Friday, January 22, 2016

physical vs mental illness

I hurt my ankle Wednesday night. I'm still not 100% sure what I did to it, but what I do know is that at 3am Thursday morning, my ankle was purple and almost twice the size of the other ankle.

The swelling has since gone down a lot but the pain is ever present. Yesterday, I took my crutches to go to school, because my foot was too swollen to fit into a shoe, and too painful to walk on.

I noticed something strange though as I walked to and around campus. People were nicer to me. Bus drivers didn't mind me shuffling around to get my ID, three strangers held doors open for me, and several people went out of their way to ask if I needed help.
I ended up not staying for my classes as my pain level was quite high, as well as my anxiety and depression, so I went hope to rest and sleep. When concerned classmates asked where I was, and I told them about my ankle, there responses were along the lines of "Oh no, I'm so sorry, get better soon! Rest lots! Would you like me to bring you anything?"

This was all great and wonderful.

Why aren't mental illnesses treated the same way? I know it's difficult to know who's going through a difficult time as mental illnesses are often invisible, but there are certain situations where students can make a difference and often don't. For instance, when I got on the bus last summer after a tough night, and my arm was visibly cut up, the bus driver glared at me. When I saw a girl crying in the corner of the hall, no one went up to her and asked her if she was okay. And when I'm stuck in bed and can't go to class, and tell my friends it's because of my mental health, I do get very kind responses (I'm lucky to have the amazing friends that I have), but I have several friends who don't get positive responses from their friends.

This post isn't about how people treat those with mental illnesses badly. That's another issue. This is about how people don't know how to support those with mental illnesses. We are quick to assume that someone crying in the hall is a drama queen, the person with the cuts is attention seeking, and that I'm just lazy when I can't go to class.

Not a single person assumed that I was being a drama queen, attention seeking or just too lazy to go to class yesterday. And what the hell do they know? I could have been using crutches just for the hell of it and making it all up. But people didn't make that assumption, like they often do when it comes to mental illnesses.

The same way that people don't choose to injure an ankle, people don't choose to develop a mental illness.

Let's all do our best to me more mindful, nice and help everyone out. You don't know how much a smile, a hug or a simple 'can I help with anything' will do to improve someone's day.


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