Although certainly not a new phenomenon, evidenced by the existence of the manic pixie dream girl in 90% of romance movies, people have been romanticizing mental illness for quite some time. While I may simply be falling to my own doom and gloom bias, it seems like the internet has made it a far worse problem.
This Is Me: Essentializing Your Illness
One of the absolute worst parts of today’s internet culture is the essentialization of mental illness. We applaud people for “Sharing their stories” and wearing their maladaptations like battle scars. Don’t get me wrong, I think people should be able to discuss their struggles in an open and honest way. But that isn’t what we’re doing. Openly espousing your suicidal ideations thinly cloaked in the veil of either “Irony” or “Dark Humor”, isn’t only counter-intuitive, but it’s also harmful to the rest of broader society.
The Worm Crawls In
Mental illness is like a parasite, slithering through the pathways in your mind. It feeds on your doubts, your fears, your sadness. And it slowly reinforces these dark thoughts, growing in strength every step of the way. “Just stop thinking like that”, we’ve all heard it, disregarded as useless advice from an ignorant but well-meaning soul. But there is some truth to it. You have to stop thinking like that. If you make no effort to counter those thoughts, they dig their way deeper and deeper into your mind, and it becomes harder and harder to break free. This is the backbone of CBT, one of the most widely used therapy techniques in the industry.
Scream Into the Void
“I should just kill myself”, you might think. Why? “Everyone hates me, they’d be happy I was gone”, would they? When thoughts like these cross through your mind, know that it isn’t you. It’s simply the electrical impulses in your mind stuck in a rut. Scream into the void of your mind, “I have things I need to do tomorrow”, “Most of the people I know would be devastated if I died”, counter every disabling thought you have with the truth. When you’re stuck in the rut, it won’t feel like the truth at first, but the more and more you dig yourself out, the more those dark thoughts will begin to be replaced with that truth. And the more you’ll come to realize it’s the truth.
Let It Roll On
Another useful tool is known as mindfulness meditation. While most hear the word meditation, and imagine blocking out all thoughts from your mind, this is incorrect. In mindfulness meditation, you are an outside observer of your thoughts. You simply watch your thoughts move through your mind, not engaging with them, positively or negatively. I’m no mystic either, mindfulness meditation is backed by neuroscientists and the scientific community as having a positive effect on numerous functions of the mind. Plus it’s free, so there’s really nothing to lose by trying it.