Mental Illness: Yes, It's All In My Head.

As someone who has dealt with mental illness and its effects for many years, let's get one thing out the way: if you are struggling, I stand with you.

However:

Mental Illness: Yes, It's All In My Head.

This attitude toward mental illness drives me absolutely batty. Anxiety isn't trendy, depression isn't cute, and saying things like "omg i'm soooo crazy lol" will not win you any sympathy from me.

I was diagnosed with both anxiety and OCD in my late 20s (after spending 10 years on the waiting list for a family doctor), and I'm doing the best I can to educate myself and others about mental health. But there's still too much stigma and not enough support for people who are struggling.

When I was a teenager, I talked to my doctor about what I thought was depression. He dismissed it as "mood swings"; then, when I moved home at 23, I visited my mom's doctor to ask her opinion... and she basically told me that "your life sounds fine, it's just a phase you're going through".

Now, imagine if we treated other illnesses the way we do mental illness:

"It's all in your head."

Uh, no shit. That's where my brain is. Kinda like how the pain from my broken ankle is... in my broken ankle (shocking, I know).

Mental Illness: Yes, It's All In My Head.

"You don't need medication. Just change your diet/exercise/think positive."

Usually uttered by well-meaning friends or family who have no concept of how mental illness works and don't understand how insulting this is. I appreciate that you think you're helping, but all this does is make me want to punch you in the throat.

Are you an M.D.? Do you have irrefutable evidence that positive thinking can magically override my brain chemistry? Are you an expert in my condition?

I get that you mean well. But, if your answer to even one of these is no, leave me alone.

Mental Illness: Yes, It's All In My Head.

"Calm down and stop panicking. That won't help you."

Trust me: if it were that simple, I'd have stopped panicking ages ago. But that's not how anxiety works... You see, there's this little thing called HAVING ANXIETY.

Mental Illness: Yes, It's All In My Head.

"You don't look sick."
Yeah, well, you don't look stupid either.

Mental Illness: Yes, It's All In My Head.

"Don't let it interfere with the rest of your life."

Oh, you mean LIKE AN ACTUAL ILLNESS?

Mental Illness: Yes, It's All In My Head.

Other than my husband, only a few close friends know about my mental health issues, and they're incredibly supportive. They still invite me to social events or come over to visit (and they're totally okay with me hiding in the closet at parties).

Of course, my anxiety has been a learning experience. I'm pretty open about my triumphs, my struggles, and mental health in general, and I hope that the people around me know that they can ask me if they have questions- understanding mental illness is part of removing the stigma.

But if my condition makes you so uncomfortable that you can't send me a message or call to ask how I'm doing, then perhaps you're the one with the problem.

Mental Illness: Yes, It's All In My Head.

Remember that you are not your illness. You are a person with a name and a story- you are brave and amazing, and you're one badass motherfucker.

Mental Illness: Yes, It's All In My Head.

Never give up; I believe in you.

-von

Mental Illness: Yes, It's All In My Head.
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Most Helpful Guy

  • Anonymous
    This is why I'm currently studying my ass off to pursue psychiatry. Two of my best friends committed suicide. One blew out his brains with a shotgun, and the other burnt himself alive by dousing himself with kerosene. After losing my two best friends in really fucked up ways, I realized that my country (the United States) absolutely sucks when it comes to the stigma surrounding mental health. We either medicate people until they're zombies, or we act like mental illness doesn't exist.

    I deal with a bit of anxiety every day, but it is nowhere near as bad as some people's anxiety. I've never had a full-blown panic attack, and I've never been unable to leave my house. I really couldn't imagine functioning with that level of anxiety. It must be a living hell.

    To be honest, I'd rather have cancer than a severe metal illness (e. g. schizophrenia), because at least if I had cancer, people would give a shit. It's pretty weird to think that if I didn't lose my friends, I would probably have very little interest in mental health.

