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Mental Health

It’s Time to Treat Mental Illness Like a Visible Disability

After all, it has disabled millions around the world

Living with a mental illness can be compared to living in Florida not knowing when the next hurricane will hit. There could be weeks and even months of sunshine until an unexpected category five comes in to destroy everything. When that happens, many things are beyond control but still viewed as invalid by most in society. From major anxiety to severe depression, everything associated is an excuse to cop out and avoid life. Given these points, it’s time to change and treat mental illness the way it should be treated: Like a visible disability/disease.

Poem printed on paper with a mental illness theme

My Battles With Mental Illness

1. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

Since I was twelve years old, I was diagnosed as having Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. What most people associate with OCD (cleaning, cleaning, and cleaning) was not and is still not my experience. I started off with having to do certain things or else something G-d forbid was going to happen to me or my family. If I didn’t do my task properly, I had to re-do it until I had a good thought in my head. It seems unrealistic in writing, but in my head, it was very real.

Fast forward to today and I’m still suffering from the anxiety that comes with OCD. I have to do certain things while having a good thought in my head. If I mess up, then I have to redo it in order to save my family, and this is a vicious cycle. Consequently, when I try to fight and ignore my OCD, I feel like a murderer. This is a mental illness that has inhibited my daily function in one way or another, and I’ve gotten used to it at this point.

Organized set of cutlery to represent OCD and mental illness

#2. Bipolar Disorder 

Now to the juicy stuff: Bipolar Disorder. Living life with Bipolar Disorder is like riding a roller coaster blindfolded and fully strapped. Imagine living an everyday life with that kind of suspense. You would be on edge constantly anticipating the drop; for me, it’s worse. I’ll go through weeks of high motivation, productivity, and elevated feelings of confidence followed by the drop. That’s the point where I feel fully disabled by my mental illness.

Bipolar Disorder is disabling when it comes to not being able to work, fulfill personal goals, nor leave the bed. Some people can snap themselves out of it, but most like myself become trapped within their own minds. I know that when I’m severely depressed, my goals mean nothing to me. Simple things become heavy burdens on my shoulders and working becomes a far-fetched concept for tomorrow. For that reason, I find it hard to chase a 9-5 knowing that I’ll be sick at some point or another.

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The Stigma Towards Mental Illness is Dangerous

Unfortunately, mental illness is still treated with less regard than the common cold. To the average Joe, depression is an excuse to sleep all day and anxiety is an excuse to skip work. For the common passerby, a homeless woman having a psychotic break and screaming gives an excuse for laughter. I could keep going on with a long list, but the point is very clear: Mental illness is still disregarded as a serious problem, and this needs to change.

As I mentioned earlier, I know that at some point I will get emotionally sick at any job. Whether it be depression coming from the woodworks or a panic attack, it will happen to me. Nevertheless, it would be nearly impossible for me to ever call in sick for having a panic attack or a futile crying session. However, if I were that one out five Americans who simply couldn’t handle the fear of vulnerability, then I would probably be another statistic. For that reason, the stigma is truly a danger.

single cigarette stick with ashes stick

How We Can Move Forward

Thankfully, there is one of many solutions at our reach to make mental illness a respected disability like all others. First, we need to emphasize the fact that speaking about your depression or anxiety is a sign of strength and not weakness. Second, businesses and schools should implement a system that regards depression and panic attacks on the same level as the flu and hair lice. Third, the association of laziness with mental illness needs to be eradicated and an emphasis on proper self-care need be prioritized. 

All in all, mental illness is real, scary, and debilitating at its very least. Most people don’t give two f*cks about calling it a disability because they can not see it. For that reason, we need to speak up and share our truth in the face of opposition. Our stories, feelings, and mental illnesses are real, valid, and worthy of more respect than the common cold. After all, being stuck in bed is more harmful than a loud, obnoxious sneeze. 

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