the thing nobody wants to talk about

I’m beginning to hate the term “mental health”.

It’s not that it’s a bad term. Far from it. I’ve just come to the realisation, over the past few years, that it doesn’t apply to everyone, and I’m one of the unfortunate people that it claims to support but ultimately sidelines.

Let’s take World Mental Health Day, 10th October, as an example. It’s an incredibly important and widely recognised initiative, and over the course of the day platforms like Twitter are flooded with messages of encouragement, solidarity, and education, aiming to try and break down the stigma surrounding mental health issues. In many ways, it’s lovely. In others, it’s… disappointing, because it’s just more of the same surface-level shit I’ve been seeing for years. Most of it is about people who aren’t too far from the ideal of “mental health”, who will probably never think of themselves as having a “mental illness” or “mental health disorder”. They’re “stressed” or they “had depression once”, rather than suffering from generalised anxiety disorder or major depressive disorder. And I wouldn’t ever want to silence those voices, because recognising that mental health can be cared for just as physical health can is very important, but at the same time it’s another space that I don’t feel like I fit into.

There are far fewer people talking about mental illness: something so rife with stigma that even when it’s turning your life upside down you still have to pretend nothing’s happening. People don’t talk about how much depression hurts when it’s filling your chest with self-loathing. They don’t tell stories about how excruciatingly embarrassing it is to have a panic attack in Tescos. Nobody talks about the “weird” and “scary” diagnoses, like schizophrenia, borderline personality disorder, or the one I was diagnosed with a few months ago - dissociative identity disorder.

Acceptance of people with mental health disorders and neurodivergences doesn’t mean only tolerating those who show mild, palatable symptoms that you can understand. Getting annoyed isn’t going to make the rest of us magically disappear.

An epithet I see often is “you are more than your mental illness”, which again is a great sentiment that’s been misconstrued by many people. It doesn’t mean that neurodiversity is such a small part of your life that you shouldn’t bother talking about it, because (by definition) it’s still going to affect your entire way of thinking. It shouldn’t be used to silence anybody. Then of course when you’re multiple, there’s a whole different layer of complexity: in an overly simplistic sense, your neurodivergence isn’t a part of your personality - your personality is part of your neurodivergence. Of course you’re still more than that, but it’s a foundation rather than a facet and it means that alters in a system cannot talk about themselves at all without inherently talking about “The Disorder” because their entire existence is based on it.

The point I’m trying to make here is that hiding this is a lot of effort and to be perfectly honest I don’t see why I should have to. If it’s just because it makes someone a little uncomfortable when I mention an alter’s name in passing, because then I’m talking about The Disorder and that’s wrong, then I don’t care. Your prejudices are your own problem and you really should take a long hard look at why that makes you so uncomfortable.

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