If you don’t know already, I’m a science freak. I love Chemistry, despite past struggles in it, I love physics despite some horrible experiences in the classes I’ve taken, and I love Biology, particularly neuroscience and biochemistry. In fact, I have the opportunity to do a paid internship this summer ($3000 hell yeah) in a biochemistry lab assuming I can pass this Chem class this semester. So when I hear wonderful things about some major scientific discovery that seems promising, I get way more giddy than I’d like to admit.
Similarly, when I hear not so good things, I get un-giddy.
I’m a little behind on the times since they seemed to have been reported on the tenth of September, but a cancer research expert by the name of Patrick Pollard died after suffering cardiac arrest as a result of ingesting 30 Valium tablets, cocaine, heroin, and alcohol.
I’ve never heard of the guy, didn’t know anything about him finding a link between diabetes and cancer, and I still feel a sense of loss. These people are brilliant minds doing the type of research they do and it’s always a blow to the stomach when I hear we’ve lost one of them. It’s a harder blow to the stomach to hear doctors recount his struggles with anxiety, depression, alcoholism. It reminds me how versatile mental disorders can be and why our stigma attached to these disorders are so shattering. I doubt professionals of his stature are ever comfortable with admitting to struggling with their mental health. If it doesn’t have to do with pride or refusal to accept the fact, I’m sure it has a lot to do with stereotypes and the threat of having colleagues look at them differently.
It also brings us into the stigma of addiction. I think a lot of people generally separate addiction from mental disorders but the truth is addiction is often a symptom of a mental health issue, if not a cause of it. I hear people regard addicts as “stupid” just as often as I hear people called someone with depression “lazy”. We generally see them as people who can’t get their shit together because they’re just not trying hard enough or they just don’t care. Ask any seasoned addict and I’m sure they’ll tell you they hate what they do, i’m sure they’ll tell you they’ve tried for so long, that they know what they’re doing is wasting their life and that, most of all, they wish they wouldn’t do it. The majority of addicts can’t just tell themselves not to pick up a needle. There’s a true, physical dependency with addiction that isn’t present in mental disorders and it’s what most people overlook.
Every problem takes work. I don’t understand why that’s such a hard concept for people outside of the realm of mental illness and addiction to understand. Having to work at something doesn’t make anyone less of a person, in fact it makes them stronger than ever. It gives them tools and skills others would have never developed. It gives them insight into a world others have never seen. It gives them the chance to feel emotions others will never feel. And quite honestly, I’m thankful to be one of those people. My life is full of substance. If anything, we need to respect these people; they fight for every day of their life, they know what it means to be grateful for an “OK” day,just as someone battling Cancer knows what it means to be grateful for life itself, to not see today as a waste of space but as a gift. We’re all here in the same fight, some just have to fight harder than others and those are the people who should be appreciated and revered, not Kim Kardasian.
The same goes for those suffering an eating disorder or body dysmorphic disorder. I don’t speak often on these things because I have no experience with them, but they’re just as important as the rest of the major mental illnesses. Anorexia is the most lethal of all psychiatric disorders and yet we look at them as if they’re some freaks of nature. We’ve created most of the illness and yet we’re calling these people stupid! Of course there are elements of them feeling out of control and wanting to control some part of their life so they control their food intake (so family/environment/social life is a huge factor), but there’s also the influence of the media and their messages of beauty. One experiment used an isolated tribe as subjects, where thick and curvy was still beautiful and introduced them to western television. Cases of Anorexia and Bulimia where the words had never been uttered or even considered, skyrocketed. Adolescents start puking to control their weight. This was 1999. So my fury with this (besides the destruction of a culture) is why the hell do you reprimand people with these disorders for trying to make themselves be how you are telling them they should be? They too should be admired for waking up every day, fighting against their brain, fighting against stigma, fighting against society, and fighting for their life.
My advice to everyone who has struggled with any illness, physical or mental, is look at each day like a victory. Because you’re fighting from the moment you wake up to the moment you lay your head on that pillow. The fact that you make it to bed every night means you’ve succeeded another day. You’re worthy of that accomplishment.
And let us think positively of the ones who could no longer keep up the fight.