Wednesday 13 December 2017

Is Having a Mental Illness Inspirational?

Is Having a Mental Illness Inspirational? depression anxiety mental health OCD help advice blogger UK thoughts

Often when you call someone inspirational or brave, it is meant in a complementary positive context. But what if the word actually does more harm than good? 

I’ve been blogging about my own mental health battles online now for quite a while. During that time I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been called an inspiration. I’m not doing what I’m doing to receive compliments like this. I candidly talk about mental health to raise awareness and normalise what is still a highly stigmatised topic in 2017. 

But why is it someone can only be inspirational when they’ve been meet with hardship or are handicapped in some way? And why is it only when the individual is defying all odds and doing something amazing despite their circumstances can they be classified as inspirational? Isn’t just getting through the day enough? 

I usually get called inspirational when I am doing something great. Maybe I have just posted a super personal blog post, or perhaps I have achieved another goal within the blogging world. That’s inspirational but somehow just fighting with your brain every day is not enough. I’m not inspirational when I’ve left class crying my eyes out having a panic attack nor am I inspirational when I have not left my house for a week. 

It is not just those with mental illness who are affected. Those with disabilities are also affected by this. 

Paralympian’s are seen as inspirational. Although this is clearly meant as a compliment. They are overcoming a handicap to achieve something most able-bodied people can’t. There is no denying how amazing Paralympian’s are, however, calling them inspirational separates able-bodied people from disabled and this can be a problem.

I think the same kind of situation applies to those who struggle with their mental health. I feel like my mental illness has become me. It’s my master status. The central aspect of my identity that everyone knows me by. I’m portrayed as inspirational for being so open about my mental health problems; however, I don’t want to be inspirational. How can be inspirational for something I didn’t choose?

I didn’t choose to have a rocky childhood full of trauma which is the basis for the majority of the mental health problems today. If I could give it all back and not be called inspirational, I would do so in a heartbeat. But I can’t, and that’s just that. 

For me writing about my personal battles, mental illness isn’t inspirational it’s what needs to be done. I commend everyone who shares their online mental health battle online. It takes a tremendous amount of courage and bravery to do so. However, I’ve always been an oversharer. If I’m struggling with something, then I won’t be the only one. Therefore, I need to share my experiences to help others. It’s not inspirational to me it’s a necessity. I respect this is not as easy for everyone. But I can only speak for myself from my own experiences.

I guess what I’m trying to get that is it's easy to call someone inspirational without giving it a second thought. But in reality, that word can do more harm than good. It can feel isolating as it separates those with mental health problems away from people who don’t. It can add pressure on to people like myself who feel like they always need to be challenging their demons and be seen as inspirational online. In reality, this just isn’t always possible.

I’m not ungrateful for being called inspirational at all. It means the world to me as I know the intent of the comment is always positive. I guess people don’t understand how damaging the word can be in some cases. 

This post was inspired by the beautiful words of my talented friend Angie, you can read her post HERE.

I would love to know your thoughts on the topic down in the comments below. 

Thanks for reading, as always X

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