Saturday, 11 June 2016

Mental illness is not a competition

I'm so sick and tired of seeing people "compete" over who is the most mentally ill. I've mainly seen it over social media, and more times than I would've liked to. You'd think that those individuals would know how hard it is, right? Not only how hard it is, but how debilitating and life changing it can be. I, for one, know how awful being mentally ill is, and if I could snap my fingers and get rid of it, I'd do it in a heartbeat.

There are so many different mental illnesses, that I couldn't possibly name them all; personality disorders, anxiety, depression, bipolar, schizophrenia, psychosis, anorexia, bulimia, the list goes on. Each and every person who is mentally unwell is fighting their own battle, day in, day out. So why do some people feel the need to turn it into a competition? It seems as though it's about how many times you've been inpatient, how bad your self harm is, how much you eat, etc.

I hate how having a mental illness has turned into a competition, because we should be supporting each other. It seems as though you can't talk about how bad you're feeling or that you're getting worse, without someone saying they've already been inpatient and they're only 14, or that they've been inpatient several times. You can't talk about self harm without someone commenting on how they've had loads of gaping wounds and needed stitches, while all you do is punch walls. You can't discuss anything in relation to food or weight without someone mentioning they've gone days without eating, or they've already had the NG tube 3 times. There's always someone who points out how many times they've been to A&E, or how many encounters they've had with the police.

It seems as though you can't talk about your mental illness without someone pointing out that they've had it "worse". It shouldn't matter how bad your self harm is, or how many times you've been inpatient, or even if you're receiving help. It's no wonder people don't like talking about being mentally unwell because there's always someone who doesn't think your sick enough because you're not underweight, you've never tried to kill yourself or you've never received medical treatment for self harm. I've seen people say to others "you've never been inpatient, you're only diagnosed with depression, you aren't that bad". There's an attitude of "well you aren't as bad as me so get on with it" surrounding mental health, and it has to stop. No one knows how much a mental illness affects someone because you aren't inside their head. One person with the same illness may keep it all inside, whereas another may verbalise it or act out.

No one should have to worry about whether they're "sick" enough, because if you are suffering from a mental illness, or if you just don't feel quite right, then there's something wrong. It doesn't matter whether you're diagnosed with depression, schizophrenia, ocd, or a personality disorder. It doesn't matter how many times you've relapsed. It doesn't matter how bad your self harm is.

It doesn't matter.

People should be encouraging others and supporting them in their recovery, or at least supporting them with what they're going through, and not belittling their problems and making them feel worse. At the end of the day, everyone that suffers from a mental illness is unwell. Comparing how "serious" someone's mental illness is compared to someone else's, or belittling their illness, isn't going to help you find happiness.

My piece of advice is this:

Go at your own pace.

Don't listen to others when they say you should be recovering at a faster pace. Because you never know, that may set you back even more. Go with what you feel comfortable with. Recovery isn't about how fast you go, it's about how much progress you make.

And one more thing:

Don't compare yourself to others.


Recovery is a journey, not a destination. 

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