I tend to get sick less often than most people around me. Mostly it’s because they aren’t actually around me much. I’m quite an antisocial hermit–I will spend days on end without leaving my bedroom for anything other than food or using the bathroom.
Turns out being a hermit is a really good way to stay healthy. If we ignore mental health, of course, which doesn’t really matter.
Wait, why doesn’t mental illness matter?
We all know socializing skill matters more than feelings. What you do and how you interact with people matters more than who you are; your facade is more important than your heart. Pretending to be mentally healthy and learning how to survive in debilitating environments is more important than being honest and emotionally open.
Mental illness isn’t contagious. Nobody cares if you’re alone in the corner, because it doesn’t affect them. They care when you’re coughing and sneezing everywhere.
Mental illness is invisible and downplayed by the mentally healthy because it doesn’t pose a threat to them. It isn’t a reasonable excuse for failing to meet social expectations so we are forced to figure out how to keep functioning normally in addition to hiding our problems and pretending to be okay. We get so good at it that people use our apparent competence–or the success of some other person who’s received the same label–as reason to criticize us for the moments when we do fail.
Mental illness doesn’t really matter because it is not accepted as a valid reason for “time off” like the flu is. That would be like taking time off because you’re sad about your puppy dying. You’d be considered childish, emotionally immature. Because mental illness is just unwillingness to face problems and overcome them like some generic happy person supposedly would. You can’t control your body’s reaction to physical sickness, everyone knows that, but when the sickness is in the brain you’re expected to just change it by sheer willpower.
To the person with PTSD: You just have to get over what happened and move on.
To the person with sensory processing disorder: You need to learn to not let noise bother you.
To the person with depression: Cheer up. Other people are worse off.
To the person with a panic or anxiety disorder: Stop worrying so much. It’s ridiculous to take a whole month to adjust to moving across the country.
To the person with autism: Autistic people are inherently selfish so you need to learn to look past your own desires.
Are you angry? Do you think I’m serious?
I’m not. None of this is true, beyond the fact that a lot of people think it’s true. I’m saying it, with a touch of sarcasm, because it is what I have learned from them. Each one of the five statements above is something I have been told about my abnormal mental traits.
Mental illness does matter, and if you’ve had a part in minimizing it, that needs to change.