Mental illness is not fun. It’s not trendy, it’s not cool. It can, and for many does, make life unbearable to live through each and every day. It claims many lives each year, in a variety of ways. From suicide to accidents, overdoses and lapse of judgement. Mental illness is not a game, an accessory, or a special trendy label to slap on in order to make oneself more interesting.
It has a very powerful stigma attached to it. A stigma that varies from type to type, but they all have the stereotypes, the stigmas attached.
What has led me to write this post, as someone who struggles with Bipolar Type 2 among other issues in my every day life, is a combination of disgust and disbelief. There are out there individuals (mostly on Tumblr) who will take to Google and self-diagnose (self-dx) mental illnesses in themselves. These individuals do not look at the symptoms, look at the possibilities that match up to them and then think, “Hey, this looks like it’s pretty serious. I’d better go see a doctor about this.” No. Instead, these individuals look at their symptoms, go to places like WebMD and Google, type them in and whatever comes up that seems to be the most severe, “Well, the symptoms fit so I must be schizophrenic!” At which point they add such to a long list of other mental illnesses that they’ve collected.
I have lost count of the number of self-dxers who claim to have Autism. But they never have the severe end of the spectrum. They’ve only got the “cool” parts. Like Rainman. The Asperger’s end of the spectrum. As a wife to a man with Autism, and as a sister to a man who had Autism (he is now deceased, hence the past tense) this is greatly offensive to me. I have no doubt that at least some of these children do legitimately have a form of Autism. However, unless you are looking specifically for pages and blogs about the subject, I doubt that every single person in a 200 group sampling ALL have the SAME form of Autism. Asperger’s, especially, is more rare in women than in men. Most self-dxers I’ve encountered are also women. I doubt that even half the number of them actually are Autistic in any sense of the term. This is but one example of the hundreds of mental illnesses I’ve seen co-opted for use as trendy little labels for people to change at will.
Waking up each day, not knowing if or when you’re going to hit a depressive phase or a manic phase in your cycle is not fun. I do not enjoy losing my shit because maybe today is the day I get triggered off by a fork left in the sink. I don’t like having to take medication to make sure I don’t get suicidal because the cake I made slipped off the platter and hit the floor. I didn’t choose to be this way. And managing it as well as I do is a daily fight. A fight for my sanity, and sometimes a fight for my life. But I take those meds, and I continue my treatment plan, because it helps me to function. It helps me get through my day.
Each and every time I come across someone who proudly, ignorantly proclaims they have such and such mental illness because they self-dxed it, with NO training whatsoever to back up their seld-dx, I get angry. I get upset. Because what sane person on this planet would CHOOSE this kind of life for themselves? WHY would someone want to be this way? WHY would someone CHOOSE to take on the stigmas and stereotypes associated with mental illness?
Mental illness in general has also been on my mind a lot this week. Monday I learned my little sister has been diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder. What type, I do not yet know. She doesn’t speak to me, but did ask my mother what medication I am on, what my treatment plan is like, and what my official diagnosis was. That’s the most interest she’s shown in me and my life since our dad died last September. Her diagnosis was made, I think, either late last week or early this week. My mom said she’ll let me know more when she knows anything. The brat may hate me, but now at least she’ll understand some of what I’ve been going through. Not that I would have ever wished this on her, but she’ll now see it from a perspective she didn’t have before. Where once she used to be taken in by the stereotypes and the stigmas, she’ll have to manage her own condition and learn what it’s been like for both me and my mother all these years. I do wish her the best of luck and success in whatever treatment plan she puts together with her doctors. And if she ever needs to talk or anything, well, she knows where and how to reach me. And like I’ve said before, my door is open and I won’t turn her away.