Saturday, 19 May 2018

Why I Don't Talk About Mental Illness

This may seem a unusual subject on a blog about books but it's something I feel needs to be mentioned even though I've no desire to get into the specifics of my illness. I've been suffering with mental illness since I was a child and it's not something that can be 'cured' no matter how many years of therapy I've had or will have in the future. When it comes to writing I find it allows me to focus my mind and keep me occupied, it's also allows me to express myself in a way I would normally find so difficult.

Obviously, being a writer I've written a book about my mental illness and my experiences seeking treatment. I mention it on my website as well as briefly mentioning that I have such an affliction. Other than that I try to avoid the subject altogether.

I want my stories to be judged on their merits not on the mental state of the author. If I write a terrible book I'd like someone to tell me my story sucked, I don't want them to think it was a good attempt for someone suffering mental illness. If I write an epic novel that becomes a best seller I want to be celebrated for my achievement as an author, not an author who wrote something wonderful despite suffering with mental illness.

Then there's the stigma of mental illness or as it seems nowadays the opposite. I've noticed in recent years, especially on social networking sites, that people will describe themselves as having mental illness within their profiles. I'm all for people talking about mental health, I think it's important that people share their experiences, but in some cases people are branding the name of specific mental afflictions like a badge of honour. The problem with this is that I'm sure a lot of people are simply making it up or self diagnosing for the sake of appearing cool. People with genuine mental illness are suffering day in, day out, they'd give anything to live a normal life. Brandishing their mental condition at every opportunity is the last thing on their minds.

On Twitter if there's a mental health awareness week, or something similar, I happily talk about such things not hiding my illness from my followers, but the rest of the time I shut up about it and talk about books or whatever subject I find interesting at the time.



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