It’s funny isn’t it; I’ve suffered with mental health issues since I was thirteen years old and I speak to hundreds of other people that do also, either through this blog or in daily life. But yet, my perceptions of it all are still wrong.
I don’t in any way recognise sufferers as being weak or expect any less from them, because I know how much strength it takes for me to go on sometimes; I think we’re the strongest people out there. To live with an illness that impacts life so much and to live with it every single day for the rest of our lives is remarkable. Sure, sometimes our illnesses can be cured or fade with age, but the majority of us just learn to manage.
I go about my normal day as though nothing is wrong. I go to university, I go to work, I see my friends, family and boyfriend. But it’s only when you look really carefully that you notice that I walk to these places. I ‘can’t be bothered’ to come out when everyone’s going to the cinema, or I’d rather see it when it comes out on DVD; because I have a fear of structured seating plans – they make me feel trapped. I can’t leave Leeds unless someone I know and trust drives, and so I find myself walking around the same streets day after day not seeing anything else. I miss lectures when they’re higher than the first floor of a building because that’s a problem also.
But if you see me walking down the street, you wouldn’t know anything’s wrong.
Yet, if I see someone else walking down the street, I still expect to see it. I wouldn’t judge them in any way, but I expect to notice that they’re not OK – which is utterly ridiculous. I have friends (both in the real world and virtually!) that have depression, bipolar, anxiety, schizophrenia – yet when I take it out of context of the people I know, I still have preconceived pictures of what these things look like.
Stigmatisation of mental illness needs to stop and I believe that more than anyone, but my question is – how do we accomplish this with people that don’t understand, if even those of us that do understand still don’t really get it?
There are so many illnesses out there, both physical and mental, that we couldn’t possibly begin to understand them all in a realistic and empathetic way. So how do we not momentarily judge someone in the street because of something they’ve just done/said? We might feel bad about it afterwards, but we still judge in the first place, no matter how much we try not to. It’s human nature.