The hard side of my superpowerBy Anna Scott Lovejoy | 02/08/2016 2:24pm
As many as 42. 5 million American suffer from mental illnesses, many of which show no obvious signs. CW | Layton Dudley
Something about my personality always felt and seemed slightly more extreme than the personalities of my siblings, peers and teachers. When I was upset, I would let you know it. When I loved you, I would undoubtedly show it. When I was inspired creatively, getting enough sleep for a functional tomorrow became laughable. According to my peers, I practically deserved an award for my ability to pull all-nighters and sleep in as late as I did. I knew something was different about my mind that gave me this special superpower, and I was proud of it.
Growing up brings on new experiences and responsibilities that affect our emotions in profound ways, and in high school I started to notice problems that came from the intensity of my emotion. As the adults in my life harped on me to enjoy the “care-free living” while I could, I started to think something was wrong with me. I cared. I cared about anything and everything too much for someone my age. The emotional extremity that I once considered my superpower, was now being diagnosed as Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Bi-Polar II Mood Disorder. Great. I was merely super crazy!
Although I love to joke about my diagnoses, getting diagnosed gave me a sense of hope, stability and self-understanding. I am thankful for a family who taught me to be confident, open, humorous and myself. Without them instilling these core values into me, I may have never been so comfortable with the notion of getting a little help controlling my superpower. I am highly functioning despite these conditions, and people would most likely not take it seriously when I tell them I do in fact have these diagnoses from a professional. I am guilty of being a bit of a hypochondriac. Thus, I don’t blame my friends when I tell them about my mood disorders, and they just laugh it off. I am open about all of these disorders because they are a part of me, yet they do not define me.
As an effective coping mechanism, I try to continuously set short-term goals for myself in regard to maintaining my mental health. Recently, my goal or obstacle to overcome has been working on acceptance and understanding. This is something that in all aspects of life is extremely important for someone living with mental illnesses to constantly work on having. Although, simply accepting some things about the culture and stigma surrounding mental illness is only doing an injustice to those living with these sicknesses.
Growing up in a household with parents who taught my siblings and I to accept, understand, be aware of and embrace our different mental strengths and struggles allowed us to take our minds and propel forward in our society. With that being said, blame cannot always fall on other parents for being unaware and dismissal of their children’s mental health issues, for our society is currently one that has such a taboo and lack of education in regard to mental illness. This leaves us with a shortage of psychiatrists and high numbers of sick people left blaming themselves for feeling like an outcast because of their inability to conquer their mood without professional help.
Frequently signs or symptoms of a mental illness are not taken as seriously as signs or symptoms of a physical illness. In 2013, The Huffington Post released an article that stated, “According to the American Medical Association, the total number of physicians in the U.S. increased by 45 percent from 1995 to 2013, while the number of adult and child psychiatrists rose by only 12 percent, from 43,640 to 49,079.” This problem is leaving mental illness sufferers unaware, ashamed or dismissive of very serious, overwhelming, and incapacitating mental health issues. Learning to control your mind and your symptoms is no easy task, and conquering mental illness requires hard work and sometimes medication. It is time that we drop the stigmas about mental sicknesses being seen as less serious than physical sicknesses. Most mental illnesses are lifelong and constantly evolving, so it is time to embrace our physical differences and our mental differences equally.
We need to find ways to help people realize it is totally normal to suffer from a mental illness, and it in no way means that one cannot function and preform at above average rates socially, in the classroom or in the workforce. It merely means that you have the opportunity to self-reflect and learn about yourself and your mind. A huge number of sufferers go through life feeling like no one understands their struggles, and perhaps this is because no one wants to talk about or share their own stories. This is why I openly talk about my story and one-of-a-kind mind. This is me hoping to help people realize that when it comes down to it, we are all a little crazy, and that’s just fine.
Anna Scott Lovejoy is a sophomore majoring in general business and biology. Her column runs biweekly.