My tongue is in my hand…

There’s no fairy dust

Posted on: May 3, 2008

Why is it so hard to believe that mental illness is an illness? It has symptoms, it has treatments. You don’t have to see cancer oozing out of someone to believe when someone says they have it. And what is the general consensus when someone is being treated for cancer? Give them a break, help them and their family out, treat them with care, encourage them to do whatever it takes to get better. Yet when someone is diagnosed as mentally ill, this doesn’t happen. Why? It’s still an illness. It will eat away at someone until they disappear, until they become a stranger, even to themselves, until it kills them off. It’s still scary for the people dealing with it personally or in a loved one. There’s no magic button a person can press to just be better any more than someone with any other illness can. There are just combat techniques.

Depression is mental illness. Anxiety is mental illness. Among other things of course, but these are the most underestimated. People acknowledge the illness of these illnesses the least. Probably because everyone has felt, at some point, a level of depression, a level of anxiety. And they got over it, so why can’t everyone else, right?

But disease treats everyone differently, affects everyone differently. And just like with other illnesses, there are ways to build immunities or to catch it early and nip it in the bud. And just like cancer: it can happen to anyone, it can catch someone off guard, it can rest in someone’s body like a benign tumor and then for some reason, turn malignant, metastasize. There are people who can barrel their way through it. And there will also be people who are in constant recovery, or remission, some who will have flares ups or multiple bouts, some who never make it out…

As with other illnesses, it only seems to be spreading wider, developing new strains, and becoming more commercialized (movies, books, advertisements for meds). But still, when it comes down to it and someone is weighted with depression, grasped in anxiety, sitting in the debris of their former self, people act like they made it up, like if they just say enough prayers and think enough happy thoughts they can Peter Pan their way out of it. LIke thoughts and prayers are all you need-fairy dust.

Not to discount positive thinking and prayer, but when someone’s mind is sick, to think positive, to pray faithfully are much easier said than done.

And then there’s the stigma when mental illness is acknowledged.

Don’t we graciously accept the bald cancer patient, compliment their wig, or hat, shave our heads in support? Don’t we send sick children to Disney World and arrange meet and greets with their favorite celebrity? Don’t we research the disease, the treatments, the side effects till we are experts? Don’t we make allowances for bad days? Don’t we go out of our way?

What’s so hard about supporting someone who’s dealing with mental illness? To be perfectly honest, everything. But that doesn’t give us an out. God knows it’s hard to see anyone suffer and it’s hard to support someone who is ill, but we do it for other illnesses, we need to do it for each other when the illness is a mental illness just as we do otherwise. We as people are failing each other when we don’t.


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