Stop Normalizing Mental Disorders

Stop Normalizing Mental Disorders: Replace These 6 Overused Phrases With Words You Actually Mean

Understand the difference between what you say and what you mean, especially when it comes to these, and so many more, serious conditions.

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Sadness is normal, as is stress. There's nothing wrong with breaking down or crying in general. It's okay to have one of those days. It's okay to have a few of those days. You are allowed to be not-so-fine. But that doesn't mean you have permission to claim a medical episode to describe your everyday inconvenience.

Don't fall into the hyperbolical trap just because you've heard it so many times before.

When the identifying characteristics of these serious disorders are used so loosely, the true struggle of those diagnosed is normalized and begins to lose credibility. Don't use these words to describe how you're feeling if you don't understand how they truly feel.

1. "Depressed"

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Like I said, sadness is normal. As humans, we tend to be sad when something less-than-ideal happens: when we disappoint someone, when a loved one dies, when a friend stops caring, when a storm cancels plans. There is typically a cause and effect relationship in which something happens – like one of the aforementioned events – invoking a negative emotional response.

We can point to what is wrong.

Depression differs from the average blues in that it is an abnormal emotional response. It leaves one feeling sad about everything. It takes away most of the pleasure from activities one used to enjoy. It steals sleep, or the opposite, leaving one in bed far longer than usual. It affects motivation, concentration, energy, and can often be mistaken for laziness. It isolates the depressed from family and friends. And it's chronic, lasting from two weeks to years in major episodes.

If you are feeling any of the above symptoms, please seek help. If not, please think again before saying you're depressed because your favorite TV show was canceled.

2. "Bipolar"

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People come in all shapes in sizes – so do personalities. We are unique in the sense that not one of us is identical, but we still hold standards of how one "should" react to emotional triggers. For example, it is typical for an individual to feel happiness from a positive stimulus and to feel anger or sadness from the opposite. Again, we see this cause and effect relationship from experience to emotion. Sometimes, this phenomenon is set off more easily in some than others. We call these people "moody."

This does not equate to Bipolar Disorder.

Those clinically diagnosed as bipolar have severe rollercoasters of emotions. Also called Manic Depression, this disorder is characterized by periods of mania – a heightened, energetic state in which one can lose touch with reality – and depression, which is described in detail above. These "ups" and "downs" are unpredictable in severity and duration, and can be extremely damaging to an individual and his/her surroundings.

These individuals are not "moody." This is a serious disorder that should be treated by a medical professional, not made fun of in your everyday conversation.

3. "PTSD"

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Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) affects veterans and civilians alike. It arises after an individual witnesses or experiences a traumatic event such as war, abuse, motor vehicle accidents, natural disasters, etc. It is not what you feel when reminded of a difficult exam or some other minor occurrence.

Those diagnosed with PTSD may often experience flashbacks of the event, have trouble trusting others, and/or take drastic measures to avoid triggers. Not one of these, or any other, symptoms means that those who suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder are any less capable of combating stressors or healing from trauma than you are.

Nor is it a sign of weakness.

It is a sign of strength, of resilience, of the ability to pick oneself up from absolute terror to move forward and continue living. To continue living through the pain of the worst day of one's life. Again, not a joking matter. This disorder is an invisible scar that is a part of someone's incredible story. Stop making it seem like anything less than that.

4. "Panic/anxiety attack"

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Anxiety can be a healthy response to stressors. All those firsts - the first date, first day of school, first time driving - they get the heart racing, the palms sweating, the blood pressure rising.

Anxiety can be beneficial... but it can also be a problem.

"Anxiety disorder" is an umbrella term that includes various problematic reactions to triggers. Most common is General Anxiety Disorder (GAD), from which an individual experiences excessive worry with little to no reasoning. Phobias are also a part of the anxiety disorder, as they are characterized by an irrational fear (and thus avoidance) of something.

One phobia, in particular, is often misrepresented in the public eye: social phobia. Also referred to as social anxiety, this leads an individual to feel he or she is constantly being judged by both peers and strangers, resulting in aversion of social situations to avoid embarrassment or ridicule.

Last, but most certainly not least, is panic disorder. Have you ever felt such panic to the point where you lose physical control? Your breath cut into short inhales, your voice silent, your chest spiraling into an impossible knot, your mind a dizzy fog? Sometimes, this destructive form of anxiety induces spells of terror that cycle through pulling hair, draining tears, and stealing breath, all before leaving migraines and pure exhaustion behind. In serious cases, a catalyst to this process is as simple as deciding what to wear, and can only be tamed with a sedative.

Saying "calm down" is not how you help someone calm down.

