Let's Stop Downplaying Mental Illness

At one point or another in your life you have probably been sad, really sad. You have probably experienced disappointment, death of a loved one or failed at something that really upset you. What you may not have experienced is depression. You may have nonchalantly said, "I'm so depressed" at some point in your life when you momentarily suffered sadness, but you probably don't really know what it means. Because if you have actually been "so depressed" then you know there is nothing momentary about it.

Maybe you know someone, are married to someone, or are related to someone who actually suffers from real, chronic depression. Maybe you have thought, Why don't they just have a more positive attitude? Why are they such a downer? Why can't they just stop? Maybe you have said to someone, "Just stop being so sad," "You just need to be more positive," or the worst, "If you'd pray more you would just be happy."

Mental illness is, well, AN ILLNESS. When someone is diagnosed with cancer and can't get out of bed, no one thinks, Why don't they just get up? Or says, "Have you tried just not having cancer?" But we downplay mental illness like its not a real disease, because if you haven't actually suffered it you just can't understand it. You can't understand the crippling effects of depression or anxiety. You can't understand the constant negative, terrifying thoughts or the inability to find joy or motivation in anything.

Although, I've never had cancer and I still know it must be hell. As a society we are quick to sympathize when it comes to diseases we can see, but quicker to judge diseases of the mind. It must stop. Let's stop downplaying Mental Illness.

  • Suicide takes the lives of nearly 40,000 Americans every year. (save.org)
  • Globally, more than 350 million people of all ages suffer from depression. (dosomething.org)
  • 1 in 5 adults experiences a mental health condition every year. 1 in 20 lives with a serious mental illness such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. (nami.org)
  • 50% of mental health conditions begin by age 14 and 75% of mental health conditions develop by age 24. (nami.org)
  • PTSD affects about 7.7 million Americans (nami.org)
  • When experiencing an [depressive] episode, teens have an increased risk for suicide. In fact, suicide is the third-leading cause of death among children aged 15-19. (nami.org)
  • People with eating disorders often have additional illnesses: Depression, Anxiety disorders, Borderline personality disorder, Obsessive-compulsive disorder (nami.org)
I have battled depression, anxiety, and an eating disorder since my late teens. There were days I simply wished I didn't have to get out of bed and face the day, and days I just wanted to die. Don't tell me it isn't real. Don't tell me I could've changed that with a more positive attitude. Don't tell me I didn't have enough faith in God or I just didn't pray enough. Don't downplay my mental illness, or anyone else's.

Because it is National Eating Disorder Awareness Week, that's what I want to talk about. As I struggled under the weight of mental illness, I fell victim to Anorexia. It was an addiction that wrecked years of my life, and has become a battle I will fight for all my life.

GirlZone posted a great article titled Almost Anorexic. You should definitely go read it, but this was the part that inspired my thoughts today: 
"While most mental illnesses elicit empathy, anorexia nervosa is often met with envy (“You are so thin!”) and sometimes doubt (“Why don't you just eat?”)... Why does a serious, life-threatening illness with one of the highest mortality rates of any psychiatric disorder inspire such cachet and even skepticism?...you surely haven't heard someone say, “Why don't you just stop having cancer?”"
If you are "Almost" Anorexic, you fall under the diagnosis of Other Specific Feeding or Eating Disorder (OSFED), meaning you meet much of the Anorexia Nervosa criteria, except being underweight. Most people suffering eating disorders are not visibly and dangerously underweight. Despite the the implications of the word almost, anorexia is anorexia, and being "Almost" Anorexic does not mean you have "failed" in becoming a full blown Anorexic, or that you can't or don't need help because haven't "achieved" the diagnosis definition of Anorexia Nervosa. 


If you know someone who is restricting, binging or purging, talk to them. Help them get help. Love them. Get educated. Don't downplay it. 

If you're restricting, binging, or purging (bulimia) you are at risk! You have an eating disorder. Don't downplay it. You need help. Get help. Love yourself. Be brave. You can, I promise.