    After taking a few classes in neurochemistry, neurobiology, pharmacokinetics, etc. you realize just how serious some conditions are. For example, many people wouldn't consider alcoholism a mental illness or disease, but once you learn how ethanol affects neuronal membrane permeability and how the mesolimbic dopaminergic pathway is stimulated with the enforcing behavior of drinking, alcoholism really is a disease.

    I also work in a neuropharmacology lab on campus, in which we study nicotine addiction in rats and maternal care. At least so far, we have found that rats homozygous for the DISC1 (a gene associated with schizophrenia) knockout gene lose nearly all maternal instincts when injected with nicotine. This could be important, as the majority of people with schizophrenia smoke (which has nicotine, obviously).

    Essentially, the more I learn and research about mental illness, the more I realize how big of a problem it really is, and that the "rabbit hole" just keeps getting deeper. I just hope I can prove myself smart enough to get into medical school...
    Is this still revelant?
    • vonasaurus

      i lost a good friend to suicide as well, and i think about him all the time.

      i'm minoring in psychology, so i'll probably end up taking some of those courses in future as well. yours is a noble pursuit, and i wish you the best of luck with your studies.

    • There's an old saying that one doesn't enter into this field unless they or someone close to them has had mental health issues.

      My doctors would like me to participate in a study, and possibly become a peer counselor in the future.

      Due to the trademark disconnect between my logic and emotions, I had to study people to learn how to elicit the proper emotions and read social cues. This has given me a unique insight in reading people. Now I have an interest in sociology become of my disorder.

      I've lost one friend to an intentional overdose. NOTHING can prepare you for something like that. I've been suicidal, but a quote from the most recent episode of the BBC Sherlock sums it up best: "Your life. It doesn't belong to you. Keep your hands off of it." You don't have to deal with your death. Your loved ones do. Your life might be painful, but your death will be far moreso for those you leave behind. And that's what keeps me going.

    • vonasaurus

      @dragonfly6516 i love that quote; honestly, that mindset is one of the only things that kept me from ever acting on my suicidal thoughts.

      those of us left behind after my friend hung himself were forever changed by his actions and we'll never be the same again. i always wonder if we could have saved him, if we could have done something differently; even though the answer is no, 9 times out of 10, it doesn't lessen the guilt.

    • Show All

Most Helpful Girl

  • Idonthaveausername
    I wasn't going to comment until I read the picture at the bottom, "Sometimes it's okay if the only thing you did today was breathe." Out of everything you said here, that's the part I connect to the most because I've been there

    Yeah mental illness is in your head, where else would it be? Lol. I hate it when people tell you to snap out of it like you don't know it's a problem that needs fixing

    Yes there are some issues that an intelligent and willful person who has support can overcome, but most of the time medication and therapy is necessary. My problems got worse for a while after I quit therapy (it wasn't working the way I needed it to), but then I became an adult, moved somewhere better, and improved my life. I still have bad days (and weeks), but I've been able to control what I do with my negative feelings in a much healthier way. I've always been one of those people who needs the bad to appreciate the good, and I don't want medication messing up what I fought to manage for so long. Destressing my life by taking control of it, developing a social life, and sleeping better have been my golden tickets to mental health

    My sister recently started taking medication for her depression, and I've noticed a complete change in her personality. She is happier overall, does more housework, and even got a promotion at work. Some people need medication, and there's absolutely no shame in that

    I can't stand when people self-diagnose or brandish their "mental illness" around like a trendy pair of shoes or a badge of honor. Real mental illness affects your day-to-day life--that's not funny, cute, or admirable. And the vast majority of insane persons either don't admit their psychosis or are unaware of it. (My mother falls into this category, and that is not a glamorous story)
    Is this still revelant?
    • Fully agree.

    • vonasaurus

      i understand where you're coming from. i waited 10 years for a family doctor and so had to learn to manage my condition without meds or therapy for a long time.

      also, the folks you described in your last paragraph: 10/10 would punch them in the throat. mental illness is not trendy or cute; it's a monster that destroys lives, and there's nothing glamorous about any of it.

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What Girls & Guys Said

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  • BaileyisDarcy
    None of my family seem to get any of this.

