You’re probably wondering what does it even mean to romanticize an illness? Romantic things are supposed to be good, right? Well, not when it turns someone’s physical and psychological health into something trivial. Allow me to paint you a better picture of how serious this issue is:
You’re sitting on the floor, rocking back and forth, hyperventilating and choking on your own tears. You’re so beyond terrified of your own thoughts and actions that you have withdrawn into yourself for fear of saying the wrong thing. You’ve given up on any aspect of getting better because no matter how many couches you sit on or how many pills you swallow, you just seem to be getting deeper and deeper into this black pit of misery and self-loathing. This is the sad, honest truth of having a mental disorder. Not everyday is terrible and cloudy, but when the clouds do roll in, man, is there a thunderstorm. A lightning-filled storm that you never think is going to end. But what does that have to do with anything? I am telling you this because I am tired of constantly seeing mental illness be romanticized in the media. Depression isn’t cute. Anxiety isn’t trendy. OCD isn’t fleeting. PTSD isn’t an exaggeration, and we need to stop it.
It’s almost as if teens nowadays want to have a mental disorder. Between books, TV shows, social media and movies, these disorders almost seem amazing and glamorous, but they are not. A mental disorder will change your life and how you interact with others. It will affect every current relationship you have and ever will have. The way these disorders are depicted do nothing except feed into the stigma surrounding mental illness. And by feeding into the stigma, we are making it much harder for those suffering to seek treatment.
Anxiety disorders and panic disorders tend to come together. Not all panic attacks are the same, but during one you could be locking yourself in a room while shaking uncontrollably. You could be shutting down to the point of showing no emotion while your thoughts run faster than the Indianapolis 500. You could break out into hives in public while struggling to hide your discomfort as your heart rate speeds up to a point where you feel is not possible for a living human being. The biggest factor in deciphering panic attacks is what causes them. This isn’t your average anxiety you get from public speaking or going on a first date. This is overthinking every aspect of your life from the way you walk to the way you eat and drink for fear of ridicule.
A depressive episode isn’t much prettier. You become numb to the world around you. You do not want to go anywhere or see anyone. Simply getting out of bed is a massive difficulty for you. Your friends think you are simply throwing your life away and becoming lazy, and you have no idea how to explain to them that you have lost your will to live. When depression and anxiety mix it is almost as if you’re world is moving too fast yet you have no motivation to do anything about it. You desperately want to go out with your friends and be social but instead you stay inside, barely able to move. You might break down crying in public, unable to find a reason for your tears only to get more frustrated and upset with yourself for not being able to control your emotions.
Let’s just start by saying eating disorders are not trendy. I don’t care how bad you want to lose a few pounds to fit into a dress, forcing yourself to puke or skip meals is never the answer. Just because society makes you feel like you are not worthy for living up to its unhealthy standards does not mean you need to fall subject to these things. Self harm is never something you should want. It is not pretty. It is an addiction in which you will destroy yourself little by little unless someone has the courage to intervene on your behalf. You fall into this downward spiraling circle coming up with reasons to justify your low caloric intake or eating in front of people. Your hair will thin, your nails will become brittle, your teeth will damage and your throat will swell, you will become exhausted day in and day out.
That being said, a mental disorder does not make up an entire person. While they do affect your daily life and interactions with people, you can still live a very productive life with them. Depression has become the leading cause of disability worldwide, and every 40 seconds there is a death by suicide in the world (WHO). If these disorders are affecting people so drastically, why are we not taking them more seriously? If you are currently suffering with a mental illness, I commend and empathize with you. You are fighting a battle every day within your own mind that no one could fully understand, but you are not your disorder. And because of that we need to better educate those around us. We need to look at these disorders and symptoms for what they really are. Because once we can better understand them, we can start to give and receive the treatment we deserve.