This article is for those without a mental illness, I aim to shed some light and clarity on exactly what it is that we experience as mentally ill individuals; and the problems which stem from stigma, misinformation, and all too common misconceptions about mental illness. Although this article is mainly intended for those without a mental illness, I would love to hear the opinions of others who suffer from a mental illness on this matter.
As individuals who do suffer from a mental illness, we hear the typical “everyone feels like that sometimes”, “we all feel like that”, “at least you’re not ______” all too often. It is the stigma, misinformation, and misconceptions that contribute to leading you to think that you know what it is like to suffer from a mental illness, which I can guarantee you don’t, whilst you downplay our illnesses as normal thoughts, feelings and experiences, which we are clearly overreacting to; we are simply lazy, unlikeable people in the eyes of the ignorant.
Here’s the thing: you do not feel what we feel, a mental illness is called a mental illness for that exact reason, it’s an illness. We are not experiencing normal human emotions, thoughts or experiences, otherwise we would not be diagnosed by medical professionals as mentally ill. Mental illness twists, modifies, and intensifies what would be normal human emotions, thoughts and experiences by a horrifically incredible amount. We do not perceive the world in the way that you do, a mental illness will affect every single aspect of your life, changing your life and the person you are entirely. However, you have to adapt to this, you have to adapt to living with a mental illness; we are given no choice. If you suffer from a psychotic disorder, not only are our thoughts and emotions being affected, our sensory perception will be affected to; leaving us to live our lives in a reality that you are not aware of.
I have found that the issue tends to be that people who do not suffer from a mental illness attempt to equate our experiences to their own, they relate our mental illnesses to the normal every day negative situations that they experience; you perceive and judge us through eyes of ignorance. Depression is not sadness, mania is not happiness, psychosis isn’t seeing something out of the corner of your eye; anxiety is not nervousness, our illnesses are not your emotions.
The following quote resonates strongly with me on this issue:
“The humanity we share is more important than the mental illness that we don’t”
– Professor Elyn R. Saks
Individuals who suffer from mental illnesses should not be cast aside, declared lazy, be told that we are not trying hard enough, or that we are not ill at all; we need to be showed compassion, empathy, and care. We are all humans, our lives may be very different, we may be very different, but that does not make us inferior to those who do not suffer from a mental illness.
Until the day you wake up and know how it feels to have to fight and struggle with your mind every second of the day to simply survive, to feel the weight of the world cave in on your chest, desperately grasping to hold onto the things you know and love whilst your illness strips it all away from you, don’t you dare tell me you know how it feels.