Illness, Not Weakness

Dear World:

There are so many things I wish I could tell you, but I don’t out of fear that you won’t understand. Yet, here goes. I’m a teen with mental illness. Let me set one thing straight right here – it’s an illness. NOT a weakness. It is not something I have control over. Not something I chose. Not something I’m ashamed of – at least, not anymore.

Imagine someone with a physical illness, like cancer. Would you ever approach them and say, “Get over it”? Of course not; that would be cruel and just plain insanity.

Why should I be any different?

You may answer that unlike with physical illnesses, you can’t understand my pain. It’s foreign to you. Why should I get so upset about the lack of sympathy since people can’t understand my pain? Well, you can’t really understand the cancer patient’s pain either, unless you have the illness yourself. Yet you still sympathize. Why?

The reason is a simple one: In your mind, the cancer is not their fault. The patient has no control over the tumor in their body. Why should you blame them? Why should you offer them advice? Mental illness, conversely, is considered a class of weakness which is the fault of the person who has it.

Allow me to offer you a dose of reality. It took me superhuman strength just to scrape together the will to get up out of bed this morning. I’m working harder than you can imagine. Medication? Therapy? It’s what’s helping me get up. Please don’t scorn me for it (whether with your judging words or doubting mindset). Don’t make me feel bad for helping myself get healthier.

Indeed, many people have some inexplicable aversion towards antidepressants and the like. You refer to it as “drugs”. Why? Tylenol is a drug. Advil is a drug. But you don’t scoff at a child for taking cough medicine. While she takes the pills to help her correct an imbalance in her throat pain, I take pills to help straighten out an imbalance with my mood. It’s actually a big thing to do, a brave thing, to take medication despite the faulty societal views. I do it because of my strength, not some murky weakness.

I did not choose to have mental illness, just like a cancer patient did not call up his doctor and ask for a tumor. But I have it, and I’m going to make the best of it. I will not ignore it. I will use it to help myself become a more sensitive, caring, thoughtful person.

Please, I know you don’t necessarily understand, but try. Remember – it’s just an illness, albeit one in my mind. An illness. Not a weakness.



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