By NICOL SHOUP HERRERA
August 21, 2017
“The romanticization of mental illness is not only misleading, but also dangerous.”
Think of the common conception of someone with an eating disorder: is it someone white, skinny, pretty eating a couple almonds for dinner, and then working out while her long blonde hair sways behind her? Or people like Marilyn Monroe, Sylvia Plath, Virginia Woolf–tragic but beautiful; who died young and were thus immortalized in their vibrant youth; whose mental illness gave them depth, made their art lovely because of its delicate sadness and emotion.
It becomes harder for people with mental illness to work on their issues, if they think they are somehow falling into the trope of, say, the ‘young, beautiful, sad artist.’ Sometimes, it can worsen their self esteem; I have depression, why can’t I harness it like Sylvia Plath does in her poetry?
These conceptions are horribly misconstrued. Mental illness is not pretty. It is an illness. People who are mentally ill have an imbalance of chemicals in their brains. There is nothing mystical or wondrous about it.
So, mental illness is misconstrued. This can be dangerous. It becomes harder for people with mental illness to work on their issues, if they think they are somehow falling into the trope of, say, the ‘young, beautiful, sad artist.’ Sometimes, it can worsen their self esteem; I have depression, why can’t I harness it like Sylvia Plath does in her poetry?
This is a dangerous thought, and elevating mental illness onto a pedestal can be the cause of such thoughts.
Therefore, it is imperative for steps to be made in the understanding of mental illness by giving day-to-day people who have mental illnesses the platform to convey their experiences in a more realistic manner.
she says she’s sad
she complains about the milky rib cage
I can see through her skin
but smiles at me like she’s won a war
as she pushes her food away
she wants to die she says
looks at me with blame in her eyes
angry that the world does not owe her happiness
her voice pitches higher and it’s
her against the world
— f* you, she says, f* you because I am sad
aren’t I cool?
I say f* you and
wear my sadness like armor—
you are sick
but she looks at me and
makes me want to be
a sad girl too
tell me I’m beautiful dressed in sadness
skin the color of moonlight
body draped on the bed
below the windowsill.
a tear catches barely-there light,
tangles in strands of dark hair.
your eyes bright with wonder.
my body too weak
to carry its own weight, lending
itself to you. arms circle
behind my knees,
side pressed to your chest, my head
is the sound of your ego preening
at my inability,
love found through hero-complexes,
someone says I’m
so I dress in depression like I dress in
because I’m told it’s
depression becomes very un-
pretty when I go
to bed at 6pm
every night for a month
I am outside where
spring air weaves
through grass, watching
the lovely face of my best friend
I could feel a little more.
I wonder if I’m waiting
I don’t think I
I become tired of
the lack of love
I have for myself.
when summer releases
I try to teach myself
to feel the sun
on my skin.
tell me sadness is pretty
I’ll tell you
and that it takes