Today’s media often romanticizes depression. You see it on social media, you hear it in music, it’s everywhere but yet no one really seems to notice. You hear about these famous actors, and musicians, and writers, all dying from suicide due to mental illness and people don’t stop and think about how hard it must of been for them. They simply put them on a pedestal and say how amazing they were.
I was like most people, I didn’t realize how we were romanticizing mental illness, until I was diagnosed. I didn’t feel the glamour, like Marilyn Monroe or the power, like the Hulk. I wasn’t full of knowledge, like Hemingway. I wasn’t able to make people laugh, like Robin Williams. All I saw was the darkness, and hollowness of depression. I saw the scary side of depression, I saw the side that Virginia Woolf and Kurt Cobain saw.
Once I saw mental illness in that light, I assumed everyone else did to. After I told one of my coworkers that I had insomnia, and he replied with “Thats so cool!”, I realized that people didn’t know the truth.
I think it so easy for people to see mental illness as “cool” sometimes because as humans we only think about what is right in front of us, we often ignore what’s hidden in the background. We see someone in front of us smiling and laughing, so we assume they’re happy. We don’t wonder what they’re like when they’re alone, or when no one is watching them. I’m not asking for pity here, and I’m not trying to place blame or scare anyone, but the truth is depression is not just being sad, taking your meds and getting over it.
I recently was reminded of the not so great side of mental illness. I couldn’t get in to see my doctor in time to get my medication refilled, which ended in me going through withdrawals. It wasn’t pretty. Not only was I physically sick with nausea, exhaustion, dizziness, shaking, sweating, temperature changes and so on, but I was also couldn’t stop thinking of how I was a “drug-addict”, and how sad it was that I can’t function without these medications. When I finally did get to see my doctor and I was back on my medications I immediately felt better. Which just made me so frustrated! These stupid red pills made me feel better in a matter of hours, when the past four days nothing else helped at all. I don’t like not being in control, so for me, that was the worst part. But now I realize that just because you’re not being in control doesn’t mean you’re out-of-control.
Based on my own experiences, I don’t think there is anything cool about mental illness, what I think is cool is surviving, and living with mental illness. Which for me, can feel pretty touch and go sometimes. I can feel great one day, and two days later my mood will plummet. Which is pretty normal for most people with depression. When I get like this I find it helps to think of the lotus flower, and how it can only grow from mud but still becomes beautiful flower. Maybe it’s the same lotus that leads us to romanticize mental illness. From the side of the pond you only see the petals, open to the sunlight, you forget about the murky waters just below, the mud from which the flower grew.