Destigmatize, don’t romanticize


As somebody who has been diagnosed with anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and anorexia at different points throughout my adolescence, I have to say Im incredibly relieved that socially, were taking steps to remove the negative stigma associated with mental health issues and are beginning to treat them as what they are: health issues.

Growing up, I was one of those kids: great grades, student government, vice president of multiple clubs, athletics, and theatre. Ive always been the textbook overachiever, obsessed with maintaining a perfect image, so I have kept my mental health very private until recently, when I started taking medication to deal with my mental illness.

Im not afraid to say any of these things now that society is telling me that its acceptable to take medication, and I wont be judged for it just like I wouldnt be judged for taking antibiotics to treat a virus.

However, with that being said, there is something that our media and society are doing around the issue of mental illness that terrifies me, and thats romanticizing it.

There is nothing romantic about spending days on end in your room, terrified to leave your room, missing classes, meetings, and deadlines. There is nothing romantic about being kept up at night with flashbacks and panic attacks. And if youre at the point where you dont feel like your life is worth living anymore, what you leave behind wont be beautifully tragic. The damage will be messy and painful, and theres nothing beautiful about that.

While the success of things like Fifty Shades franchise and more recently, the Netflix series 13 Reasons Why brings awareness and gets people talking, they also perpetuate the unhealthy and dangerous idea that you can love someone hard enough to fix them.

This idea is damaging for everybody involvedif youre the one struggling with mental health, you feel as though theres something wrong with you for not feeling okay all the time, despite the fact that you may be surrounded by incredible people. You dont want to burden them, because you dont want them to feel guilty for you having a down day, or for not noticing the signs that something isnt going quite right.

And if your loved one has mental health issues, the romanticizing of it can make you feel guilty, or like you havent done enough, or if you had loved them more, or said something or done something differently, theyd be okay (we see a prime example of this with Clay in 13 Reasons Why). Its important to remember that when somebody is at a low enough point, they might not even be able to recognize how loved they are, and there isnt anything you can do differently. Remember that you are enough, too.

Thats not to diminish the importance of support or being kind to the people around you, but Ill say this again, you cant love someone hard enough to fix them.

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