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