Behind the Blog is a meme to help bloggers connect their life and interests to the content showcased on their blog. The co-hosts, Faye, Kathe, and Melissa will provide a different topic, idea, or question every week that bloggers can relate to themselves and the books, films, or other media they find interesting!
Unfortunately, in this day and age, there are still a lot of problems surrounding mental health. A large amount of the population are under-educated and ill-advised about mental illnesses and can often make some situations worse. Mental health is something that affects a large proportion of society but many will be too ashamed or worried to seek help because they fear their peers will not understand what is happening. So this week, to help support everyone with a mental illness, we’re asking you to talk about the subject in relation to your life. How has it affected you or your loved ones? In relation to media, are there any books or films that you feel highlight specific mental illnesses well or seem to damage their reputation?
Mental illness is something that worries me. Not the illness itself, but simply the amount of ignorance surrounding it. Growing up, I have heard many people pass the subject by, stating naive comments about mental illness as though it does not warrant the same care and attention that we have for other illnesses. It is almost as though most people assume that because it is “mental”, it cannot possibly be as damaging or severe as “physical” illnesses. This idea is completely and absolutely absurd and it really manages to get under my skin. It is the same ignorant thought that unless we can see the illness, it can’t possibly cause someone strain or stress. Just imagining that someone believes this causes me anger and masses of eye rolls.
Now, the problem I have is that I would say that I, myself, am still not fully educated in every single mental illness. I don’t know how different illnesses will effect different people and so I already have a very ignorant perspective on them, however, I can say that while I may not know the ins and outs of every mental illness – just as I don’t of every physical illness – I do understand that mental illnesses are as out of our hands as physical illnesses are. Another common misconception about mental illnesses are that people can simply “snap” out of them. Are you depressed? Then just stop being so. This thought is so far past being wrong but trying to explain this to some people can often be tiring and a dead-end battle.
But if there is one thing that I want to do in this post, it is to state outright that people do not ask to have a mental illness. No one wakes up one morning and decides that they will be depressed or anxious or paranoid. It is something that just happens, that we have no control over; it is simply our brains way of telling us that we have been doing too much for too long and it couldn’t cope anymore. Mental illness is not self-inflicted and while it is not contagious like a cold, it can happen to anyone. No one is immune, despite what some high-n-mighty fools may believe. And it is because of that, that people need to stop being so judgemental towards people with mental illnesses because it is downright hypocritical.
Why is this topic such a large issue with me? Because I have been surrounded by mental illness for a large proportion of my life. In high school I had friends who would self-harm, those who had suicide problems, a friend who had anorexia and someone else who had OCD. These are all mental illnesses. The actions that they did to their bodies or to the things around them was there way of coping with the things going wrong in their minds. To the outside observer, they would all look like happy, healthy people, but deep down their minds were attacking them, telling them that the only way to get rid of the pain inside is to cut themselves, or to stop eating, or to obsess on things they can control so that they can feel in control of something.
But I have also personally suffered from anxiety attacks and depression in the past. I would get so anxious sometimes that I would physically hurt. I would get pains throughout my body because I was stressing too much and my body was doing the only thing it could to tell me to stop and calm down. This is something that I have dealt with but I also know that it is not something that will ever completely go away. Whenever I feel my heart beat race, my panic rise and my shoulder starts aching, I know that whatever situation I am in is making me feel uncomfortable. I used to avoid these situations completely. There are a lot of things I didn’t do when I should have because I knew I would probably have an attack. Fortunately, however, in the last few years I have been learning how to avoid feeling so uncomfortable and how to deal with the attacks when they came upon me and my life has been a lot better since.
On the other hand, depression is the one that I worry about the most. Fortunately for me, I have never been suicidally-depressed, but I have gone through periods of my life where I struggled to sleep and then struggled to get out of bed in the morning, moments when I would find no happiness in anything, feeling numb to everything and not knowing how to fully get out of it. While we all experience sadness from time to time, I often worry when I get sad that I will sink into depression again and struggle to come back around but fortunately, this hasn’t happened in a long time. But I do know that if it does happen again, it will be completely out of my control, just as catching a cold is. I will also know that somehow, someway, I will get back out of it because I’ve done it before but not everyone will have that luxury.
Therefore, I ask that you try to keep an open mind when it comes to mental illnesses. If you have never before experienced what it is like, then you shouldn’t judge those that do. Would you judge someone who had diabetes or crohns? It is not something that they asked for but simply something they have. While mental illnesses may not occur because it is in our genes, they can occur from our environment – if we lose someone close to us, it’s easy to fall into depression, if we feel pressured by our peers to be perfect, we may do everything we can to look great, if we feel we’re losing control on life, our brains may tell us that something bad will happen if we don’t turn off every unused switch in the room. Fortunately, there is always a lot of help on hand for people with mental illnesses and if you’re willing to seek it out, then it is possible to get your life back to normal, or as normal as you’re able to make it.
While there are many books that focus on mental illnesses, including a lot of self-help books, here are a few that I have read this year and that I have truly enjoyed or have helped me in some way. They may not explicitly refer to mental illnesses, but they do deal with grief, sadness, depression and how to stand strong amongst it all.
Emerald City by Alicia K. Leppert The main protagonist in this story has depression and even attempts to commit suicide and the story is her journey back into normality, of finding her feet again and finding a way to be happy; truly happy.
Saving June by Hannah Harrington June has committed suicide. She left no note and Harper is left with the pieces of her broken life, wondering if she’s to blame for not paying enough attention. This story is not just about the journey to spread June’s ashes, but it is a story of how Harper deals with her sister’s death and how she learns to deal with her mental illness.
The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen Macy has lost her father and ever since then she has refused to go running and she has also started to make her life perfect. It is her way of coping because her perfection is something she can control, unlike her father’s death. This story tells of how she must learn to face her fathers’ death in order to feel happy again.
Black Heart Blue by Louisa Reid Rebecca has a deformity, she has been kept hidden from the world by her family and when she is finally able to go to college, her twin sister dies. Naturally a sadness washes over her and it is her journey into not just confronting her sisters death but also her path that makes this book so unique. It is not explicitly about mental illness but is an interesting look at it all the same.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chobsky This book is about an “abnormal” – wallflower – boy starting high school. It is a coming-of-age story that touches on the reasons why he doesn’t naturally fit in. It looks at dealing with issues gone passed and how they can have an irreversible effect on the future.
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