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To the Person Who Used My Mental Illness as an Adjective

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We often use phrases like “the weather is so bipolar” to describe changeability and indecision. We say things  like, “Yesterday, I was feeling depressed,” to describe when we are feeling sad. We have made these words into adjectives or often say them in a joking manner.

I want to teach you why you should stop using my illness as an adjective.

To the person who uses mental disorders as adjectives:

I felt trapped. My world was slowly crumbling down. I kept asking myself what was I doing wrong. I felt tired, and it wouldn’t go away. It didn’t matter how many hours I slept. I was still tired.

I felt something different. I felt like something was missing, but I couldn’t figure out what it was. I was determined to find what I was missing that was affecting me so much. I was desperately trying to figure out what was missing.

Every day, this thing I had lost just kept getting worse. I felt trapped in the woods, running desperately and trying to find what I lost. I kept looking for this part of the puzzle that I couldn’t seem to find. I had absolutely no energy. I felt hopeless. I laid on my bed, feeling like my body was empty, no feelings, no energy, nothing.

One day, I realized what I had lost was myself. You feel empty. You have no energy. You are trapped in this dark hole, and there’s no way out. Yet, the thing is that in this black hole, you have companion, a monster telling saying you are worthless and the world would be better without you.

I discovered what made me lose myself. Its name was depression.

This is what depression feels like.

I have a friend. He’s always there with me. He always tells me everything is not OK when everything in fact is. Sometimes, he tells me there is something wrong with me and that I am different from everybody else. He tells me I am a burden to the world and that how I am feeling is bad. He makes all your tasks extremely difficult. Self-doubt is all he talks about.

You ask yourself, “What could possibly go wrong?” and he replies everything will go wrong. He assures you that you are weak and everything you do is wrong. He makes you feel like a failure. He never goes away, and he is always reminding you of these things.

This what having an anxiety disorder feels like.

Imagine you are sitting in a classroom, and you hear something that stresses you. It bothers you. All of sudden, you feel like you have a weight on your chest. You start feeling like there is a vacuum sucking all the air inside you. You start crying because you feel like you have no air left. You look around and feel dizzy.

You can’t stop thinking about what made you feel like this. It feels impossible to calm down. You feel like you are dying. You find your emergency pills, and it’s like a miracle. It calms you instantly.

This is what it feels like to have a panic attack.

Now imagine being on a roller coaster and it’s going up. You are excited, wanting to get to the top. When you finally do get to the top, you look around and like how it looks. All of a sudden, you go down so fast. When you reach ground level, you ask yourself why is this not stopping. The roller coaster keeps on going until it’s in a black hole. The roller coaster suddenly stops.

As you went deep down, so did your world. Everything fell into this deep dark hole. You try to fix the cart of the roller coaster, but nothing seems to work. You are stuck down there. So you just sit down and accept the fact that you are down there. You stay there for days or maybe weeks.

Until one day, you see the cart starts working again. You get in and slowly go up. It’s a cycle. The roller coaster does the same thing all over again. Some days, the roller coaster just goes straight at ground level and it feels nice. However, you know soon it will start going up again and the cycle will too.

This is what bipolar disorder feels like.

Having bipolar disorder is like having a combination of multiple mental illnesses (mania, depression and anxiety). No, bipolar disorder is not just about changeability, indecision or even rapid mood swings. No, depression is not feeling sad. Depression is so much more than that. It’s questioning your existence and feeling completely empty with no feelings at all. No, having anxiety is not worrying about silly things and being nervous. It’s having a voice that makes you doubt everything you do. No, a panic attack is not feeling extremely worried.

It’s so much more than what people think.

These are only a few of all the mental disorders we use as adjectives. When we use them as adjectives, we are minimizing them. By using these illnesses as adjectives we are not helping to eliminate the stigma surrounding mental health. Instead of saying, “She was feeling depressed,” we can use words like, “She was feeling very sad.” Instead of saying, “The weather is so bipolar,” we can say, “The weather is changing a lot today.”

We need to stop misusing mental illnesses so we can start honestly talking about them.

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Image via Thinkstock.

Originally published: January 11, 2017
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