So, when your friend confesses to you that she missed a day of class because of a panic attack, do you think she's being dramatic? Probably, because to your understanding, nerves can be shoo'd away with a chill pill. What you don't know is that she had to leave in the middle her test because she was hyperventilating so fast she started to lose vision. What you probably didn't realize is that she had to be driven home to take one of those benzodiazepines you like to experiment with at parties, only for her, it was medically necessary.

When that "weird" kid hugs the walls to get from one place to the next, do you whisper about him to your friends? Did you stop to consider that, maybe, his social anxiety is already putting him through hell, screaming insults in his ear, without the kind contribution of your hushed negativity? Probably not, because you think social anxiety is what keeps you from posting your third Instagram photo this week.

5. "OCD"

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I can't even count how many times I've heard this one misused. It's called Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder for a reason… it's not "I have a tendency to keep things tidy."

OCD is not a choice.

Those diagnosed with this condition will often resort to extreme coping methods to gain even the slightest bit of relief from obsessions. Some behaviors include cleaning, re-checking, repeating, etc. It is commonly believed that if tasks aren't completed or behavior isn't performed, drastic consequences such as contamination, physical harm or divine punishment will occur. These intrusive thoughts are often accompanied by extreme anxiety (as described above) that, like most mental disorders, severely interferes with daily function.

A similar condition, Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder (OCPD), involves extreme attention to perfection, orderliness, rules, and detail. The key difference here is that those with OCPD believe their actions have a purpose and aim while those with OCD grow distressed with a continuation of unwanted behavior. This is simply another reason you should avoid saying you're "obsessed" with that new song, or that you make your bed every morning because you're "so OCD."

It is important to distinguish the lifestyles of those affected by these disorders from each other, as well as from those who just like to color code.

6. "I want to kill myself"

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There is no misunderstanding or lack of education involved in this misused phrase. Joking about suicide is blatantly ignorant and inexcusable. It's different in every experience. But it's not a way out. It's an emptiness to an unimaginable degree. It's numbness that is more painful to live with than to escape from. When we joke about ending our own lives, we discourage those with serious ideations from reaching out for help.

If you or someone you know is facing a crisis, please contact the National Suicide Prevention line or speak to a loved one.

You are enough.

Maybe I've made you rethink some of your word choices. Maybe not. Maybe you're wondering, "Who the hell are you to talk about all of these disorders?" And you're right.

Who the hell am I? I'm someone who has dealt firsthand with four of the listed topics (to various extents), and sees all six in those I hold closest to my heart. I'm someone who has felt the knife of your words when you inadvertently make fun of me or my friend or my family member or even the random guy you didn't realize was within earshot. And, yeah, I'm also human! I'm not immune to the slip-ups involved in our watered-down use of language. The important distinction here is that I can recognize when I am wrong, and I can do something about it. That's what I'm hoping to do by sharing this with you.

So. Be thoughtful. Be inclusive. Be respectful. You never know what someone is going through, so you might as well be kind.

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My Relationship in Early Sobriety & What I Learned From It

Your sponsor is right- your boyfriend from rehab most likely will not become your husband.

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I met Pete* (real named changed for privacy reasons) my second month down in South Florida in treatment. We attended the same IOP and became friends relatively quickly, seeing as he was around my age (~3 years older) and we shared a similar background. After spending two or three weeks getting to know each other, he began to pursue me romantically. I can't say I was on-board with the idea of being romantically involved with this person at first; but his persistence eventually won. After our first date, I found myself more and more drawn to him. We began spending whatever free time we had together, and we quickly fell for one another. We said "I love you" after only three weeks of dating.

It's important to note that this was my first time getting sober. I had just finished rehab in Ohio two months prior, and was still coming to terms with the fact that I was a serious alcoholic at the age of 21. Recovery and the culture surrounding it was very new to me. I naively believed that Pete and I were more compatible than the average couple because we were both young, recovering addicts- and specifically, in recovery from alcohol.

When you are a raging alcoholic like myself, you tend to feel an immediate bond with another alcoholic. Having a savage obsession with booze that dictated your life for a substantial amount of time separates you from the normal person. So when I found Pete and learned our addictions manifested similarly, I felt connected to him immediately. What made me feel even closer to him was our shared willingness to get and stay sober. The chaos and pain our addictions had brought into our lives made it so we were going to give everything we had to this simple program. Or so I believed.

I lived in that fantasy for about two months. We both were doing what we needed to do, and in that time span, we truly made a series of wonderful memories. I was confident in our relationship and in the direction both of our lives were headed.