    Im not diagnosed with anxiety, but fuck it if thats not what this is.

    All I get told is "sometimes i feel like crying too but i suck it up because I've got shit to do. And so do you"
    Or i get told to just not cry. That I've got no reason to be anxious. That it won't help. That Im an adult and I need to act like one.

    I've tried seeing doctors but theyre all hesitant to diagnose me with anything. Apparently nothing will happen unless i start getting panic attacks on the regular again. And if i get over my anxiety enough to endlessly complain too.
    Next time Ill really emphasise how useless over the counter meds have been.

    And the breathing issues. And the occassional chest pains. And the constant emotional state that never fucks off. And the fact that my anxiety is stopping me from getting shit done which only makes it worse. Especially when i get told off for not getting shit done so i have to make excuses cause they dont believe the anxiety is why. Then i get told off for making excuses and not just doing the shit.

    Its a never ending cycle.
    • vonasaurus

      your experience sounds almost identical to mine, and i'm sorry to hear that people aren't taking you seriously.

      no one took me seriously either, but you've got the right idea. keep asking around and get a second, third, 25th opinion, until you find someone who will help you. don't take no for an answer.

      i'm sorry to hear that you're going through this.

    • Yes. Please do continue to see doctors. Report this to any GP or OB who sees you, whether its a routine physical, pap smear, whatever. Get a referral to a psychiatrist, who is actually qualified to diagnose, because your standard family doctor is not.

  • naja1225
    Hey!
    I really liked this take, I've had generalised anxiety and luckily only mild symptoms of harm ocd (which thanks to an awesome therapist, I got a handle of very quickly before it could get worse). But like you growing up I had the same responses from family doctors, like your just a worrier or you need to learn to relax and the migraines will go away... Well yeah, obviously. But unfortunately you can't just snap your fingers and do away with anxiety.

    I just wanted to mention though that, for some people medication is absolutely necessary and it can help so so much. But with any type of anti depressant (which is actually what they usually treat anxiety with) you have to be very careful. Id you're taking it for anxiety it can actually lead to depression. As in some very scary side affects. So it's not for everyone, it's not a miracle cure and much like going to therapy and doing mindfulness exercise it won't work for everyone.
    I've found that for me personally exercise does help me get some of that excess energy out, and diet will impact my mood which in turn helps with my anxiety... but it by no means abolishes it, and I too hate it when (people trying to help, but who have no idea what they're talking about) tell me that i'm anxious cause i'm not eating well. Yes I am eating well, but my brain has like an error code that won't let me calm down.
    Anyway I ust wanted to mention that about the drugs, because I think a lot of people assume they will be finally cured and the reality is anxiety is something that you can really only manage, never cure.
    Hope you're doing well!
    And to anyone reading this with anxiety stay strong! There's more of us than you think :)
    • vonasaurus

      i agree~ medication is absolutely not for everyone, nor is it a miracle drug or a one-size-fits-all approach. all i'm saying is that, if you do need it, there's nothing to be ashamed of; apologies if that was unclear.

      you are definitely not alone, and i appreciate you taking the time to read and comment. :)

  • dragonfly6516
    Borderline Personality DIsorder. I've been in and out of therapy and hospitals since 1993. I was "officially" diagnosed with Bi-Polar in 1998, and treated with an array of pill cocktails. And that's the only part of your take that I want to debate. Because of medications, I wasn't diagnosed BPD until 2011.

    For every person who thinks that you don't really need them, there is also a person who thinks that you can just take a pill for any mental disorder and "get better", instantly. PIlls are not always the answer, nor are they a magical cure. Many people do need them, but they don't work for everyone, and can actually make you worse in some cases.

    Had my doctor not fed me pills to make me behave for over 10 years, maybe it wouldn't have taken them EIGHTEEN years to get a correct diagnosis for me! The pills hid some of my symptoms and made others 10 times worse.

