I’ve always been perplexed by the stigmatisation of mental illness in society. Whilst texts I’ve read have shed light and allowed for views to broaden somewhat, it still seems as though we have a long way to go in terms of lightening the load for people who feel they need to hide in shame for being ‘different’. I feel a lot of people are misunderstood because it seems to be taboo to take the initiative to talk about mental health and thus the myths are formed so that the ignorant can remain ignorant and the tainted can remain tainted for no valid reason. A prime example of this having a negative effect is during childhood and teenage years. We all know that high school is a testing environment; children are truly animalistic and savage with words and often oblivious due to lack of awareness. The words that sting at such a pivotal age of change can haunt people for the rest of their lives and form insecurities that are as stubborn to remove or lessen as a red wine stain from a white rug. Schools ought to be addressing this by allowing youths to discuss their own issues as well as their concerns for their peers; you’d be surprised by how much people notice, how much people pick up from small tell-tale gestures that something is wrong. Addressing that, however, seems to be the difficult part. There is no forum. There is fear.
It’s deemed solely to be a negative attribute to somebody’s personality to be ‘afflicted’ with mental illness and though in some cases it truthfully could be considered only a debilitating diagnosis, other talented people exist completely unaware that they satisfy the criteria for mental illness. When I was younger, I decided to do a research project for school based on whether there were links between creativity and mental illness. With a lot of my friends being talented in areas such as music and art, I found it quite intriguing that their creative outlets and personalities sometimes masked their diagnosis’. A lot of people came forward to contribute in my research and most of them, in my eyes, had been ordinary artists. In actuality, a lot more was going on beneath the surface and I, as well as many others at school, had been completely distracted by talent from people’s mental health issues.
For example, it was quite common for behaviors to be acknowledged as quirks; a guitarist friend of mine concealed his self-destructive cycle. He self-loathed, abused alcohol and also balanced being a musical genius for years before his parents realised that he wasn’t just a typically angsty teenager but actually struggled with rapid cycling as a result of un-diagnosed Bipolar disorder. His ups mirrored his heightened creativity bouts whilst his downs seemed to fall during the absence of plans, during which I’d get drunken phone calls and tearful confessions as to suicide attempts. Managing his mood-swings and gaining understanding as to how he works, he’s in a positive place now, but there’s a fine line between being okay and not being okay. Everyday is a walk along that tight-rope.
BUT- would my friend be the same excellent musician if he were without Bipolar? Without his buzz for ideas, consuming his sleepless nights with recording E.P’s that are acknowledged by notable music critics as being ‘out of this world’, would my friend be my friend? He is different, but beautifully different at that. People don’t understand him even without the label of Bipolar (which he doesn’t openly disclose), but that lack of understanding isn’t fear in his situation, it’s awe. People actually admire him for his talents and rock-god status because they’re unaware of the underlying diagnosis. If they did know, would that change the way they talked of him or treated him? Perhaps.
Even from personal experience, I’ve noted that in terms of mood, my peaks of creativity are often accompanied by diminished sleep/sometimes full bouts of insomnia, hyperactivity and lack of focus. When I was younger, I was obsessed by the need to know what was wrong with me. I knew there was something wrong with me because I was low. Lowest of all lows. I felt alienated from people of a similar age and people were never hesitant to tell me I was weird or fucked up, psychotic, Bipolar, different. Nowadays, I choose to focus on the ‘different’. Yes I am different and so is everybody else, instead of fighting that, I’m choosing to embrace it. I’m not concerned with the need to have a label to explain my idiosyncrasies because I’ve spent years concealing them just because it’s convenient for other people; that doesn’t make me happy. I get help when I need help. I’m responsible for myself and I’ve spent years taking notes of my own behavior and learning how to avoid the extreme lows. I’ve additionally, pardon the language, learned to stop giving a shit. I’ve learned to stop giving a shit about what people think of me, particularly if it’s negative and if they’re negative people preying on others. You’d be surprised by how many people exist only to project their issues onto other broken people; it’s kind of disgusting.
Hence, the Beauty is Different community was born. What really pushed me over the edge was watching my best friend face the worst comments for her eating disorder, something which can’t be concealed and hidden away as a secret problem, like some of my other friends and myself. Her body was her label for a short while and walking in public was her stage, or so it felt with the amount of agonizing stares and stupid comments hurled her way. Beauty is Different is YOUR forum, where you can talk and ask and encourage and listen. People make the world a dark place for your peers, maybe even yourself and as a result, bad things can happen and good people can hurt, unneccessarily. If you are facing concerns related to your mental health or you know somebody else is, send them our way!
If you’re feeling lonely, feel free to talk anytime! We can be found on Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr under Beauty is Different Campaign 🙂