Mental illnesses are treated differently than physical illnesses. The latter is seen as a real problem, a cause for worry and there is an urgent need to care and cure it. The former, mental illness, is usually swept aside, undermined and, at times, made fun of. Mental disorders are as serious as any physical illness. The idea that because it cannot be seen, thus it does not hurt as much as a physical wound is a myth and, at best, invalidating.
When we live in a social space that actively works to silence and discredit those who have mental illnesses it is hard for those who have it to find care and help for their illness. We are told to ‘just feel better,’ ‘stop being a drama queen/attention seeker,’ or my favorite ‘just think happy thoughts/ stop worrying.’ This of course, is the equivalent of telling and amputee to grow their leg back and be ‘normal’ (whatever that means) again. When we give into that mentality and stop caring for our, and others, mental health we end up propagating and supporting a society that stigmatizes and dehumanizes people with mental disorders.
Mental disorders are more common than people think. Phobias, addictions, anxiety, depression, panic attacks, all of these and more have been experienced at least once by any human any given moment. The problem stems not from not experiencing it but by not talking about it. By creating safe spaces and brave spaces where we openly talk about mental health, we end up creating spaces where we talk about self-care.
Self-care, in my attempt to define it, is an activity or action that moves you towards wellness, feeling better, building up self-esteem, or simply taking a break from a stressful situation. Self-care can range from something as active as cardio to something as mellow as mindfully drinking tea. When we care for ourselves, when we carve out time to realize that we need some good ol’ TLC, we move towards wellness. We move towards self-love and building healthier boundaries for ourselves and those around us.
Medication tends to be deemed the pinnacle of ‘crazy’. As in, taking psychotropic, antidepressants and anxiolytic pills are the sure mark that a person has fallen into the mental illness abyss and will never be ‘normal.’ Nevertheless, medication for mental disorders is just another way of self-care. It is just another tool people use to help them work through their genetically produced disorder. Much like diabetics need insulin, and asthmatics need an inhaler, some people with mental disorders need medication.
Be it self-care, medication, or both, when you have a mental disorders (much like physical illnesses) it is important to care for yourself. Your mental disorder may not have a cure but it does not mean that you have to be miserable forever. Using the tools that you are given (self-care, medication, therapy) can go a long way as you grow, develop and blossom into the bad-ass person you are meant to be.
Take care of yourself. Remember, no one will ever love you as much as you love yourself.
P.S. Need ideas for self-care?