6 Comments From Friends That Are Messing With Your Mental Health
Any woman with a mental illness will tell you that the battle to feel good and in control is a never-ending one. Even when we're feeling great and getting the treatment we need, women are often hyper-aware of our mental health, because mental health issues affect our gender more prevalently than they do men. Friends and family are an important cornerstone to recovery, but the people closest to us don't always get it right. In fact, they can be real morons sometimes. They say dumb things and make us feel worse than we did before. It's not because they hate our guts; rather, they're products of a society that still perpetuates a lot of stigma toward people with mental illnesses. In some cases, a lot of them don't really know any other way to talk about depression, anxiety, or eating disorders.
There are a lot of phrases out there that should never be said to someone with a mental illness, like, "Get over it" and "It's probably just the weather." But words can hurt us all the same even if they're directed at someone or something else. And I've found in my experience that this is the area most friends fail to improve in. Remember it's not your job to fix them or their comments — just make sure you're not letting it get to you to the point that your wellbeing is compromised.
Here are six comments from friends that are messing with your mental health.
1. "That girl is crazy!"
Historically, the word "crazy" was often used to describe women who were considered ill or hysterical, when they were actually just expressing their emotions or standing up to the patriarchy. We see this word being used in similar ways toward women today, and it completely invalidates what she's feeling and harms her self-worth.
Furthermore, this phrase trivializes your mental illness, even if it's not directed at you. When you hear this comment nonchalantly traded back and forth between your friends, you can't help but think they don't take mental illness seriously, and that could mean they don't really take you seriously.
2. "I'm super depressed today."
There's been a rise in using the word "depressed" as a throwaway adjective. When someone is feeling slightly upset about something, or even wildly bored, they pull this out as an adjective without thinking twice.
Anyone who struggles with clinical depression knows how frustrating it can be to try to explain that there is a stark difference between being sad and being depressed. There's a burden that comes with depression, and it can't just be shrugged off by giving yourself some TLC. By using mental illnesses as an adjective, we insinuate that they are just temporary feelings, rather than serious conditions.
Don't be afraid to speak up to your friends if they are regularly guilty of this. They care about you; they should listen and do their best not to dismiss your illness.
3. "If that happens, I'm seriously going to kill myself."
Just in case you missed it: Joking about suicide isn't a good idea. Especially not when you're close with someone who has been battling a mental illness and maybe even thoughts of suicide.
Suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in the United States; in 2014, there was a total of 42,773 individuals who took their own lives. These numbers are staggering, and they're not to be taken lightly. I doubt those same buddies of yours would be so quick to make similar cracks at people suffering from cancer or heart disease. Make them realize it's just as offensive when their comments poke fun at your mental illness.
4. "Wow, it looks like someone forgot to take their meds this morning..."
Deciding whether to take medication as a person with a mental illness is a much harder decision than most people think. Even more difficult is choosing the right kind and the correct dosage so it won't decrease quality of life. This kind of remark doesn't only diminish our weighty experiences with prescription drugs, but it reinforces the stigma that taking them makes you weak.
People who really care about you probably know about the trouble you've gone through already when it comes to medication. They'll listen to you if you express to them how hurtful this comment is. Tell them it doesn't matter if they weren't talking about you specifically; it still messes with your head and makes you think that your entire personality changes depending on whether you take meds or not.
5. "Ugh, I ate way too much and I'm fat now."
There's a lot packed into this small sentence. It equates eating, a normal bodily function, with negative weight gain, and it's a subtle way of fat shaming others. It even takes a jab at binge eating like it's a bad habit rather than a disease.
Any one of the above can make you feel frustrated if you're battling an eating disorder. When your friend says this, they dilute your very real efforts you've gone through to get a hold of your mental illness. They have to understand that what you're dealing with is so much more than a self-control problem, so comments like this have no place around your ears.
6. "She seems pretty normal to me."
The first thing that likely creeps into your head when you hear this is something like, Well, does this mean I'm abnormal? When someone normalizes another human being, they automatically separate people into two categories, and it's natural to wonder which one they think you belong in. It's not your friend's job — or anyone's job, for that matter — to classify people in this way. There's enough of that in our society when it comes to mental illness.
When our friends say things like this, we can't help but feel like they just don't get us, and that we're left to handle our mental health problems entirely on our own. Sit down and be honest with them about how these phrases truly affect you. If they're real friends, they'll hear you out and do their best to respect you — and stop saying this stuff.
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