    It wasn't until I came off of EVERYTHING that I was finally able to really get in touch with myself and actually articulate to the doctors. I now score above average in both self awareness and articulation, even when compared to mentally healthy people, and Borderlines are usually below average.
    • vonasaurus

      i agree~ pills are not a magical quick fix, nor do they work for everyone. all i'm saying is that, if you need them, take them, because there's no shame in using medication to treat an illness. i apologize if that was unclear.

      thanks for taking the time to read and share your thoughts. :)

    • My father doesn't believe in mental illness or pills, and that makes me very angry, because they help my mother a great deal. Yes, if you need them, please use them!

      (just in case you thought I was against them)

    • vonasaurus

      no worries~ thanks for being part of the discussion :)

  • xHoneyxBeex
    I really like this myTake, well done! I can relate (somewhat). I don't have any mental illnesses but several of the comments people have said to you have also been said to me. I have an autoimmune disease (Celiac Disease) and since it's not an "obvious" illness, people can't look at me and tell.

    I've had several people (random acquaintances and even members of my own family) tell me that it's just "all in my head" or say that I "don't look sick." This is usually my reaction. Lol
    media.giphy.com/media/glmRyiSI3v5E4/giphy.gif
    Like yeah... I don't look sick on the outside but my body is slowly destroying itself unless I can maintain a strict gluten-free diet for the rest of my life (which is MUCH more difficult than most people realize as gluten is not only in food but can be found in many medications and cosmetics products as well). I've just come to the conclusion that unless someone struggles with a disease, disorder, or illness themselves, they will rarely understand or fully be able to comprehend the seriousness of it.

    I just try to have patience with people and if someone doesn't understand, I will answer their questions and help educate them about it. Once they have the correct information, it's up to them if they want to take it seriously or not. Ultimately though, don't let other people's ignorance get to you too much. *Most* people mean well and don't intend to be rude or unsympathetic. All we can do is focus on our health and try to spread awareness and education of these various illnesses that so many struggle with on a daily basis.
    • vonasaurus

      i have hashimoto's thyroiditis (a form of hypothyroidism), so trust me when i say that i get exactly where you're coming from.

      even if it doesn't bother me as much as it used to, i'll always combat ignorance when i see it. that's why talking about it is so important- i'm always happy to share my experiences with others, because that's how we start the conversations that will break down the stigmas people face.

      thanks for being part of the discussion :)

    • Exactly! That's also why I don't mind discussions about it. Sometimes the stigma of an illness can be one of the more difficult aspects of dealing with it. So yeah, it's good to be open about these things and help others understand. :)

  • I'm probably going to sound like a broken record as I've posted so much about my life struggles with social anxiety on here.

    The biggest problem with mental illness is society.

    I know some girls with social anxiety and depression, they have gotten through life without the need for medications and all are married with families and a house. Society tells Men they need to be the breadwinners, and for dating shy guys are seen an not confident and generally ignored.

    What does this mean for a guy with anxiety who struggles to work and be outgoing, my life sucks!
    I'm not accepted by others and many people found out about my anxiety by accident and they outcast me from their social circle. Girls don't bother with me. Nobody sympathizes for men with mental illness we are feared more often actually. People blame everything I do on my anxiety even though most things are not related to it, my mental illness has ruined my life.

    Maybe you can sympathize for me, and I can for you it's not easy no matter what gender you are. I try to educate people about it that still think it's imaginary or an excuse.
    • vonasaurus

      i can definitely empathize with and relate to you; we're both human, after all. and you're right: mental illness does not see gender.

      thanks for being part of the discussion.

  • GraveTruth
    The problem is they call everything a sickness now because the gov't wants people to be medicated for profit.
    Stuff like OCD barely existed in the past and now it seems everyone is complaining about having it.
    • lumos

      Barely existed or was just not correctly diagnosed? Mental illnesses have existed for as long as humans have existed. Being ignorant of them does not mean they didn't exist. The earth was always round before humans discovered it was. Your argument there is extremely flawed.
      Methods for diagnosing different types of mental illnesses have progressed, become more thorough. Illnesses that we call (for example) schizophrenia today were pretty much called "being possessed by the devil" only a couple hundred years ago.

