The thing about anxiety is that it is the most common neurological disorder, but also the least understood.
Being sad is an emotion; and one by nature, are temporary creatures. Anyone can be sad. Everyone at some point will be sad. But not everyone has depression.
My OCD, depression and anxiety came hand in hand, a confusing little threesome that I was really not prepared for at the tender age of 15. The feeling of frustration at not being able to think my way out of my own depression. That’s what society expects after all. It’s too overwhelming. Too irrational. You can appreciate all the reasons you have to live and all the blessings in your life, but still feel bad about it. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve been told to ‘do things that make you happy!’ and to ‘Get a grip’. Mental illness is not a choice, it is never a choice, and to tell someone who is suffering with one is the stupidest thing you could do.
Mental Health Stigma
It’s always been a passion of mine to challenge the stigmatizing misconceptions that shadow mental illness. When I was diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, I was at the brunt end of it.
‘He/she is a bit OCD’ or ‘I’m really OCD about this or that’ have come to be used with everyday vocabulary, and is usually described by anyone who is slightly particular about the way things are done, or have everyday quirks that we all have. When I first spoke out about my OCD, it was ignored by a lot of people, and I was told ‘everyone is a bit OCD.’ However, OCD is not an illness that bothers, it is an illness that tortures, and fails to convey the disabling anxiety that the disorder entails. Have a read of my OCD and Me post for information of what the illness ACTUALLY is.
Although most mental illness are a victim of this. ‘I’m really depressed’ when someone is a bit sad for a genuine reason, or ‘I’m bipolar’ for people who have a hormonal mood swing a couple of times a day. These phrases trivialize and belittle the issues and prevent sufferers from speaking out to avoid being ridiculed and not taken seriously. It may sound dramatic, but it’s completely true. Bill Clinton once said:
‘Mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of, but stigma and bias shame us all.’
It has become socially acceptable to mock OCD and to laugh at people with a mental illness. Although, this doesn’t come from a perspective of hate. It comes from ignorance.
An issue that I feel so strongly about is the reaction to mental health in comparison to physical health. Good, accessible mental health care should be with you from birth and the attention to mental health should be as comprehensive as physical care, but it clearly is not. This is proven by the outrageous two year waiting list for mental health patients to receive treatment. The ambulance service for the NHS recently issued a statement for this matter that read:
‘An ambulance would be here within eight minutes if you had a heart attack but if you hold a knife to your throat and say you are Jesus Christ, it is quite possible the ambulance won’t come and you will be transported in a police car even though you haven’t committed a crime, and you may also end up in a cell, which has all sorts of implications.’
This is undoubtedly true, and quite frankly, it makes me feel physically sick. Mental health and physical health are inextricably connected, however they seem to be valued on completely different levels. For example, if a patient has cancer, they would be showered with nothing but love and support. If a patient has a mental illness, they are disregarded and ridiculed, and told to ‘get over it and cheer up.’ Some people will think how the hell can I compare cancer to mental illness?! ‘Cancer kills people!’ I can explain. First of all, they are both illnesses. Cancer is a physical illness, mental disorders are a psychological illness. There would not be a 2 year waiting list for a cancer patient to be treated, so why is it acceptable to cut the mental health funding in the NHS and deprive mental health sufferers? It has recently been reported that suicide is the biggest killer among young men in the UK, and to back up my original point, suicide is often the unfortunate result of an uncontrolled psychological conflict. Mental illness, like cancer, can also kill people. So why is mental health still not treated on an equal platform to physical health?
A conclusion could be that physical illness can be seen by the naked eye, whereas mental illness cannot so it is dismissed. Unfortunately, it has to be experienced to be understood. However, this is no excuse. I vow to make this known.