We Need To Stop Villainizing Mental Illness

We Need To Stop Villainizing Mental Illness

Enough is enough.
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I am one of millions of people living with mental illness. I have anxiety and depression. I wasn't open about this part of myself until recently, because I was scared of the stigma that might come with being open about my mental health. I was afraid of being perceived as "crazy" or "weak" or some other awful stereotype. I am not crazy. I am not weak. I am not a violent person; in fact, I'm a pacifist. And the majority of people living with mental illnesses are not violent. They're like me; they have friends and hobbies and jobs, and they are perfectly peaceful.

So it's time that we stop villainizing mental illness. I feel like nearly every time we hear about tragedies, about massacres, the media always tells us about the "mentally-ill" people who perpetrated the crimes. We hear about their "mental instabilities" and it perpetuates the stigma surrounding mental health. It gives us this idea that people dealing with mental illness, some of the strongest people in the world, are unstable and violent and cannot be trusted.

Now, I understand that no sane, empathetic person would commit something as vile and horrible as taking the lives of other human beings. I understand that. I get that these acts do not originate from normal human nature.

But when I see a blog post by Ann Coulter titled: "Guns don't kill people, the mentally ill do," I cannot help but roll my eyes with the ignorance of it all. And the more I research what other public figures have said on the matter, the more upsetting the arguments become. After the Colorado Planned Parenthood shooting, Paul Ryan said that "one common denominator in these tragedies is mental illness." Donald Trump, possibly our future president, has said that he is against tightening gun laws, but wants to address mental health instead, saying: "this isn't a gun problem, this is a mental problem." Trump once also talked about the mental institutions of "the old days" in a positive light in an interview on CNN. Now, I cannot be sure what exactly Trump meant to refer to when he mentioned these institutions, but if my research tells me anything, psychiatric institutions of "the old days" are well-known for their abusive methods and therapies. And in 2012, the president of the National Rifle Association, Wayne LaPierre suggested the creation of "an active national database of the mentally ill," which would unfairly target the entire population of people dealing with mental illnesses, the vast majority of whom are nonviolent.

I am so sick of politicians and the media acting like the problem isn't with guns and other destructive weapons, but rather with mental health instead. By using the blanket statement of "mental illness" as the problem, they are spreading uninformed, false, and slanderous beliefs about millions of people. And for people unlike me, for people who haven't encountered mental illness in a personal way, it's easy to believe these blanket statements. It's easy to think that people dealing with mental illnesses are crazy and violent and untrustworthy. It is easy to be scared of somebody who has a mental illness. It is so easy to say that the people themselves are the problem, and that all the people like them, all the people dealing with similar issues, are going to be the problem someday too. But one person cannot do with a single body, with a pair of hands and legs, what an assault rifle can do in a matter of mere seconds. Mental health is important and should be talked about openly. But it should not be used as a scapegoat for a larger problem. Blaming the violence on an entire group of people, on peaceful people like me, only perpetuates the stigma and scares off people from reaching out and getting treatment.

The people I know in my life who have also dealt with mental illnesses are some of the best people I have ever known. They are extremely empathetic and kind. They are people who inspire me with their inner strength and courage. They are people who fight to get out of bed every day, who learn to love themselves. They are not villains. They are humans. And they are not the problem.

Cover Image Credit: Psychology Today

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To The Person Who Feels Suicidal But Doesn't Want To Die

Suicidal thoughts are not black and white.
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Everyone assumes that if you have suicidal thoughts that means you want to die.

Suicidal thoughts are thought of in such black and white terms. Either you have suicidal thoughts and you want to die, or you don't have suicidal thoughts and you want to live. What most people don't understand is there are some stuck in the gray area of those two statements, I for one am one of them.

I've had suicidal thoughts since I was a kid.

My first recollection of it was when I came home after school one day and got in trouble; and while I was just sitting in the dining room I kept thinking, “I wonder what it would be like to take a knife from the kitchen and just shove it into my stomach." I didn't want to die, or even hurt myself for that matter. But those thoughts haven't stopped since.

I've thought about going into the bathroom and taking every single pill I could find and just drifting to sleep and never waking back up, I've thought about hurting myself to take the pain away, just a few days ago on my way to work I thought about driving my car straight into a tree. But I didn't. Why? Because even though that urge was so strong, I didn't want to die. I still don't, I don't want my life to end.

I don't think I've ever told anyone about these feelings. I don't want others to worry because the first thing anyone thinks when you tell them you have thoughts about hurting or killing yourself is that you're absolutely going to do it and they begin to panic. Yes, I have suicidal thoughts, but I don't want to die.

