Thursday, May 23, 2013

It Doesn't Discriminate

Most people have preconceived notions of what mental illness looks like, sounds like, and acts like. There are images of the old asylums and dirty hospital walls. Moaning drooling people rocking back and forth in filthy tattered hospital gowns. Vintage pictures depicting scary unkempt looking people with malformed sneers and strange far off stares.

These are not accurate depictions of mental illness today. Yes, there are drooling moaning people but most of us are not. Most of us look perfectly normal. This creates issues because a lot of people have a hard time separating the fact that just because we look normal does not meant that we are.

One in four people will suffer from mental illness in their lifetime. One in four. Let that sink in for a second. How many people do you know?  How many groups of four can you come up with? Just because they do not talk about it does not mean that they do not suffer from mental illness. It usually takes a while for us to be comfortable to share that information with people. They may suffer and you may have no idea. You could even be the one person in four.

Some people are born with mental illness. Looking back in my long line of family members, I only can name two or three that did not suffer from mental illness. Both my siblings and I suffer from different mental illness. My oldest uncle , my mother, and my aunt suffer from mental illness or suffered from it.  My grandmother and grandfather, my great grandmothers on both sides and my grandfather's father. There are too many of them to count. It is no wonder that I am the way I am. We grew up in a house that was slightly cracked. Our homes which seemed normal to the outside world had slight or sometimes major signs of mental illness.
Some people develop mental illness from genetics and some develop mental illness from trauma. Some are rich, some are poor, some educated, some not, some are raised in abusive homes, some had normal healthy childhoods. It doesn't matter what race you are, your upbringing, your social status or monetary value, your gender, your sexual preference, your religion or views, mental illness does not discriminate. It is not prideful or judgmental. It is an illness and as such it will not care how much money you make a year or how much your outfits cost. It is not selective.

Some people have mental illness in their family history and yet are perfectly fine. Some do not have a family history and are sufferers. There really is no way at this time to gauge why it affects some people and not others.

What is certain is that no matter what we do in life, if we are sufferers we have to stand up and be counted. We have to erase the notion that we are dirty, unkempt, frightening or scary. We need to show our faces and show the world that we are the faces of mental illness. We need to show the world that we are what mental illness looks like. That we do not look like vintage pictures. We look like normal people. I believe that these out dated notions promote stigma. They help to create false notions of what it is to suffer from mental illness. We have to talk openly about not only what we go through but about the negative connotations that help promote stigma. We can not stay silent and expect anything to change.  We have to be able to enlighten the people that do not understand. We have to promote the truth and tear down the images and preconceived ideas about who we are, how we act, and what we look like. We have to remove stigma and we have to start by being honest. Mental illness does not discriminate and we need to show that by unveiling the truth. We need to stop acting like it only affects the poor, the uneducated, the fringe of society. Mental illness can and does affect all classes, all genders,all races, and all ages. [tweet this].

 I am one of the four that suffer from mental illness. I am one of the many faces of mental illness. This is what mental illness looks like.

I am not a scary, filthy, drooling, sneering, unkempt, person that stares off into space and drools. I am just a person trying to live my life as best as I can. I don't want your pity or your condemnation. I want your respect and your understanding.

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