Misconceptions distract from suffering

(Devon Nitz | The Oswegonian)
(Devon Nitz | The Oswegonian)

Having been diagnosed with OCD. It’s something that affects me every single day, some to a greater extent than others. Before, I might have been afraid to admit I have a problem. When I was little, I used to lie to my friends when I had a counseling appointment and say I was going to the dentist or something like that. While in the past my OCD may have been something that I felt needed to be hidden, I’ve reached a point where I’ve realized it isn’t something to be ashamed of.

Do people lie about their diabetes or their high blood pressure? Do we judge those with physical disabilities? Of course not, because we know it isn’t something they chose for themselves or wanted to live with. Do people with mental illnesses have any more of a choice than those suffering from physical ailments? From experience, I can assure you this is not the case. I wouldn’t wish my never-ending obsessive thought processes on anyone, let alone myself. So when I meet someone who trusts me enough to come to me and admit that they suffer from a mental illness, my respect for them grows.

Illness is not a character flaw. We’re not crazy. We’re sick. There’s a chemical imbalance within our brains that needs to be fixed. No one chooses to be this way.

Our society has created such a negative reputation for mental illnesses and it’s caused people with these sorts of disorders to feel as though they need to hide themselves behind masks and walls. But emotion is not a bad thing. Illness is not a character flaw. We’re not crazy. We’re sick. There’s a chemical imbalance within our brains that needs to be fixed. No one chooses to be this way. A lot of people actually never receive treatment for their mental illnesses because they refuse to admit that they might have a problem. People are afraid to be criticized by others because they might have to take anxiety medication or visit a counselor once a week. If we as a community were just a bit more accepting of those who suffer with mental illness, many more people would be encouraged to get help.

Whether you suffer from depression or schizophrenia, you are no more crazier than the next person. We’re normal people. We simply suffer from an illness. So many people go on about how much they wish others would stop judging people before they really get to know them, but if someone finds out that you have a mental illness, it seems as though they are immediately put off by the new information. They don’t know how to take it or what it means.

People often brush mental illnesses aside as something minor that will pass. Other people even go to the extreme of joking about these mental illnesses, calling those who have them insane or attention-seekers. They treat these illnesses as if they are nothing serious. I’ve heard so many people say, “Oh I’m so OCD about keeping my room clean.” No. That’s just one example of a comment that makes my skin crawl—OCD is nothing like feeling uncomfortable in a messy room. No one can really know how debilitating a mental illness is without actually experiencing it firsthand. It isn’t something to be made light of or joked around about.

People are suffering everyday with these invisible struggles. If people were more open about their mental illnesses, they would realize that many people that they know and love suffer from these same things and are no different from them. Mental illness does not and cannot define a person. We’re just the same as you.

One thought on “Misconceptions distract from suffering

  1. Good post, and I agree that we need more awareness and advocacy surrounding mental illness. I’d also like to add that OCD, no matter how severe, is absolutely treatable, and that makes it even more upsetting that some people won’t seek treatment because of the stigma involved. I talk about anything and everything to do with the disorder on my blog. There truly is hope for all those who suffer from OCD, and other brain disorders.

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