ROMANTICISATION OF MENTAL ILLNESS
My boyfriend explaining my OCD (neatly stacked books on a shelf)
“I want someone who would kiss my scars and love me anyway”
How OCD are you?
Silence is the most powerful scream.
Cute but psycho
Pretty girls don't eat
“I think suicidal people are just individuals who want to go home”
“I am jealous of people who have enough self-control not to eat.”
Opening my Instagram, almost every day, I see at least one of the posts similar to these. And I am sure that you must have also come across at least one of these at some point in life.
A decade ago, we were concerned about the stigmatization of mental illnesses - the taboo attached to psychopathology. But now the concern has shifted to the romanticization of mental disorders. Nowadays, mental health issues are so romanticized, so idealized, that they seem to have become desirable. Somehow, our move to 'delete the stigma' surrounding mental illnesses has drastically changed towards making them seem 'desirable'. While mental illness isn't something to be afraid of, it also does not mean that one should aspire to have it. Believe me or not, but this is the uncomfortable truth of our generation.
People everywhere, in the west, in Asian countries, in Latin countries, are wanting to have psychopathology. Youth have started to associate the words 'tragic' and 'beautiful'. They are talking about how beautiful is tragic. They have a mindset that having depression, anorexia nervosa, anxiety, bipolar disorder, OCD is related to strength. And strength is related to beauty. Thus mental illness is equated to beauty. No doubt that people with mental illnesses are strong and beautiful, but people aspiring and wishing to have depression and self-harming themselves so that they can 'sport' scars are nothing but downright horrible. Mental illness is not beautiful and pain is not pretty. Scars do show that you are strong, but they also show that you were so weak at one point that you hurt yourself.
Mental illnesses are real, they ruin lives. And I am no one to say otherwise. And I am not trying to. But, seeing our generation more and more open to ideas of panic attacks being cute, insomnia being cool, eating disorders being tragically beautiful, I feel sad. Because MENTAL ILLNESSES ARE NOT BEAUTIFUL.
Mental illness is exactly what the name suggests - an illness. They are all-consuming. People who suffer from them find it very difficult and embarrassing to talk about it, but people these days seem to think about these disorders as some desirable personality traits that make them more special than others. People are now flaunting depression and anxiety. There are pictures of women crying in their hands, of girls with running mascaras staring into sunset followed by a romanticized quote on mental illness all over social media. These pictures and quotes actually support the mindset that mental illness is cute and everyone will love you for it. But in reality, people who actually have mental illness are shying away from the world, they are too scared to open up. Various books are being written on various reading apps by youngsters, and trust me when I say that 7 out of them show the main character as having either depression or OCD or anxiety disorder or any other 'cool' disorder. And when teens read these books they aspire to become like the protagonist.
The romanticization of mental illness is most likely to stem from the idea that mental illness has a positive correlation with creativity. And yes, people with mental disorders are known to create beautiful things, but so are people without mental disorders. People think that if they don't socialize, and be all broody and lonely, people will think of them as a mystery and will be interested in them. Youths are now convinced that if they experience negative emotions like sadness, guilt, and embarrassment, they will be able to write beautiful poems and make aesthetic paintings. Though this notion is not entirely is false. It has been found that people perform better when they experience a surge of any emotion - in this case, painting an aesthetic picture when extremely sad. So, being sad is reinforced. And when people are sad they think that they have depression. What they don't know is that being sad and being depressed are different things. What they don't know is that depression isn't a pretty girl with running mascara staring into the sunset. Depression isn't wrists littered with scars. Depression isn't emo hair and smoky eyes. OCD has not organized books or a cleanroom or color-coordinated outfits. OCD is not just neatness. These are legitimate illnesses. And these definitely are not fun or quirky or beautiful or strange. These are debilitating. We need to stop romanticizing mental illnesses.
Also, people throw around mental illnesses every day as if they are some commonly used adjectives. Ninth graders are saying "I am so depressed, I failed my maths exam". They cannot stop talking about how one of their classmates look so 'anorexic', and how that boy is so 'bipolar'. They pick these words from newspapers, the internet, movies, and books. Sure, they do know the meaning of these words, but only on the surface i.e. shallow meaning. What they don't know is that these disorders are much more restricting and severe and real. People have started self-diagnosing themselves without truly knowing the meaning of the words they are using.
Society has turned mental illness into something that is 'cool', 'sexy', and 'beautiful'. Everyone is convinced that they have depression, anxiety, or OCD. They think that they are portraying themselves as strong and hence beautiful. But the truth is that pain is not pretty. Mental illnesses hurt and the struggle is real. The battle between living and dying is difficult. And those who win these battles in a real sense are strong and beautiful. We shouldn't see a photo of scars on wrists as pretty or interesting or romantic or deep. We should find it sad and horrible and wrong. We have to stop romanticizing self-harm. We have to stop romanticizing mental disorders.
Having a mental illness doesn't make you cool or beautiful, it just makes you hurt. But strong are those who overcome these mental illnesses. 'Overcome' being the important word here.