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 Boy Who Will Love Me Next

If you can't understand these few things, leave before things get too involved
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To the boy that will love me next, I need you to know and understand things about me and my past. The things I have been though not only have shaped the person I’ve become, but also sometimes controls my life. In the past I’ve been used, abused, and taken for granted, and I want something real this time. The guys before you were just boys; they didn’t know how to treat me until it was too late. They didn’t understand how to love me, until I broke my own heart. Before you truly decide to love me I want you to understand these things.

When I tell you something, please listen.

I’m my own person, I want to be loved a certain way. If I ask you to come over and watch movies with me please do it, if I ask for you to leave me alone for a few hours because it’s a girl’s night please do it. I don’t just say things to hear my own voice, I say things to you because it’s important to my life and the way I want to be loved. I’m not a needy person when it comes to being loved and cared for, but I do ask for you to do the small things that I am say.

Forgive my past.

My past is not a pretty brick road, it is a highway that has a bunch of potholes and cracks in it. I have a lot of baggage, and most of it you won’t understand. But don’t let my past decided whether you want to love me or not. My past has helped form who I am today, but it does not define who I am. My past experiences might try and make an appearance every once in a while, but I will not go back to that person I once was, I will not return to all that hurt I once went though. When I say those things, I’m telling the complete and honest truth. I relive my past every day, somethings haunt me and somethings are good reminds. But for you to love me, I need you to accept my past, present and future.

I’m just another bro to the other guys.

I have always hung out with boys, I don’t fit in with the girl groups. I have 10 close girlfriends, but the majority of my friends are guy, but don’t let this scare you. If I wanted to be with one of my guy friends I would already be with him, and if you haven’t noticed I don’t want them because I’m with you. I will not lose my friendships with all my guy friends to be able to stay with you. I will not cut off ties because you don’t like my guy friends. I have lost too many buddies because of my ex-boyfriends and I promised myself I wouldn’t do that again. If you don’t like how many guy friends I have you can leave now. Don’t bother trying to date me if you can accept the fact I’m just another bro.

I might be a badass, but I actually have a big heart.

To a lot of people I come off to be a very crazy and wild girl. I will agree I can be crazy and wild, but I’m more than that. I’m independent, caring, responsible, understanding, forgiving, and so such more type of woman. Many people think that I’m a badass because I don’t take any negatively from anyone. Just like we learned when we were younger, “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say it at all.” Most people can’t do that in today’s world, so I stick up for myself and my friends. I don’t care what anyone thinks about me, or their option on how I live my life. The only thing I care about is being able to make myself happy. Even though I’m an independent woman, understand that I do have a big heart. Honesty when I truly care for someone I will do just about anything they ask, but don’t take advantage of this. Once you take advantage of this part of me, all respect will be lost for you.

I’m hard to love.

Sometimes I want to be cuddle and get attention, and sometimes I don’t want you to talk to me for a couple hours. Sometimes I want you to take me out for a nice meal, but sometimes I want a home cooked meal. Every day is different for me, sometimes I change my mind every hour. My mood swings are terrible on certain days, and on those days you should probably just ignore me. I’m not easy to love, so you’ll either be willing to find a way to love me, or you’ll walk out like so many others have.

I’m scared.

I’m scared to love someone again. I’ve been hurt, heartbroken, and beat to the ground in my past relationships. I want to believe you are different, I want to hope things will truly work out, but every relationship has always ended up the same way. I’m scared to trust someone, put my whole heart into them, just to be left and heartbroken again. I sick and tired of putting my whole body and soul into someone for them to just leave when it is convenient for them. If you want to love me, understand it won’t be easy for me to love you back.

When “I’m done.”

When I say “I’m done” I honestly don’t mean that I’m done. When I say that it means I need and want you to fight for me, show me why you want to be with me. I need you to prove that I’m worth it and there’s no one else but me. If I was truly done, I would just walk away, and not come back. So if I ever tell you, “I’m done,” tell me all the reasons why I’m truly not done.

For the boy who will love me next, the work is cut out for you, you just have to be willing to do it. I’m not like other girls, I am my own person, and I will need to be treated as such. For the boy that will love me next, don’t bother with me unless you really want to be with me. I don’t have time to waste on you if you aren’t going to try and make something out of us. To the boy who will love me next, the last thing I would like to say is good luck, I have faith in you.

Cover Image Credit: Danielle Balint

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Better Not Bitter

"Let your past make you better, not bitter."

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After completing my junior year at Iowa State, I have found myself reflecting on a lot of the experiences and people who have helped me get to the point I am at today. Family obviously comes to mind, followed by my friends, my sorority sisters, my boyfriend, my professors, and my mentors. I am able to contribute a lot of my success to their support and compassion that they have shown me throughout my past three years. I am also able to contribute my success to the woman I have grown to be and to the woman I have always wanted to be. You see, three years ago, the woman I was was buried in a toxic relationship that didn't allow me to flourish into the woman I was striving to be.

Let me take a step back, this article is not meant to bash the person who it is about. In fact, it's more of a thank you. Because you see, without him letting go of me, I would have never taken the leaps and bounds out of my comfort zone to become the woman I am so damn proud to be today. This is also not meant to say that I am I glad I was in such a toxic relationship, it was honestly so terrible that I wouldn't wish it upon anyone but I am in fact, thankful. I learned more from that relationship that I have in anything else in my life.

First, I learned to be a fighter, and not in a bad way. I learned to stand up for myself and what I believe in. I have become vocal about my passions and stand up for people when they are treated wrong. I no longer let people walk all over me, but rather I stand my ground firmly and confidently. Thank you.

Second, I learned to be fierce. Fierce in love, kindness, compassion, and willpower. I believe in my abilities and the things I am able to accomplish if I set my mind to something. I have learned that in being fierce, there is absolutely no time to doubt myself which has worked greatly in my favor. I learned that demanding respect in all relationships I have formed has been about me making the decision to make myself a priority and learning to never settle for any less than I deserve, ever again. Thank you.

Third, I learned compassion. I learned to be kind to the other woman, and mostly, to the person who chose to hurt me. It took everything in me to remain kind while I was being hurt, but I am so thankful that I stayed true to the values and morals I was raised on. I have carried this with me throughout the past three years by choosing to show compassion to all people around me, and looking deeper into the reasons behind the actions and decisions that people make. Often times there is something going on behind closed doors and because of that, it is important to always, always radiate kindness. Thank you.

I wanted to extend my gratitude to the person who hurt me because if you hadn't, I wouldn't be the badass, boss girl, powerful woman that I am today. I am confident, smart, loving, and fully capable of giving and receiving the kindest, most sincere kind of love. My life has changed for the better, and I wouldn't change a single thing. I wish you the best, because let me tell ya, it feels great.

By the way, if you ever feel like you deserve better than what you're receiving in a relationship, trust your gut & walk the hell away. It's worth it.

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