If you’re reading this right now, you’re alive.
Well, unless literate ghosts are real. What if someone really famous is reading this over my shoulder right now, like George Washington or Tupac?! I hope it’s George. He knows a lot about revolutions. We need a revolution in the way society treats mental health. We’re headed there, we’re baby-stepping, but it’s time for that baby to learn how to run.
As I was saying, if you’re reading this then you’re (probably) alive. For some people, that’s the biggest accomplishment they’ll make today. Staying alive is a lot harder for some people than it is for others. For those of you staying alive today, I salute you (no offense, George).
I recently had a talk about mental illness with my sister (she’s a junior in college majoring in neuroscience). She mentioned that every time she gets to choose a research project, she tries to do something dealing with bipolar disorder. Unfortunately, she said, cutting edge research in mental illness is overwhelmingly on anxiety and depression, and diseases such as bipolar disorder and schizophrenia get put on the back burner.
She’s thinking about going to grad school to do research on less common mental illnesses. She also wants to help break stigma when it comes to those. “Everyone wants to break stigma for anxiety and depression,” she said, “because it’s so common now. But you’re bipolar? Well, you’re not just crazy. You’re super crazy. People are still going to be freaked out about you.”
Ah, the things she says. Thanks a lot, baby sister.
Behind the somewhat offensive explanation, she has a point. It’s great that people want to break stigmas for mental illness so that more people will go get the help they need, but how often to we hear testimonies normalizing schizophrenia? Multiple personality disorder? Bipolar disorder? They feel few and far between compared to the ocean of people posting to social media about “This is what it’s like to live with my anxiety disorder.”
It’s true that our diseases are rarer (more rare? rarer?), but I want to be invited to the party! I want my illness to be seen as acceptable too! I want people to research wtf is going on in my brain so that they can fix it!
I’m not sure how to make that happen.
I don’t want people to make jokes about bipolar disorder. I don’t want people to be freaked out by me when they learn I have it. I want to feel like I’m okay as a person even though I have this illness (because if you’re under the delusion that all illnesses are socially acceptable, you’re wrong). We need a revolution (George! Are you reading?! Go haunt some people about this).
I’m encouraged by what I’ve seen in the normalization of certain mental health issues, but we still have a long way to go. You, reader, are in this blog community because you need support and/or because you’re supporting the rest of us. Thanks for that – it’s one step in the right direction.