When Your Mental Illness Is Treated Like a Joke

Often I have found that many people around me do not fully grasp the concept of a mental illness. The term mental illness, to them, is like an alien game. Something that they do not much about, but think that they do.
Having a mental illness isn’t a scream for attention. A person’s mental health or condition does not tell you about their capabilities, what they’ve gone through, what they are going through and how strong they are.
And I am honestly sick of reading or hearing about mental illnesses being romanticized. Since when is it romantic to wake up every day and wishing only to go back to bed? To be among a beautiful crowd but too afraid to speak to anyone because you’re afraid you’ll only make digressive comments? To have compulsive behaviors that invade your daily routine?
I would like to blame this mindset embedded in a lot of people for the reason why mental illnesses are constantly being treated like a joke.
I remember once, around a few months back, when I had found myself stranded in between a conversation about mental health.
After getting too deep into the conversation I had accidentally blurted out about my troubled with OCD (I do not really share that fact that I suffer from OCD, which something that I want to change but I don’t think I am ready to, yet).
None out of the four of my friends asked me how of felt to deal with it if I was okay, or one of those general questions that a person with a physical illness usually gets asked.
Instead, one of the girls blatantly rolled her eyes and said, “Do you even know what OCD is?”
Her condescending tone fired me up and I replied with an honest yes, after all, I was and I am dealing with it.
She then went on to say, “You couldn’t possibly have OCD. Are you just doing this because you want your life to be like one of those emotional Tumblr posts?”
I didn’t say anything then, I was fourteen and I was ashamed of my mental illness and I was still a bit outraged by the way I had been spoken to. I simply walked away from the conversation.
But if something like this happens again, I know my reaction will be different. I am not ashamed of what I am going through. Because what I am dealing with is real and it is definitely not a joke that you make snarky remarks about.
Don’t let people treat your mental illness as a joke. What you are going through is real and you deserve just as much respect as anyone else.
Once my English teacher, while teaching us a lesson that had a few lines about suicidal thoughts, told us about how she felt like slapping people who think about killing themselves.
And while I do agree that suicide is never a solution to anything, I didn’t like the way she approached the topic.
People sometimes face depression, hormones start raging like a seemingly endless thunderstorm only being aggravated by external factors.
People don’t understand how much damage their words can do to a person who is already struggling (who all aren’t struggling?).
How can you say, with such vigor, about something that you do not understand? About something that people who are going through it, don’t understand themselves.

Paakhi Bhatnagar is a pro-choice and mental health activist, a writer, and a poet. She loves to spend her time reading poetry and listening to music. She is currently studying at Kings College London and hopes that one day her voice can help foster a much-needed change in this world.