Hmmm, well, no. Actually that is a mountain and medication… Shit is what you step in when you aren’t careful while walking around in nature. Shit is a biological process that helps eliminate waste from our system. Everyone poops… I think you get the picture.
This meme showed up in my Facebook feed yesterday. Initially, I wasn’t sure how to react. At first I thought I should just scroll past, as I’ve been doing with so many negative posts lately. However, I noticed how many people were ‘liking’ the picture, which led to me reading some of the comments. Then, the anger started to rise up in me. This! This ‘innocent’ little meme. This, right here, is part of the problem. This is the stigma against mental illness. This says all the wrong things. This says mental illness is a choice. This says I just have to get up and go outside. This says I’m wrong, I’m shit, for needing medication. The original post had thousands of comments and I did not read all of them, for obvious reasons. It did seem, however, that most of them were positive which was good to see. A few people had some great alternative meme’s.
Like this one:
So, where do I even begin with this? I’m guess I’m glad it was posted and that the original post is mostly filled with positive comments. It provided an opportunity to speak up about mental illness and the stigma attached to it. But what we’re up against here is big. When will mental illness be accepted and viewed the same as any other illness? It starts with this. It starts with people telling their stories, being brave enough to take the chance. It takes pioneers willing to lead the way. Not everyone is going to be able to do that and that is okay. Lend your voice anonymously if you can. Share your story with me and I will tell it with confidentiality. Challenge people. Encourage people to ask questions and engage in positive dialogue. I think it’s critical that the world see us as we are. We are regular people. We aren’t monsters to be feared.
I was thinking of how I could explain mental illness in a way that would be helpful, easy to understand, less scary than the world likes to picture. Let’s suppose I have placed 20 people with autism in a room. You will see some similarities. But you will also see many differences. They all have the same diagnosis, but vary widely in their characteristics. Some will be taking medication, some will be monitoring what they eat, and some will be participating in activities that will help them be more comfortable, healthy and happy.
Lets fill that same room with 20 people who have diabetes. You will see some similarities. But you will also see many differences. They all have the same diagnosis, but vary widely in their characteristics. Some will be taking medication, some will be monitoring what they eat, and some will be participating in activities that will help them be more comfortable, healthy and happy.
Now let’s fill the room with 20 people who have depression. Will you see monsters? No! You will see people. You will see some similarities. But you will also see many differences. They all have the same diagnosis, but vary widely in their characteristics. Some will be taking medication, some will be monitoring what they eat, and some will be participating in activities that will help them be more comfortable, healthy and happy.
Is that simple enough? It seems pretty clear to me. People without illness have a choice in how they view and treat people with illnesses. People with any kind of illness don’t have a choice in what cards they are dealt, but they do have choices in how they want to manage those illnesses. Not everyone needs medication, but some do. And it is okay. It is a personal choice that should not be condemned, especially by people who have no idea what it’s like to live with mental illness. I want everyone who is struggling with mental illness to know that I am going to accept you, support you and encourage you, no matter if you choose medication or not.
Depression, along with any other disease, illness, or disability is not a choice. No one chooses any of these things. And though we may share the same diagnosis, we do not all fit into the same box. I have had clinical depression for over 20 years. During that time I have been on and off medication. There have been times when I have been able to manage it without medication. I appreciate those times. I have the ability to participate in the strategies that I need in order to stay healthy, including spending a lot of time in nature. But, because depression is not a choice, it’s a chemical imbalance in my brain, there are also times when it becomes too heavy. And during those times, I appreciate the fact that I can choose to take medication. That means I am taking care of myself. That means I am making myself stronger. When I am in a major depressive episode, I can’t possibly go out and spend time in nature. I’m lucky if I can even get out of bed. Or when I cry while I’m trying to fall asleep, and I wake up crying, or I can’t choke down my food because I’m crying. What should I do then? Are you going to come over and pick me up and wheel me around in nature? I doubt it. But if you do, make sure you bring Kleenex because I’ll still be crying.
I’m going to keep fighting for myself. I’m going to keep fighting for everyone experiencing mental health issues. I’m going to keep fighting to end the stigma against mental illness. I’m going to keep fighting.
~Till I Collapse~