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Don't Call Me 'Brave' for Struggling With Mental Illness

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I am tired of hearing the same shit from everyone’s mouths. “It’s so brave.” “They’re so brave.” “You’re so brave for speaking out.” It’s bullshit.

I have no doubt that a few of you will raise your eyebrows at my opinion on this matter, but I am so sick of the word “brave” being thrown around in connection with mental illness.

Why? I think it’s such a counterintuitive way of describing people who struggle with mental illness. As a person who struggles, I can firmly attest that I do not feel “brave.” I do not feel strong. I do not feel empowered. I feel weak, and frail, and lost. That is the foundation of mental illness and to say otherwise is inane. My weakness is the very reason why I am reaching out. Not for a pat on the back, a doggie treat and a quick, “Well done for being so brave.” No. I don’t want your half-hearted sympathy. It’s all so wrong. If we keep shouting out about these “strong” individuals who come forward with their stories and the “bravery” of their act, then we are could be isolating the people who need help the most.

You see, when I struggle, I am at my lowest. And if you continue to portray that it is only the strong who speak up, only the “brave,” then how are these poor souls who can’t find the strength to get out of bed each day going to find the strength to come forward to get the help they need? I don’t think they will. You are telling them that it is the “brave” who let their voices be heard and get the help they need. Not the weak. Therefore, they might continue to struggle in silence. Instead of normalizing those who do let their stories be heard and turning it into digestible garbage with society’s approved notions of “bravery,” why don’t we acknowledge, accept and commend people for being weak?

Having buried my issues beneath the surface as a “high-functioning” depressive, I can confirm that it is hard to accept and come to terms with the fact that I felt broken. Through refusing to acknowledge and accept what I had hidden from even myself, I only made things worse. We should not put mental illness on a pedestal to be revered when whimsical idols declare their struggles. It is the weak, the broken and the crumpled that should be rejoiced.

The more we focus on the “positive” emotions by using these words of “strength” and “bravery,” the more we are distancing ourselves from the fundamental point of mental illness. It is negativity.

I am not condemning those who speak up. Never. I am condemning the media and the misinformed for transforming something so needed into something so unattainable.

Accept mental illness in all its fucked up, horrible, negative glory that it is. Do not give me crowns and swords for I will only crumble under their weight. I do not want your pity or congratulations. I do not want your gold star. I just want to be acknowledged. To share my story with every other broken soul in this universe that feels the same debilitating despair. I want only to inform, spread the word and comfort others in the knowledge that they are not alone. I want help — and to help.

You do not need to be brave. It is OK to be weak. It is more than OK. But it is only once we accept this that the world will understand and begin to change.

Follow this journey here.

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Unsplash photo via Autumn Goodman

Originally published: October 12, 2017
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