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Stop Romanticizing Mental Illness!
By Betsy Jenner
Last year, I was diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome. I realized that it was the revolutionary answer to the questions I've always asked myself : Why am I this way? Is there something wrong with me? Am I different from others?
When I first told one of my friends that I had this syndrome, she expressed her sympathies although she had no idea what Asperger's was and as though I had just told her that I had brain disease. After I briefly explained what it was, she said, more in an attempt to lighten the mood, " It's cool in a way, isn't it? It's like something out of a movie or something." I was then reminded of an article I had read earlier about the romanticisms of mental illness publicized by films and social media steadily over the past years.
On the Internet, there are various articles that say a lot about this topic. About how mental illness has been glamorized and made to look beautiful and easy by social media and many movies. But while there are those that believe this to be true, I also noticed that a lot of other people disagreed with this subject. Angry comments led to furious arguments in the comment area below some of these articles. Some people vehemently expressed how they had never heard of mental illness being romanticized for any reason. A few even thought that it was total rubbish.
But as someone who's known and felt mental illness and is also au fait with films and social media, I do think mental illness has been romanticized. I was not only intrigued but also inspired by a few of those audacious articles which voiced brazen but true statements without fear or hesitation. They left me obsessed. And I thought that I should write one on my own, based on my opinions.
I think that mental illness has been romanticized by the media, a lot.
Although it's true that exposure of mental illness helps many to be informed of it, like many things I think it started out well but unfortunately has taken a perverse turn for the worse. Mental illness isn't beautiful. But someone with mental illness can be beautiful. Mental illness itself is an appalling, silent and painful torture. Our society has become desensitized and numb to the actual seriousness of mental illness as a result of being overly exposed to falsities and romantic exaggerations about mental illness through films and social media.
Mental illness isn't something that just comes and goes like a fair-weather friend. It isn't a quirky trait that makes people love you. It isn't desirable or appealing. It definitely isn't something that many people will tolerate with such amazing strength and perseverance like in the movies and neither does it make someone a target for romantic affection. It's a disease and it's with you always. It's with you at night before bed, it's with you on your ride to school or work the next day, it's with you when you're jostling your way through thronged streets and with you while you're alone, all by yourself at home.
A character with Asperger's in the movies is made to look like a robot. Almost as if they have no feelings. Their inability to interact socially is romanticized as a charmingly off-beat quality that people around never realize how harrowing it can be. Their repetitive behavior is a hilarious hyperbole. A character with OCD is made to look funny and lovably quirky. Their compulsive behavior is a running joke.
They make it look so easy.
Do you know how hard it actually is for people with Asperger's? How the smallest sound is a magnified and alarming noise in their ears? How difficult it is for them to understand what others mean and respond accordingly? How terrifying it can be to be among people and communicate when everything around poses as one great mystery?
Imagine the girl who craves the slash of a razor blade across her skin, just to escape all the anxieties and pain in her mind. Or the boy who has bottles of pills socked away in his drawer...'just in case'. Or the woman who stares down a high bridge everyday wanting to jump but holding on, just barely holding on.
In fiction, all these characters somehow magically stumble upon the right person who helps them and sticks with them through every hardship with extreme level-headedness, patience and maturity. But in real life, is it all that easy?
I am not against giving realistic problems to fictional characters and unfurling hopeful stories through them but I just don't like it when those problems are made to look beautiful, simple and easy to overcome.
Make it real. Remind the audience how hard and difficult mental illness is, that every single day is a struggle. A battle fought without rest. Writers, filmmakers and screenwriters must realize this instead of inflicting eccentric traits related to mental illness in a character to just make him/her more interesting and attention-getting.
Mental illness is A Beautiful Mind. It's Silver Lining's Playbook. It's Perks of Being a Wallflower. It's Speak. It's The Bell Jar. It's Girl, Interrupted. It's Black Swan.
Mental illness is feeling completely and absolutely hopeless and alone. It's hating yourself everyday because of it. It's sobbing and gasping uncontrollably at 2 a.m. on your bed. It's staring at the mirror and not recognizing yourself. Only you know how it feels. Either you save yourself or remain unsaved. It's far from the cute, sugar-coated and romanticized version we see on TV or on sites like Tumblr.
We've created a culture that showcases mental illness as something beautifully tragic and romantic. A culture that misrepresents, glamorizes and dramatizes. Most times, the real truth behind what we see on screen couldn't more far away. It's important to see mental illness for what it actually is. It's unforgiving like nothing else and nobody should want it.
I've noticed that young people, specifically some teenage girls, seem uncannily into it. Cutting yourself isn't cool. Neither is puking or starving to stay thin. Perceptions such as these have to be changed and the media has the best chance of achieving it.
Young people must also try and realize that this quixotic outlook on mental illness is wrong and deter these distorted views among themselves and others.
I appreciate those people who have realized the truth about mental illness and have helped others realize it as well. It's time we penetrate to the truth and throw some light on the poignant and obscure truth.
Mental illness isn't beautiful. So stop romanticizing it.
#Real #MentalIllness #Literature #Romanticizing #Stop #Enough
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