Anyone who has ever been on Tumblr or seen skins will have the misfortune of knowing exactly what I’m talking about when I say tragic beauty. Somewhere along the line, between TV, the internet and god knows what else, a section of society has taken the acceptance of mental illness one step too far and now portrays it as something desirable. Depicting that being troubled equals being more beautiful or special than others. That a knight in shining armour will fall in love with you and change your life. And it needs to stop.
This is not the reality of mental health problems. There is nothing enjoyable or desirable about going through something so soul- destroying. It is never quirky or cute – it is a solitary, burning pit of hell with seemingly no way out. It takes your sense of self, your independence and your happiness. It destroys lives and ends them.
My illness never made me beautiful. In the depths of my illness it made me neglect my self- care – I had greasy hair and leg hair longer than on my brother’s head. It left me covered in scabs from skin picking and bruises from banging my head. It took the light from my eyes leaving just hollow pits of sadness.
It didn’t make me quirky or special. I was angry and paranoid – I lashed out at my loved ones. I was overly emotional and difficult to reason with. I was pedantic about ridiculous things and nobody thought it was cute. I lost my sense of humour and never had anything to talk about – a result of never being out of my hospital room.
It was never fun. Instead it was lonely – I isolated myself and stopped doing things I loved. I couldn’t make people understand so I stopped trying. I lost my ability to think clearly, concentrate and hold a conversation. It left me bleeding, vomiting and crying. I spent years in hospital, away from my family, with no freedom. It took away my privacy and dignity – there is nothing fun about having a supervised shower.
Nobody suddenly fell in love with me because I was unwell. In fact, it made more people avoid me. I lost friends and I hurt my family. The people that stuck by me and continued to love me did so despite of my illness not because of it.
My experience is not an exception – my time in hospital forced me to witness many people struggling to cope with a variety of illness’. I met amazing, strong people but none of their situations were desirable. Far from it.
Maybe the people who idolise mental health problems are ill in some way themselves but that is not an excuse. It is not fair to glamourise illness’ that can destroys someone’s will to live. Just because you use a negative coping strategy, whatever that may be, doesn’t mean you should advertise it to others. Illness is not a competition and it never should be – there is no reward for being the most unwell. There is only misery.
I am entirely supportive of raising awareness of mental health and I think it is amazing and brave for people to speak out – but it has to be done carefully to avoid having the opposite effect. So by all means talk about it. But don’t spread bullshit. So many of us are sick of it.