them.

Be respectful and considerate and never intentionally make someone feel like they don't matter. Don't make insensitive jokes and comments about people struggling with mental illness and addiction.

Educate yourself on topics related to mental illnesses (and no, watching "13 Reasons Why" doesn't count).

Get involved in organizations that support mental health in your community.

Donate to groups that help homeless people near where you live. 46% of homeless adults suffer from mental disorders and/or substance abuse.

It's easy to write a tweet or to share a picture on Instagram when someone you've never met but you've seen in concert with 10's of thousands of other people is in crisis. It's a lot more important to reach out to the people around you and to create concrete change.

Don't let another celebrity crisis pass us by without doing something that matters. Who knows? You could even save someone's life.


If you or someone you know needs immediate assistance, call the suicide prevention hotline at 1-800-273-8255 or visit them online at https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/.


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