We still have very far to go regarding the eradication of the stigma surrounding mental illness and chronic illness, especially when they are “invisible illnesses”. Perhaps it is, at least in part, because of all the negative stereotyping that still exists in the media. If it is a mentally ill person who committed a crime then, it seems, it is all the more newsworthy, because we act like the violent actions can be explained by saying well “he/she is crazy”. We place the person firmly in the category of other and thereby act like “we” are not like that, will never be like that, and will never do such a thing. And, suddenly, the “others” are turned into one homogeneous (violent and unpredictable) being. Just a being, mind you, not a human being.
Yet the millions walking around with these illnesses aren’t all the same. Each is still an individual. Each is still a person in his or her own right. And they are still contributing to the world every day.
Mentally ill and chronically ill does not mean that you are unable to do your job, go to school, or get a degree. Being mentally ill or chronically ill does mean having a much harder time doing it. But as for not being able to do it? Not at all? At least give us the benefit of the doubt you would give any healthy person.
For some of us it is more of a challenge than it is for others. There are those who are unable to work (or work full-time) due to their illnesses, but that does not mean that they cannot and do not contribute to the world. Many people just seem blind to the fact that the sufferers of these illnesses do contribute to the world and the lives of their families and friends.
Yes, we may need to see doctors on a strict schedule and take medication every day, but that does not automatically make us unable to do things like work or go to school. It does not make us weak, unreliable, untrustworthy or someone to be scared of.
It does mean having to fight against stigma and against our own bodies. It does mean ignoring the world when it says that we can’t. It means working many times as hard to make a life for ourselves and standing on our own two feet.
We do not want to be put in a corner because of myths and stigmas. We do not want pity from those not affected by invisible illnesses, but we do want understanding and support. We simply want the world to believe us when we say that we are ill/must go to the doctor or pharmacy/need to take a day’s vacation to recharge our batteries.
We simply want to be given the same chances as those not affected. We want to be seen as someone, as an individual, as a person who can and do make a positive difference to the world in our own way. We just want to be people.