Then, unexpectedly, came his first of many relapses. The night before I caught him drunk, I sensed something was off in his text messages. They were longer than usual and in one of the final messages before we said goodnight to each other he said something along the lines of "I'm not perfect and I can't have you expect me to be. I will let you down, but know I am trying." I had a sinking feeling in my stomach but I fell asleep in hopes that I was suspecting something out of nothing. The next day he agreed to pick me up and take me to work. I immediately noticed something was off the moment I plopped in the passenger seat- in his face, in his eyes, and in his behavior. I waited until we parked outside my work to ask him if he was drunk. He denied it at least a dozen times before he broke down and admitted he was. He had been drinking since the night before. He sobbed, apologized, and threw up outside his parked car door. It was disgusting and devastating to see him like that. Little did I know this version of Pete was one I would see over and over again.

There's no point in describing each of the relapses, but they continued for the remaining eight months of our relationship and occurred in higher frequency as time went on. There were numerous hospital visits on account of his seizures due to benzo withdrawal, and trips to detox facilities. By the end, I was completely drained- emotionally, mentally and physically. It had gotten to the point where I had purchased my own breathalyzer and snuck UAs from work to bring home and use on him. My anxiety was through the roof, and I was looking in his eyes constantly to check if they were red, or if his pupils were contracted. There were countless arguments spurred on by my accusations that usually were spot on. He couldn't stand that I didn't trust him, and I couldn't stand it either.

It made me terribly sad to lay in bed next to him feeling completely detached and unsafe, as he dozed off in a Xanax coma. I felt alone and scared knowing that the person I had committed to was lying straight to my face and heading in a bad direction. Yet, I couldn't walk away. I cared deeply about this person, and their success, not only in recovery but in life. I saw the potential that they had and wanted to nurture them as they worked to reach it. I didn't want to give up on them like so many others had already done. I wanted to show Pete that despite his slip-ups, I had faith he would eventually get it. Sometimes you need someone else to believe in you before you can yourself.

This was my detriment. I wanted him to succeed so badly that I invested more energy in him than I did myself. In reality, he wasn't fighting as hard for himself as I was for him. So in the end, my support and loyalty didn't make a difference. He continued to self-sabotage while I desperately tried to pick up the pieces. It was useless cause.

What also made made it difficult to leave was that as an alcoholic who suffered countless blackouts and spent the last three years in a relative haze, I was the most conscious and present I had been during this first year in sobriety than I had been in a long time. And unfortunately, 10 out of those 12 months were intimately shared with Pete as my partner. So not only were my emotions intensified in general as a result of finally having a clear mind, but so were my feelings towards Pete. He became a marker in my sobriety and it was a terrifying thought to let him go. I doubted my ability to stay sober without him in my life. I questioned my own security and stability, and partially believed that those two things were dependent on him.

Eventually, I was so broke down and aggravated by his repeated behavior that I said enough was enough. I broke things off and explained to him that I couldn't put myself through the pain any longer.

He overdosed two weeks later on narcotics that he hadn't tried up until that point, and landed in the ICU for two days. He got out and continued to use for two more weeks before agreeing to go to treatment in a different state. I was in 24/7 contact with his parents and sober supports. Just because I wasn't willing to be in a relationship with Pete anymore, and had cut off nearly all communication with him by this point, that did not mean I wasn't absolutely terrified for his life. I knew I wouldn't find peace until he was safe.

Once he was in treatment, I was able to take a sigh of relief- but even months later, I can't say I've truly come to peace with what happened over those ten months we were together. I am confident that I made the right choice to walk away when I did, and I have no temptation to ever rekindle a relationship with Pete- but the rollercoaster of emotions the journey took me on was one that I am still hurting from. It is so incredibly painful to love someone who isn't willing to help themselves. Beyond that, being in an intimate relationship with an active addict is a very lonely experience. Your partner isn't able to support you in any shape or form. Your closest companion uses every manipulative tactic that they have in their pocket to convince you to stay with them. You feel betrayed and somewhat like a fool for believing someone that failed to keep their word over and over again.

Worst of all, you sustain the majority of the damage from their usage because you have stayed sober and present during their demise, while they cunningly managed to numb themselves and remain seemingly oblivious to it all. You walk away in worse condition than when you first met them- and they certainly do not bear the same bruises as you.

By the time I was able to focus purely on myself, I was an absolute wreck. I was forced to resort to survival mode and strictly focus on what I needed to do to keep myself afloat. I refused, vehemently, to make the same mistakes as my partner, and made a commitment to myself that I would remain sober despite how broken I felt at the time. I continued to go to work, take care of my pets, pay my bills, and respond to just enough phone calls/texts to let people know I was safe and sober. I existed in that head space for a considerable amount of time. Eventually, that dark cloud dissipated as I continued to push forward, even though a big part of me just wanted to stop and regress. A new job opportunity came into my life, and I met new people. I thrusted myself back into the rooms and rekindled relationships with sober supports I had let fizzle out over the course of Pete and I's relationship. Now I can say I am much better than I was before, but I certainly am still licking some of my wounds.

