I Am Not A Top Ten List

3 years ago

As I read various posts, links to stories which link to other stories, I see the repeating titles: "Six Ways You Can...", "Three Things To Do To Fix...", "Top Twenty...", "First Five..."; on, and on, and on. I did a search on depression. More than half of the suggested blog posts were lists. A search on anxiety was just as bad. Mental illness is a still very stigmatized condition and so is quite misunderstood and outright denied by many people. My sister-in-law doesn't believe mental illness exists (people are just lazy). But still, to group information, both fact and opinion, into handy-dandy little popular lists I find a bit insulting.

Treating knowledge about mental illness as a list is, to my eyes, creating a list to checkmark off to make those who do not have mental illness feel they are accomplishing something helpful and worthwhile to ANYONE suffering with mental illness. Every mental illness is not the same; every woman is not the same shape, size, and color. A simple list to checkmark will not work for everyone, will not even work for most, or many. *shakes a fist at David Letterman* Top Ten List, indeed.

Depression gets a spotlight because it by far the most common mental illness. Anxiety's spotlight is smaller, but is still almost as bright because everyone has felt fear. Anxiety is a familiar feeling, the loss of control of one's anxiety is not so familiar to the average mentally healthy individual. Aside from the obvious fact that depression and anxiety are two distinctly different mental illnesses, which are distinctly different from other mental illnesses, there is more than one form of depression as well as more than one form of anxiety. Not all coughs are the common cold. Not all Top Ten Lists will be appropriate for all forms of depression.

Add to the mix that often mental illnesses like to use the buddy system, you get many people with more than one type of mental illness. Depression and anxiety. Paranoia and depression. Anxiety and hallucinations. Depression, mania, and delusions. Depression and depression. A person can have multiple forms of depression; I do.

Does your list suggest you should go into their home and do a chore? I would freak out. How about leave something on the sufferer's doorstep? My husband with his four different diagnosees would call the police. Or rather, text his mom to call the police, since his anxiety would be too high at that point to do it himself.

I know the belief that mental illness exists and is not something to be ashamed of, that belief needs nurturing and needs to be spread. Better than many I know; after a month off work due to depression I answer "I don't want to discuss that." whenever anyone asks me what I was sick with. I don't want the backlash, I don't want to be judged, I don't want to feel I can't talk about it to anyone. But I am not a Top Ten List. Some of the listed items I have read I nod my head to and think "That would be really nice." Some I just shake my head at. Some truly alarm me. And some lists had all three types on the same list.

Don't tell me to take two asprin and call you in the morning.

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