It's a confusing feeling, it's a scary feeling.

When the depression takes over you feel like you aren't in control. It's like you're drowning.

Every bad memory, every single thing that hurt you, every bad thing you've ever done comes back and grabs you by the ankle and drags you back under the water just as you're about the reach the surface. It's suffocating and not being able to do anything about it.

The hardest part is you never know when these thoughts are going to come. Some days you're just so happy and can't believe how good your life is, and the very next day you could be alone in a dark room unable to see because of the tears welling up in your eyes and thinking you'd be better off dead. You feel alone, you feel like a burden to everyone around you, you feel like the world would be better off without you. I wish it was something I could just turn off but I can't, no matter how hard I try.

These feelings come in waves.

It feels like you're swimming and the sun is shining and you're having a great time, until a wave comes and sucks you under into the darkness of the water. No matter how hard you try to reach the surface again a new wave comes and hits you back under again, and again, and again.

And then it just stops.

But you never know when the next wave is going to come. You never know when you're going to be sucked back under.

I always wondered if I was the only one like this.

It didn't make any sense to me, how did I think about suicide so often but not want to die? But I was thinking about it in black and white, I thought I wasn't allowed to have those feelings since I wasn't going to act on them. But then I read articles much like this one and I realized I'm not the only one. Suicidal thoughts aren't black and white, and my feelings are valid.

To everyone who feels this way, you aren't alone.

I thought I was for the longest time, I thought I was the only one who felt this way and I didn't understand how I could feel this way. But please, I implore you to talk to someone, anyone, about the way you're feeling; whether it be a family member, significant other, a friend, a therapist.

My biggest mistake all these years was never telling anyone how I feel in fear that they would either brush me off because “who could be suicidal but not want to die," or panic and try to commit me to a hospital or something. Writing this article has been the greatest feeling of relief I've felt in a long time, talking about it helps. I know it's scary to tell people how you're feeling, but you're not alone and you don't have to go through this alone.

Suicidal thoughts aren't black and white, your feelings are valid, and there are people here for you, you are not alone.

If you're thinking about hurting yourself please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or visit suicidepreventionhotline.org to live chat with someone. Help it out there and you are not alone.


Cover Image Credit: BengaliClicker

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Meditation Is Not A Perfect Practice, But It's Still Worth Your Time

You'll thank me later.

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nczupek
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I began doing yoga a few years ago, and I instantly loved it. The combination of stretching, mental relaxation, and emotional release is amazing. It creates a sense of zen and peace in my life that I can use during the stress that comes from school, work, and everyday life. But the one part of yoga that I am not in love with is the meditation aspect.

I absolutely dread meditation. I do not know what it is, but I can never quite seem to get my mind to quiet down. No matter how hard I try, there is always a million thoughts running through my brain. "Did I finish that homework assignment?" "Am I breathing too loud? Can other people hear me?" I become so focused on other things happening around me that I just can't seem to calm down and relax.

But meditation is not about just clearing your mind and going completely blank. It is about focusing on a single thought, object, or intention and just allowing those emotions and feelings to overcome you. Focusing on one intention in your life allows you to become focused and re-centered. Meditation is not a set in stone practice, it is adaptable based on each person's needs.

There are seven general types of meditation: loving-kindness meditation, body scanning meditation, mindfulness meditation, breath awareness meditation, kundalini yoga, Zen meditation, and transcendentalism meditation. Each of these general types can be adapted to fit ones specific needs in that time. All seven of these meditations offer stress release options to help with daily stressors and inconveniences.

There is no perfect way to meditate. Meditation can also be as simple as just closing your eyes and simply breathing for a few seconds while focusing on one important thing in your life to help you remain grounded. There is no one set meditation type that works for all people. Some people enjoy all of the forms or even several of them, while others such as myself strictly enjoy the body scanning meditation.

The body scanning meditation focuses on scanning the body for areas of tension and to encourage the release of tension in that part of the body. Once the release occurs, the whole body can begin to relax even more. It usually starts by focusing on the toes and relaxing then moving up the legs, the torso the arms to the fingertips, and all the way through to the tip of the head.

My ideal meditation type is not for everyone. Playing around with the different types of meditations is the best way to find an ideal type of meditation that fits what the body needs. Unlike with most things, practice doesn't make perfect. Practicing the art of meditation just helps to refine the overall calm and zen that is felt.

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