When you have to live with something like this, it’s the pits.
I’ve dealt with mental illness for as long as I can remember. A wide variety of labels were slapped on my forehead at such a young age– OCD, anxiety, bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder, schizophrenia. Of course, only a few of them turned out to actually be my problem here. But growing up with the ever-growing mystery of “what’s wrong with her” and not having a clear-cut answer drove both me and my family crazy.
Don’t get me wrong– I was a pretty cute kid. People loved me. My family loved me. But there would be times when they just didn’t know how to deal with me. They didn’t understand how to discipline my behaviour, because they didn’t understand what could possibly cause me to act this way. My parents and siblings often fought over how to handle me, thinking if they said “knock it off” enough that one of these times it would actually work. Nobody knew what was really going on, especially not me. Not even the five psychiatrists I’d gone through knew.
As I got older, it became even harder to deal with and even more prominent. I was suddenly surrounded by friends, who, being my own age and more “in with the times” as you could say, might understand whatever was wrong with me. But, of course, being impressionable teenagers, that wasn’t the case, and I knew that as soon as I heard the phrase “oh she’s so bipolar” “i failed my test im so depressed” “oh go kill yourself lol” thrown around like they were nothing. Jokes. It was treated like a joke.
The first time I tried to get them to understand, these friends of mine finally explained their view on the topic. They told me that they didn’t think people who self-harmed or were suicidal were in any pain whatsoever, that they were just seeking attention and the whole topic was stupid and something to be made fun of. Essentially, they had no understanding of mental illness whatsoever. So what does a young and impressionable teenager do when faced with a situation like this? Nothing. I hid behind a mask of normalcy and happiness all throughout high school and middle school, acting like nothing was wrong, and it was the absolute worst.
Things didn’t really get much better. I was surrounded by ignorance; nobody knew. They just weren’t educated, and they acted like it was a hushed-up topic. It was never stressed how common a thing it is; it was never stressed that anyone can have it; and most importantly, it was never talked about.
So I’d like society to tell me what to do here. If nobody talks about what’s wrong with me, and what people like me and so many others have to deal with, do you expect all of us not to do anything? Not to say anything? I think we’ve suffered in silence long enough, and I think it’s time we end all the false presumptions about mental illness and start learning, start talking.