On the left, you can see what a bad day looks like for me with my lungs. On the right, you’ll find what it looks like on a bad day with my mental illness.
The difference? One is being treated with a mask and inhaled medication, and the other with my emotional support animal and anti-anxiety pills.
And that should be the only difference.
The thing is, most people can’t see it that way. If I post a picture on social media of me getting a breathing treatment, the immediate response is support and well wishes. However, if I post a picture of me curled up with my ESA, eyes bloodshot from obvious tears, the reaction is very different. It becomes something to mock or laugh at or judge or label.
The thing is, though, both have the power to keep me in bed for days. They are both capable of landing me in the hospital – as both have. They’re both significantly debilitating in their own ways. On bad days with both, I find myself exhausted and resistant to the idea of company, dependent on medication, and potentially in need of additional medical help. It’s just two different organs malfunctioning – that’s it. My airways swell, or the chemicals in my brain misfire, and I can’t control either one. I can treat them, but I can’t cure them.
So, why is one so heavily stigmatized over the other? Why do my poor lungs warrant more compassion than my struggle with bipolar or PTSD? Why are flowers sent and shifts at work covered when I struggle to breathe, but I am avoided and gossiped about when I can’t think clearly?
It shouldn’t be this way – not for anyone. We shouldn’t be so ashamed to admit when we’re having a bad mental health day. It doesn’t mean you’re weak – not in the slightest. You’re brave – so incredibly brave, no matter what anyone else says. Whether you’re facing a physical or a mental illness, you are doing incredibly well and no one else gets to judge you for it.
Keep your head above water. You’re stronger than you think.