Amber Skye Forbes

Writing Words With the Tips of My Toes

Braving the Stigma of Mental Illness

I cannot fathom for the life of me why there is such an unabashed stigma against mental illness. Mental illness has been recorded since the invention of writing. Though the symptoms explained had no specific name, even our ancestors had no doubt such illnesses were real. Of course, believing in their existence isn’t the only problem. When you have a mental illness, society brands you as incompetent, incapable of living your own life.

Look around the internet, at the media. Some people believe those with mental illnesses should be locked away so we can do no harm to anyone, even though we are more likely to be harmed by those who are “normal” due to our vulnerable personalities. I can’t own a gun because I had to be involuntarily hospitalized so I could get a bed; otherwise, I would have been in the ER for another day or two–I wanted to go in, but I couldn’t do so voluntarily. I don’t think I can own a gun for another two years, which is a shame because we’re so hell bent on protecting ourselves with fatal weapons. It’s not that I care to own a gun, but, really, it’s the principle of the matter. I want to understand this, but there are other weapons we’re allowed access to that are more used than guns in harming ourselves or others–knives, for instance.

Seriously. I can be irritable, sad, apathetic, empty, hopeless, all in one day.

Seriously. I can be irritable, sad, apathetic, empty, hopeless, all in one day.

But gun rights are not on my bucket list. My fiancé has one, so I’m good to go.

I used to use Tumblr to express my darkest thoughts because I was too ashamed to let others know what sometimes goes through my mind. Then I realized people express personal stuff all the time on Facebook: what they ate, what sickness they contracted, the color of their babies’ shit, how crabby they are, so on and so forth. So now I’m choosing to reveal the rawest parts of me on my website’s blog because it is the only way to get people to recognize that a mental illness can be like any other illness. I’m a very self-aware person, and I hope that’s obvious in some of my posts.

We’re just afraid of mental illness because people sometimes hurt themselves to cope. People can become suicidal. In rare cases, people can become dangerous, but this is rare, so rare it shouldn’t even be a factor because “normal” people can be just as dangerous. I’m more likely to hurt myself than others.

So I’m coming out and saying that I have bipolar Type I Rapid Cycling. I hate it. I hate that I have to deal with this, but it’s here to stay and so I must. All I can do is use it to my advantage, and it does have some perks: I feel more creative, I’m so much more sensitive toward other people, I’m more self-aware now, and I feel like I have an even greater capacity to help those in need. Plus, I can just think of all the greats in history who have my illness. Sure, some of them didn’t survive, but they also didn’t have treatment. So on days where I feel a pity party emerging, I think of all those greats and wonder if they would have been able to do what they did without their illnesses. It’s possible, their works just would have been different, I suppose.

Don’t hide behind pity, shame, self-hate, or stigma. Come out and be loud and demand to be heard. It’s okay to hate your illness, but don’t drown in pity because of it. Make the best of it and be proud that you’re managing it in spite of how sucky it can be.

 

How am I doing today, specifically this morning? Crap. I didn’t sleep well last  night because my anxiety kicked in out of nowhere. So all I want to do is sleep, and, frankly, not wake up for a while. A long while. When a depressed person doesn’t get sleep, symptoms are intensified.

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2 comments on “Braving the Stigma of Mental Illness

  1. Raeyn
    April 16, 2013

    Very well and bravely put.

    The sleep thing became extra apparent to me once I had regular decent sleep (compliments of Seroquel, for my rapid cycling Bipolar II). It kind of scares me the difference it has made, and realizing just how not great to be around I was before (and not that great to be, obviously).

  2. Pingback: The Dancing Writer’s Pointe Shoes and Awards | Amber Skye Forbes

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