I realize that I compromised my own progress in recovery by growing overly concerned with Pete's sobriety. I was under the impression that having Pete by my side would motivate me to work harder in sobriety, and while I may have expended a lot of energy, not even close to enough was devoted towards me. I was too consumed with stress and his problems that I continuously pushed off step work and meetings. I had excuses for every commitment I failed to make. Looking back, that was the greatest consequence I suffered throughout this entire ordeal.

While a part of me wants to say I regret the relationship with Pete, I don't. In truth, it was a massive learning lesson that left me wiser than before. There is also no point in regretting something in the past, because that time is already gone, and I'd rather have that experience strengthen me instead of weaken me. The greatest treasure I walked away with was learning what it is like to love a suffering addict. Before meeting Pete, I was the suffering the addict who drained everyone around me, particularly my family and close friends, of their emotional and mental energy. Pete helped me see what it was like for those around me before I got sober, and it opened my eyes to the extreme pain I put them through. Simultaneously, it filled me with immense gratitude for those who stuck with me throughout it all. So even if that was the only take away I got from those ten months with Pete, I can honestly say it was worth it.

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41 Thank-Yous To My Boyfriend Who Stood By My Side For Three Semesters And Graduation

Life will be scary and difficult sometimes, but as long as you're there to hold my hand, I know that I will always be OK.

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These last several semesters at college, I've learned so much and I've changed so much, all because of one person. A person that came at a time when things were going downhill, and completely flipped my life around. I will never forget how terrible I felt before I met you, and how much better I am with you by my side. Truly, I don't know where I would be without you. And that's why it will always be impossible to thank you enough for everything that you have done for me.

But you do deserve to know how much of an impact you have on me.

1. Thank you for being my shoulder to cry on when I was struggling to get through this last semester.

2. Thank you for always listening to me rant about problems I was having with my friends.

3. Thank you for never getting tired of me talking about the same things over and over again.

4. Thank you for never acting like my past trauma was baggage or a burden.

5. Thank you for trying your best to understand and to be considerate of my anxiety.

6. Thank you for being patient with me when I take so long to process everything and sort out my emotions.

7. Thank you for dealing with my mood swings and intense emotions.

8. Thank you for never judging me over things I get embarrassed about.

9. Thank you for sharing your opinions with me, even when I didn't want to hear them, but I needed to hear them.

10. Thank you for opening my eyes to toxic behavior that I was blind to.

11. Thank you for always looking out for my health and well-being, and my future.

12. Thank you for helping me grow up and mature.

13. Thank you for always wanting to talk things out.

14. Thank you for making me feel important.

15. Thank you for giving me a reason to live.

16. Thank you for showing me what true love is.

17. Thank you for being my best friend and partner in life.

18. Thank you for breaking my walls down but never breaking a promise.

19. Thank you for keeping my heart safe.

20. Thank you for giving me endless reassurance.

21. Thank you for never making me worry about the fate of our relationship.

22. Thank you for always putting me first.

23. Thank you for being loyal and committed to me.

24. Thank you for all of the memories and adventures.

25. Thank you for never getting annoyed about taking photos.

26. Thank you for the best summer of my life.

27. Thank you for making college a much better experience for me.

28. Thank you for always putting a smile on my face.

29. Thank you for always catering to me and trying to make me happy.

30. Thank you for all the little favors you do for me and everything else you might think goes unnoticed (but trust me, I notice and I appreciate it so much).

31. Thank you for supporting everything that I'm passionate about.

32. Thank you for always making an effort to change.

33. Thank you for always forgiving me when I make (loads of) mistakes.

34. Thank you for being a good influence on me.

35. Thank you for being my role model and inspiring me to be more like you.

36. Thank you for the amount of time, effort, and love that you've put into our relationship.

37. Thank you for shaping my future.

38. Thank you for making me so hopeful and excited about everything that we are going to do throughout our life together.

39. Thank you for thinking that I'm worth it.

40. Thank you for wanting to get married, have kids, and spend your life with me.

41. Thank you for making my dreams come true.

Now that we've graduated, for the first time, we're dealing with the fact that we don't have a set path laid out for us. Real life is more than what we're used to. We might struggle to find jobs. Heck, we might find jobs but hate them. It might take forever to save up money. Things might not go according to how we planned them in our heads. We're going to have to juggle a bunch of different elements all at once. Life will be scary and difficult sometimes, but as long as you're there to hold my hand, I know that I will always be OK.

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