Is Mental Illness Real And Other Insane Questions People Are Asking

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Mental illness is stigmatized. But there's also a media glamorization of mental illness so the very dangerous question is mental illness real is asked.

sarah fader stigma fighters

The Definition Of Mental Illness

The stigma of mental illness is incredibly real and incredibly harmful. But there's an eerie flip side to this conversation. The media sometimes presents having a mental illness as glamorous, as something that makes life—and a person—more interesting. To some people, this translates as reason enough to ask is mental illness real or is mental illness constructed. On VProud there's a truly powerful video and conversation about the glamorization of mental illness. Vlogger Sammi Adams distills this dialogue to this: mental illness is an illness, it's boring and annoying and so, so very far from glamorous. Founder and CEO of Stigma Fighters, a non-profit organization that encourages individuals with mental illness to share their personal stories, Sarah Fader, reflects on Sammi's video from the perspective of someone who has both lived with a mental illness and as someone who has delved into countless mental illness stories. Sarah explains exactly how not glamorous mental illness is, and why understanding this fact is so very important. Take a look at what Sarah has to say about the juxtaposition of the stigma of mental illness and the glamorization of it.

—The VProud Team

mental illness definition

It's Not "Cool" to Have a Mental Illness, 

But It is Real Life

By Sarah Fader for VProud

I loved Sammi Adam's video about the glamorization of mental illness. The media has a tendency to glamorize people living with mental illness. Adams references Kurt Cobain as an example. Amanda Bynes is another celebrity who comes to mind. The media made it look as if Bynes' erratic behavior made her a more colorful and interesting person. Meanwhile, I would venture to guess living in her head everyday is not so easy.

Mental illness is not at all glamorous, but rather it is a reality that many of us—one in four Americans, to be exact—have to live with. I don't have a choice as to whether I have a panic disorder or not. I have it, and it's a matter of dealing with it. I choose to take medication and go to therapy on a weekly basis to manage the anxiety that I am genetically predisposed to.
Adams makes a great point that it can be fairly mundane living with mental illness. Once one has a treatment plan that works for her, it's simply a matter of following said treatment plan. Think about someone who is living with diabetes. They are monitored by a physician and their insulin levels are checked frequently. The same goes for those of us living with bipolar disorder, anxiety, depression, and other mental illnesses. We see our practitioners and we let them know how we are feeling and if our treatment plan needs to be adjusted.
There is nothing awesome about waking up with my heart racing for no apparent reason. In fact, quite frankly, it sucks. I would rather not have panic, but the reality is that I have it. It is a part of who I am. Does it annoy me? Absolutely. Would I change it? No. Here's why. It also makes me an empathetic person. It allows me to understand others who are living with anxiety and it has led me to my work.

Today I am the CEO and Founder of the mental health non-profit Stigma Fighters. One of our goals within the organization is to normalize mental illness. We want to show the world that you can live a remarkable life and still have Borderline Personality Disorder, Schizophrenia, and other mental illnesses that have been severely stigmatized. If you are living with a mental illness, please know that you are not alone. There are so many of us out there who are coping in our own ways.

sarah fader vproud
About the author: Sarah Fader is a native New Yorker who enjoys naps, talking to strangers, and caring for her two small humans and two average-sized cats. Sarah is the CEO and Founder of Stigma Fighters, a non-profit organization that encourages individuals with mental illness to share their personal stories. She is an author and blogger, having been featured on Psychology Today, The Huffington Post, HuffPost Live, and Good Day New York. She is the editor of The Stigma Fighters Anthology, a collection of essays from real people living with mental illness. Like six million other Americans, Sarah lives with panic disorder. Through Stigma Fighters, Sarah hopes to change the world, one mental health stigma at a time. Join Sarah's honest conversations on VProud.


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