I have started this post about five times already. Each completely different, and each not enough to me. Each revision was completely deleted, and a new one started over the course of almost a week and a half. And I wasn’t happy with any of them. The topic that I want to forge a discussion about today is the idea of ‘perfection’ and the power that single word has over people with mental health disorders, but the problem I keep running into is that I have been borderline neurotic the past several days and I just can’t keep a single running thought in my head without jumping to something completely unrelated. This post may very well come out sounding scatterbrained, but I’ve also decided that’s okay. I’ve been in a very dark mental state since about a week ago, and allowing myself to write in this state will capture something I often can’t put into words. And even if I still can’t, perhaps the general feeling will somehow relay itself through my writing.
…anywho, I said I wanted to discuss perfection right? Yeah… okay let’s see…
So per my Barbie picture above, modern society has increased the pressure on both men and women to be a new brand of ‘perfect’. Perhaps most detrimentally to young adults whose self image is still developing.
We all need to be beautiful, to be smart, to go to college, to exercise, to eat right, to play a sport, to be wealthy, to always dress in new clothes, to have equally beautiful best friends, to have a perfect significant other, to have a perfect family life, to keep a busy social life, to be politically active, to be culturally literate, to be healthy…
There are so many ideas always being pushed at us of what a person absolutely should be that there isn’t a whole lot of room for our own opinions. The media, capitalism, and social media have taken our own thinking out of the equation and told us what we need to achieve.
What a dangerous thing, when we are taught what to think instead of how to think.
In this mold that has been defined for us by society, where does any kind of mental illness fit in? Spoiler alert: it doesn’t.
So mentally ill people often go undiagnosed for years until finally reaching a breaking point, or worse, they never get the help they need.
Others often are in denial they have an illness, because who wants that kind of stigma attached to them? Who wants to be labeled as “mentally ill”.
So I’m going to do something I often don’t do, and I’m going to share a few more personal details about myself. Something I also said in a previous addition makes me feel very uncomfortable and exposed. But here goes.
I am a young, colleged-aged adult. Often struggling between the world telling me I need to grow up and be responsible but simultaneously not being trusted with such responsibilities because I’m “too young” – a very frustrating kind of limbo. I am pursuing a career in the medical field and am in my junior year of a very competitive program that ranks higher than Johns-Hopkins and Priceton’s same programs. (Although somehow outside of the profession my small school is not widely known). I work a part time job, am involved in a Greek organization on campus (it’s a love hate relationship, but it definitely gets me more involved), I actively participate in community service, bring dog and cat food to the local animal shelter when I have any extra cash, and am in a healthy long term relationship with my significant other; there’s a good possibility we might even have marriage in our future.
My life literally sounds perfect, doesn’t it? I sound like I have all of my ducks in a row.
Well, that might be what the world sees, but what they didn’t see is the panic attack I had last weekend because I was staying with family a mere 60 minute drive outside of my normal home and that being out of my normal environment made me so on edge my chest did that thing when I’m panicking where it tightens up and it feels like I’ve been strapped into a too-tight corset.
The world didn’t see the panic attack yesterday when I felt so misunderstod and isolated. Like I had no one to talk to that would accept the very ill side of me. The part of me that was hysterically crying, struggling to breathe, pulling at my hair as I drove to my SO’s house while my brain frantically searched through the people who just might answer the phone and calm me down if I called them right then. They don’t know that just getting out of bed in the morning and getting dressed is its own huge feat and I constantly, actively have to put energy into pushing myself to do normal everyday activities.
I am not going to write the somewhat formal ‘conclusion’ to this piece as I typically do in my others. I just want to pose a few questions to anyone reading this to think on until I write again.
Where did this stigma of mental illness start?
How does it affect your daily life?
Why has the conversation of mental illness opened up so much, yet the stigma is as staunch as ever?
How did you feel during your last panic attack/ptsd episode?
Did you have anyone to talk to? If so what did they do to help you?
What is your biggest fear concerning your mental illness?
Will your coworkers look at you differently? Are you afriad to seek medical advice? Will your social circle outcast you?
Where does this stigma end?