Northwest Missourian Opinion

Many people turn their mental disorders into their biggest personality trait. It’s in their social media bios, and it’s what they constantly talk about. Everything relates back to their depression, their anxiety.

Mental health is not an aesthetic.

Depression and anxiety aren’t some trends to be used for likes, hearts and upvotes. They are messy and scary. 

They are laying in bed all day because the thought of removing the safety of the covers sends chills down spines and makes it difficult to breathe. They are sitting in the dark, alone, thinking that everyone hates you.

Having depression doesn’t make anyone special.

According to the National Institute for Mental Health, in 2017 an estimated 11 million U.S. adults had at least one major depressive episode. 

In data collected by the World Health Organization, in 2018 more than 300 million people of all ages suffer from depression around the world.

In a 2017 study conducted by National Comorbidity Study, an estimated 19.1% of U.S. adults had any anxiety disorder in the past year.

But, what would I know? I'm happy. 

I am an upbeat girl with a sunshiny personality, and there is no way I have depression or anxiety. I don’t have any right to comment about mental health.

Wrong.

I do have depression. I do have anxiety.

I remember sitting in the tub, red Solo cup in my hand. In the other hand, I clenched the three pages of goodbyes I wrote and reworked five times.

The overly floral scent of toilet bowl cleaner stung my nose. It’s the smell I remember most about Jan. 4.

I remember coughing up bits of what I assume to be lung tissue and blood. It isn’t something to be photographed and posted online with a black and white filter or to brag about at parties. 

“Frantically cleaning up blood stains off Mom’s new rug” isn’t something to make an Instagram caption out of.

To treat mental illness like a hashtag to spruce up a Twitter account is insulting. To act like it’s the only personality people have is demeaning. To self diagnose without consulting a doctor is offensive. 

I busted my rear end to battle my depression. It consumed me so wholly I let it destroy a part of my soul. 

My anxiety still tries to tell me how stupid I sound as I mentally practice saying something as simple as my name for rollcall. My depression still wraps around me like a well-worn sweater if I’m not actively trying to fight it.

I’m not saying I’m cured by any means. I am saying I refuse to let it define me. 

It’s not my sole personality. It is only a small facet of who I am as a whole. I am more than my depression or anxiety– I am a whole person who is just trying her best.

While it’s important to open up about mental health, it can’t be someone’s entire being. Mental illness —  like race, sexual orientation, gender, etc. — is only a small part of a person. 

Seeing people use their mental illness as a substitute for a personality, lifestyle or lack of decency reflects poorly on those of us who fight every day against our mental illness.

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