    • vonasaurus

      your first point is right on the money. but @lumos is also correct.

      just 2 centuries ago, a mentally-ill person either killed him/herself or was disowned by his/her family (because of the religious stigma often attached to it). s/he was then locked up in an asylum and mistreated by doctors who had little to no understanding of mental illness or how to effectively diagnose and treat it because they lacked the tools and knowledge to do so.

  • Thisperson98
    I do agree to an extent, but I also believe you can personally help overcome some of the effects of mental illnesses. If someone is trying to overcome their illness, not just doing treatment because they are forces to, but actually tries to overcome it, then I respect them. If they don't try to overcome it then I don't respect them.
    • vonasaurus

      i think i get where you're coming from, as i'm totally against people using their mental illnesses as an excuse to be a dick. but, thing is, that's not most people~ we just want to be loved and accepted for who we are. nothing more, and nothing less.

    • Reach500

      I hear you, but some people might have tried to overcome more than you realize. A lot of things are much, much harder for people with mental illness.

    • @Reach500 I can normally tell if they are trying.

    • Show All
  • kilowatt04
    It's funny/sad how many of the comments here consist of people who do not have mental illness trying to convince people who have it that it is not real. It is no wonder it is still such a problem. It's like some isolated backwoods person telling an Apollo astronaut that people have never been to the moon. It's unbelievably frustrating, if nothing else just knowing that this is how ignorant people are, that this is the world you have to try to make it in.

    Mental illness has always existed. In the past, if you had it, you died. Maybe it was because you killed yourself, or someone else killed you. No one knew or cared why, and probably thought you deserved it. No one knows how many millions of people this happened to because there were not diagnosis and record keeping like today. It is known though that life expectancy was much shorter, and there are a large number of probable factors for it.

    We have always blamed people for all their traits that we don't understand. Back in the day if you had a birth defect or an physical illness it was assumed to be your fault. We understand mental illness just partially today, and as always, a large portion of people do not accept new knowledge.
  • Mr-Kabuki
    the reason the stigma exists is because their are a lot of self diagnosers out their also doctors hand out pills way to easy.
    • vonasaurus

      you are right; however, those are just two very small pieces of a much larger puzzle.

      thanks for contributing to the discussion. :)

  • abundantlyrich
    I really find the people who have serious mental issues are the one who say crazy a lot and are totally ego centric and need a hand holding moment. These are the ones who have inherited genetically. They also tend to have a lifestyle where they don't eat well or exercise a lot.
  • SheDevilxx
    *Does a Google Search on the Mental illnesses I have
    *Oh interesting... I have Depression, I'm Bipolar, oh yes, I'm going to die today! How exciting!
    *Dies.
  • Phoenix98
    As someone who suffered through major depression for a while and even was suicidal for a time many, many years ago I agree, with what your saying.

    And as for people who say those things they're like people who have never fired nor held a gun talking about how guns work and operates.

    Maybe not the best analogy but you get my point those people can never understand what it's like because they haven't what it is like they have no idea.

    But I can also tell you from experience that it is possible to fight your way out of certain things like depression and suicide/suicidal thoughts if you have the will to do it. It is by no means easy but it is possible.
  • MarkRet
    My younger daughter had trouble for years (and still does have trouble) socialising with other people, and focusing too much on something, but not focusing in something more important. After years of run-arounds with teachers and principles, we managed to find an expert that diagnosed her as having Aspergers syndrome (the highest functional form of autism). She's on medication, and gets counseling, and seems to be a little better.

    The thing is, I see a lot of parallel with her behavior and my own. I was never diagnosed, and when I was younger there wasn't much help or study on the issue. I would just get told to "Quit being stupid, and get your shit together!" Over the decades, I dug myself out of that hole, and seem to have "gotten my shit together" just with will power and determination.

