October 14, 2014

Mental Illness is an A**hole.

depression anxiety

Warning: naughty language ahead. 

Living with mental illness is a difficult thing.

Despite television’s desire to cast us all as creative geniuses, the simple fact is: living with any chronic and persistent health condition is a burden.

While I am proud that I regularly “win” my battle with bipolar and anxiety disorders, I would much rather not have to deal with these issues. I have accepted my lot in life and it is my cross to bear, but it in no way means I have to like it.

In a world where friends are assholes, parents are assholes, and even adorable, little three-year-olds are assholes, there is no reason that psychological disorders get a pass. Internet trends, memes, and themes being what they are, I’m going to throw it straight under the bus:

Mental illness is an asshole. A big, angry, twisted asshole. It’s a self-righteous, inconsiderate jerk. If it were a person, it would be Hitler.

For as much fuss as bloggers and activists make about fighting mental illness, we often forget to mention that this isn’t a fair fight. Not even a little bit. The disease doesn’t respect us at all and uses sneak attacks and old-fashioned bullying to torment us.

Take my anxiety disorder as an example. It takes a great deal of pride in being completely unpredictable. Anxiety will almost always wait until a big event I have been planning for months arrives, before it begins screwing with me.

Anxiety stays away during the preparation stages to ensure I’ve already spent the money on tickets and invited all my friends, guaranteeing that the ensuing panic attack will be witnessed by as many people as possible. What else can you call that but an asshole move?

Bipolar disorder, clinical depression, schizophrenia and the like have no respect for the people whose life they impact. But, if those people want to have any chance at wellness, they’d better show their opponent a great deal of respect. It would be counterproductive not to. While mental illness is a complete asshole, it is a formidable foe and pretending it isn’t will only give it more power.

I look at this asshole like a house fire.

I don’t want my house to catch on fire and I don’t want to be harmed or injured. Smoke detectors, fire escapes, fire extinguishers and so on all help keep me safe in the event a fire breaks out. Even though I have never been in a burning house, I’m ready. I am prepared.

If we start thinking about mental illness like a fire, we can start thinking about reasonable ways to prepare. Just as not all fire safety tips are good ones, the same holds true here. We need to look for reasonable and successful ways to ready ourselves. While this won’t eliminate all the pain and suffering, it will take away some.

My strategy is not to ignore what I cannot control, but to prepare for it. Assholes don’t like to be confronted and a lot of their power comes from surprise attacks. As annoying as it is, every day when I wake up, I think to myself, “Mental illness is an asshole.”

Because I’m always on guard for assholes and love putting them in their place.

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Editor: Catherine Monkman

Photo: AnnDeeF/Deviantart


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Linda J Apr 6, 2016 4:59am

You are spot on with your view that we need to keep up our preparations in case the arsehole Mental IIlness should sneak back and do us harm. I have a toolbox of things that I know I have to keep practicing to keep well. Sleep and healthy nutrition are my NO 1's. Even my holidays revolve around me getting enough sleep. Time outside in nature, gratitude practice, meditation practice and educating myself about these illnesses are all important practices for me. It is sad that people never ask how you are going with these illnesses. If you had cancer people would show you way more concern. It is the silence that kills. I pride myself as a lady but I am going to say that Mental Health issues fucking suck.Good luck in your journey Gabe. I really enjoy your posts.

Nov 19, 2014 8:41am

"My strategy is not to ignore what I cannot control, but to prepare for it. " – well said! This was a fantastic article; really happy I came across it. I find myself finding solace in reading about mental illness, how other people cope with it, treatment options, etc. I want to recommend to you and your readers a book series entitled “Healing the Mind and Body” by Dr. Paul D. Corona (http://drpaulcoronamd.com/). I have been making my way through many different mental health books over the years and this one was recommend by a friend, and it was a very interesting read. Often I find myself overwhelmed with information provided in these kinds of books, but Dr. Corona writes in a way that the content can be fully absorbed and understood by an average reader (not difficult medical jargon like many of the others). 1 in 4 people suffer from some sort of mental health issue in the US and I think we can all cope a little better if we use resources such as this to understand the new and emerging treatments available to us. Hope you will give it a read! It definitely helped me to prepare!

Gary kleiner Oct 17, 2014 8:06am

I would like to to take this mental illness is an asshole one step further. We have to understand how the disease works. I will describe my mental illness as Satanic like shape shifting beings. Truly assholes, having to be dealt with, understood but are evil. I have lived with anxiety/depression/ocd and add for 20 years. At its worse it takes over you where you are no longer you.

I would like others to have a little empathy, I don't strive to be controlled by this beastly disease as a cancer patient fights off their plight

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Gabe Howard

Gabe Howard is a motivational speaker, award-winning advocate, mental illness blogger and writer, as well a person living with severe bipolar and anxiety disorders. In the past ten years, he has made it his mission to put a face on mental illness that isn’t stereotypical. Society often sees people living with mental illness at their worst and he works to add a more balanced view to the conversation. Gabe is frequently irreverent, often too loud, and always unpredictable, but anyone who knows him will tell you that life would be so boring without him. You can connect with Gabe on TwitterFacebook and his website.