Mental health issues are nothing new. There certainly are more things being discovered about them and new “treatment plans” surfacing all the time, but when you look at history (especially in literature), there’s evidence of depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and so much more. But now, these issues are being presented in mainstream media (13 Reasons Why and To the Bone come to mind first).
Don’t get me wrong! I’ve both read and seen 13 Reasons Why, and I recently watched To The Bone. But the more I thought about them, the more problems I saw with the way mental health issues were portrayed. While these things NEED to be talked about in order to bring awareness, and potentially healing, there is so much more to these things than is mentioned.
What really stood out to me was the way the signs that a loved one might be experiencing depression or suicidal thoughts were portrayed:
An exceptionally clean/dirty room
Isolation
Eating more or less than normal
Sleeping too little or too much
While these things are certainly symptoms, there is no concrete way to define them. It would be just as effective to say “change in daily routine.” But, I mean, honestly, don’t we break those patterns all the time? I know, personally, I change routines almost daily: one day I might not be able to leave the house unless my room is clean, while the next I throw clothes everywhere and run out the door. It depends on what’s going on!
I was diagnosed with anxiety about a year ago. I was put on some medications that I can’t really pronounce, and I suffered the effects of them. But I learned a lot about myself during that time. I was able to see what it looked like when I was going into a really bad time. My breathing would change. I would over-plan EVERYTHING (I’m not usually a planner). I wouldn’t be able to sit still long or stay focused on one thing (which isn’t too far out of my normal personality). But it showed me that the signs can look different for everyone, and most of them aren’t really acknowledged as “signs.” Molly Allen, who did the amazing artwork for this article, articulated it perfectly:
“I tried to illustrate how it feels/what’s going through my head when I’m on a bit of a low. There are some dark and scary aspects, intrusive thoughts, and everything is extremely confusing and disorientating. I contrast that chaos with the speech bubbles, ‘r u ok?’ and ‘I’m fine.'”
I’m not a doctor. I don’t have answers to how to overcome these struggles, but I can give you encouragement: you are not alone. Take some time, on your good days and your bad days, to discover what depression or anxiety looks like for you. Find a person you love and, if you feel comfortable, share with them. I know it doesn’t always feel like it, but you are loved and cherished.
If you need serious help, reach out.
Suicide prevention hotline
1-800-273-8255

-chelsea