Why It's Imperative For Society To Stop Romanticizing Mental Illness

by Bri Ray

I was 8 years old the first time I felt depressed. I locked myself in the bathroom closet and cried so my dad wouldn’t hear me.

Don’t ask me why I was crying; I had no reason; I was just sad.

At night, I couldn’t sleep, I felt nauseated all of the time and anxiety tormented me, which led to a form of self-harm.

I would fake sick regularly because I simply didn’t have the mental strength to get myself up and go to school.

It came in phases for the rest of my life, but when I was 21, it got out of control. In June of 2014, I was sitting in my counselor's office, choking on tears, starving, hurting and telling her how I just wanted it all to end.

A few days later, I sat in a psychiatry clinic where I was diagnosed with recurrent major depressive disorder, general anxiety disorder and anorexia, purging type.

I began taking 60 mg of Prozac a day and I started along my road to recovery.

Now, why am I telling you all of this personal information? Because I'm tired of seeing people romanticize the idea of having a mental illness.

There is absolutely nothing romantic about a mental disorder.

It seems as though people — especially teen girls — want to have a disorder. I don't know how else to explain it other than some books, movies and social media accounts make them seem glamorous.

Trust me, they're not, and they're not romantic either. It's not glamorous to think of ending your own life, and it's not romantic to harm your body or starve yourself.

Depression will forever change your life. People will look at you differently and most will even treat you differently. It will affect every single relationship in your life.

Let's focus on friends and significant others: Do you know how many friends I've lost because of my depression?

Do you know how many boyfriends I've lost because of my depression? Quite a few. The person I called my best friend for almost 13 years is no longer a part of my life because of a depressive episode.

You see, when you go through a depressive episode, you're almost numb.

I felt like I was a spectator to the life happening around me, like I wasn't really there (and that was on days I actually made it out of bed).

You become desperate to feel something, anything. After turning 21, it was very easy for me to turn to alcohol to escape the numbness.

This person I called my best friend had no idea I was in the middle of a depressive episode, and that I was just looking for a way to feel anything.

She thought I was throwing my life down the drain, skipping class, not going to work, staying in bed until 3 pm and spending the little energy I had drinking.

She had no idea what was really happening because depression makes you isolate yourself.

It's hard to tell others every piece of you is falling apart.

With depression comes moodiness. One day I'm fine, the next I'm not. Boys don't seem to want to put up with that kind of girl these days.

I recently met a guy I was very interested in; he made me laugh and respected me, like a true gentleman. My moodiness is why I no longer hear from him.

One minute, I was head over heels for him and the next, I was thinking I'd be fine if he left me right then and there. The ups and downs are hard for the person on the outside watching you constantly change your mind.

So tell me: Do you think it's romantic to be used to significant others regularly leaving your life? You can't blame them either; it's hard to always be on an emotional roller coaster.

Anxiety is in no way romantic or glamorous, either. My anxiety causes me actual pain; it leads me to pick the skin around my fingernails.

I'm embarrassed to go get a manicure and I hate having to explain myself when people ask me what happened to my fingers.

I went on a date once and he complimented a ring I was wearing. At that moment, my hands went under the table.

My mind flooded with panic thinking he had noticed my destroyed fingers and was judging me — talk about paranoid.

I can't help it though. The pain there takes my mind off all the other anxieties flooding my mind.

Other people have it worse, like cutting, for example — and that is life threatening. How on earth is that something you would want?

Trust me on this; I know how hard it is to not, at least at some point, think having an eating disorder would benefit you, but it won't.

Society is big on shaming people who don't look ideal, and I'm a victim of letting it affect my life.

You may think that puking to make yourself skinny will make you better, or that starving yourself for days will make everything okay, but it won't.

No one will think more highly of you if you have one of the many eating disorders that exist. I can't tell you how negatively it affects your life.

After my friends and family found out about mine, I felt as though I was being watched like a hawk.

My roommates caught me trying to purge once and threatened to call my parents in order to have me admitted into a psychiatric ward because I just couldn't stop.

Do you really think it's glamorous to drop out from school, leave your job and explain to everyone that you have to take leave because you thought starving yourself would fix everything? No.

You don't want one of these disorders, I promise you. All the book and movie characters may portray it as this romantic idea, that Prince Charming or some beautiful woman will see your suffering and save you from it, but that won't happen.

The only person who can save you is you. If you're truly suffering from one of these conditions, please seek help. I didn't get help until it was almost too late.

With the help of an amazing counselor and some very skilled psychiatrists, I'm here writing this, hoping it will help someone else out there.

It's not glamorous, it's not romantic, it's not cool and it's not something you want. If you have one, it is yours to own and yours to defeat.