    When I think back on it, my mother seemed to also have had this issue. Maybe it's hereditary.
  • likitb4istickit
    Meh sanity is overrated. I'd rather just stay crazy and keep hating everybody, much less boring than being sane.
  • Streamhopper
    I'd like to think most people would be supportive if they knew the circumstances; problem is, if we don't have regular contact with you, we don't. So you go Godzilla on us and we have no idea why. It's not that we aren't willing to try; you just have to tell us. You don't have a label slapped on your forehead. We honestly can't tell. Are you the women in the restroom washing her hands repeatedly for 20 minutes? I don't know. Are you the woman who needs to analyze every ingredient in the salad? I don't know. You have to compromise, at least a little, with those of us who try but honestly don't, or can't, know.
  • GoodGuyBreakingBad
    I been battling mental health illnesses since age 20-21 so i know it's not easy.
    Thanks for sharing well appreciate and your MyTake is excellent.
  • Leandri
    This is really good. Well my fiance always say it is all in my head, but only because he believes the brain is strong enough to overcome anything
  • skeptic002
    one stop complaining

    two what do you see?
    what goes on in your head?

    that's all I need to know
    • cipher42

      You stop complaining.

    • skeptic002

      @cipher42

      hun what goes on in your head tell me

    • cipher42

      Just that telling people to "stop complaining" is pretty damn dumb considering that's a form of complaining itself.

    • Show All
  • art84
    I myself have major depression and social anxiety so at times it is hard. But this takes is really great to see someone who has anxiety as well. I used to take medication but now I don't anymore. I think medication doesn't help that much, you have to face life. I gotten back into doing stuff that I used to enjoy like going out with my family rather than stay in doors. I haven't really gotten over it as there are times I want to be a lone. It's sorta like a tug of war between myself but it has gotten better as I gotten older.
  • KnightCross
    maybe i should check what mental illness do i have, but i'm lazy to do it and not willing to spend money to check that
  • gobsmacked3
    Always lived by the saying:

    ' Noone truly knows what goes on behind closed doors...'

    I extend this to the psyche of a person and it being impossible for anyone to truly know what is in their head. It works both ways, with some people heavily medicated when they have no condition at all to others who are basically told to swallow some cement and harden upn with them dismissed as weak or hysterical.

    It is very sad, tragic. Particularly for those with no means and forced to suffer in silence or worse see no other option but to end it all
  • Decentguy
    im struggling with 8 different disorders and mental illnesses and i love this mytake. Awesome
  • John_Doesnt
    I'm bipolar, but I love Harley Quinn's take on mental illness. She's hot as fuck and super cute about it.
    • vonasaurus

      fair enough; she's an interesting chracter, though i don't appreciate how people have used her relationship with joker to romanticise mental illness.

      there's nothing glamorous about dependency issues, abuse, psychosis, etc. they're monsters that ruin lives. but that's just my opinion, for what it's worth.

    • it sounds like you got triggered. I liked the movie portraying mental illness as a super power. It made me proud to be bipolar.

    • vonasaurus

      no, i'm pretty laid-back, i'm just extremely opinionated when it comes to people romanticising mental illness... but yes, i do like the idea of it as a superpower. maybe that'll catch on. :)

  • oddwaffle
    If you have enough math, you can get over some mental illness.
    • yes, they dont call it (M) ental (A) buse (T) o (H) uman for nothing.

  • Waffles731
    I needed this today, thank you
  • helloitsmethere
    Thank you very much... I needed this.
  • Anonymous
    I should have taken care of this years ago. Sometimes, I feel suicidal, even murderous at times, like I need to make someone pay (like my bullies). I'm lost and i don't know where my life is going. I really need help...
    • vonasaurus

      i'm sorry to hear you're going through this; definitely see a therapist (if you're working, your benefits package may cover it; or, if you're a student, your school's wellness centre can point you in the right direction).

      if they refuse to help, then keep trying until someone listens. don't take no for an answer.

  • Anonymous
    Mental illness doesn't exist, can't be tested by verifiable verifiable means.
  • Anonymous
    that's what i need
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
    Men get shunned by society when we try to speak out about mental illness, but women get praised and get all the support they need. Men just get ignored entirely.
    • vonasaurus

      i support mental health advocacy for men and women alike; mental illness does not see gender.

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