6 Things You Need to Understand About Mental Illness (It’s Not Just a Cry for Attention)


This piece was written by Kait Edwards, a Thought Catalog contributor.

After I read a piece entitled, “9 Signs Your Mental Illness Is Made Up for Attention,” it really hit me just how ignorant some people can be. I can be a bit naïve at times, and try to see the good in people rather than their flaws; however I have no inclination to see a positive side of this article. Or if I tried to, it would be to show people what not to say. No one should be made to feel inferior for having an illness.

Mental illnesses are complex. Two people could have the same condition, yet present it in different ways. I have had a diagnosis of treatment resistant depression and generalized anxiety for five years. I am 20 years old, and the two have completely dictated my life. But my mental illness is not for attention. I want to pull out some of the points that were made in the article, to show that you can never assume someone’s making up their mental illness.

1. “You use it to be an asshole to other people.”

Being an asshole is not a symptom of mental illness. Outside stressors can sometimes be too overwhelming. If we don’t text you back or have to back out on a social gathering, we’re not using our illness as an excuse. We’re probably struggling.

2. “You are constantly sharing shit about it on social media.”

Every now and then I may post an article or YouTube video on my social networking sites relevant to mental illness. The pieces I choose to share are ones I can relate to, and by putting them up on my social media sites, I hope show others what it can be like in my shoes. I find it hard to talk sometimes, so with articles and videos I find can express my thoughts and feelings that otherwise remain cooped up. I constantly have to tell myself I should not be ashamed for being depressed, and I think if I raise a bit of awareness, I will no longer carry the burden of quiet.

3. “Your definitions of illness change all the time and when it’s convenient, your illness takes a back seat.”

Like with any illness, mental health conditions severity can fluctuate. There can be bouts where some days are more manageable to get through, and an individual can be a functional member of society. That’s what most of us want: to maintain a level where we can get out of bed and face the day. But it isn’t the reality of the situation all the time; getting dressed might be the biggest achievement someone gets. It does not make them attention seeking if one day they can go to work with no problems, and the next day they’re struggling.

4. “You think it’s ‘controversial’ to talk about.”

It is a controversial topic: the article is a prime example. I wouldn’t be writing about it if it weren’t. Not everyone understands mental illness. There is still a stigma around, with even medical professionals not being compassionate. Our illness is not “made up” because we’re talking about a topic some aren’t comfortable talking about.

5. “You constantly post baiting things so people will ask what’s wrong.”

It’s not something I have posted, but I can understand the reasoning as to why people do. People are afraid to say they are struggling outright, so it can be easier to try and get someone to ask them. It’s brave to admit you’re sad, or depressed or that you’re obsessive tendencies become too much. It is a good step to admitting that something is wrong and to try and get help. There is nothing wrong with reaching out.

6. “You’re not really trying to get better.”

It makes me squirm when someone accuses another of not trying to get better. It can be so hard to commit to recovering every single day when your mind is awfully unkind. It doesn’t mean they don’t want to get better; they just might not have it in them. Fighting the thoughts every day is so unbelievably exhausting. It’s complicated. It’s not fun or amusing being consumed in your head.

Mental illness can be uncomfortable and challenging. But you have to remember that someone with a mental illness is not their disorder. I have to remember I am not my disorder. I am 20 years old. I am caring, and loyal, artistic and creative. Depression and anxiety do not define me, and raising awareness to my illnesses helps people understand why I act the way I do. If I wash my hair, I have to acknowledge that I did a good thing for the day, and if I left the house — even better. Even writing this article is a major thing for me, having not had much energy the past few days to do anything more than knit or stare at a television screen. You wouldn’t get annoyed with someone missing out on a lunch, or posting photos, statuses and articles about other parts of their lives. Mental illnesses should be understood just as equally. It should not continue to be mocked or silenced, and should never accuse someone of “making it up” because you don’t understand their behavior.

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