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I am a 29 year old woman diagnosed with bipolar disorder type 1 and also suffer from general anxiety and panic attacks. I have only been recently diagnosed but have been ill since I was a teenager. I tend to have mixed-manic episodes, hence the name of my blog. I am a regular guest blogger for Black Dog Tribe. I am not a mental health professional. I am just writing from my own experiences with mental illness. If you wish to use any of my blog content please contact me at lababup@gmail.com. Visit me on twitter @lababup

Sunday, 9 February 2014

Why don't you just 'get over' your mental illness?

Well today someone basically told me to ‘get over’ my low self-esteem. Her advice was simple. To have people believe in you and trust you, you have to project confidence. If you are not confident you just need to ‘make yourself’ confident. One way she suggests doing this is to just act confident and then real, internal confidence just comes naturally.

What a load of bullshit. People that act confidently don’t suddenly miraculously feel truly confident. At best they are kidding themselves. At worst they are living a complete lie and no one really knows the real them. They will then start to feel like a fraud. The idea as well that you can just ‘make yourself’ confident seems completely bizarre. By what process would this be achieved? Just by telling yourself ‘I am confident’ over and over again? Pressing a magic personality switch?

This kind of thinking, that you can just make yourself feel a certain way, is the kind of thinking which leads to people harshly judging those with mental health problems. These ‘judgers’ see themselves as mentally well and attribute this (lucky!) disposition to their own self-control. They decide that the reason other people are not mentally well is that they haven’t (somehow) ‘decided’ on making sure that they are mentally well. They have been weak. They have let themselves go. They have given up.

This could not be further from the truth. Why would someone just allow themselves to be depressed, manic, agitated, anxious or delusional? These states of being are extremely unpleasant and no one wants to experience them. They are horrible for the person in these states and then there is the added problem that other people often feel no sympathy for them (unlike if you had a physical illness). If these people could change how they are feeling they would. 

People are different. Some people are genetically prone to mental illness. Some people have had harder life experiences. Some people have personalities which cope less well with stress. The idea that these people are ‘weak’ could not be further from the truth. Just surviving every day with a mental illness takes strength. If some of these judgemental people could just experience the pain that people with mental health problems went through, I think they would realise the strength it takes.

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