I was aimlessly browsing internet fora last night trying again to find some positivity, some hope, and reasoned sense in the madness that is perception of mental illness. To be honest, it never fails to shock me when I look around and see what people are happy to say without considered thought.

The one particular discussion that saddened me the most was a thread about Bi-Polar. It started off with a comment from the author stating they’d seen a comment from a Bi-Polar sufferer saying that they were proud to be who they were. Said author then went on to say that they thought this was ridiculous as how could you be proud that you had a mental illness and you weren’t ‘normal’? The thread then continued with quite a few other forum members saying that actually, it was a wonderful thing that the sufferer could come to terms with their illness and be proud of who they were.

The conversation then turned to another angle ‘that they couldn’t imagine someone suffering from Clinical Depression saying the same thing’. There were all sorts of comments about Bi-Polar being fashionable due to Spike Milligan and Stephen Fry being diagnosed with it, and that there was some element that Bi-Polar was an accepted condition, with Clinical Depression just being an easy way out of not wanting to do things. In fact in the end, said author was ‘sympathising’ with the Bi-Polar condition, and more or less banishing Depression into a myth. Depression in this case is being dismissed as a worthless illness, even when other mental illnesses are then hailed as horrific, sad, painful, you name it. So Depression is to become the runt of the family?

I considered commenting, however the thread was from a few years ago, so I considered that I may be shutting the gate after the horse had bolted… The fact is, I totally understand what the original Bi-Polar sufferer was saying. I personally am PROUD of who I am, despite my illness, paranoia, fears, whatever they may be. Proud of my illness? Well, that depends on what you mean by that. I am happy with the things that make me me, my compassion, my emotional acuity, my creativity – not so much of the emotional lows, hypersensitivity, constant worries etc, but without those I would not have the other either.

There have been many times in my life where I wished I was someone else, wished I felt things differently, wished I could switch off, wished many things that would make me different, but would I now truly change who I was? The answer is a resounding no. I am not sure what it is that needs to be changed to make me and people like me able to accept who we are readily and contentedly, it’s easy to say ‘society is to blame’ but society is a big thing made up of many individuals. I am a member of society as are many others suffering from a multitude of mental illnesses who are fully functioning and contributing to society as a whole.

We all need to help each other, support each other, not elevate one above the other, or marginalise because we are scared of the answer to the questions we’re asking. Like the author of the thread I was discussing a few moments ago – who obviously assume they know better than Doctors, or better even the person who described themselves as being ‘proud’ of themselves. Assumptions can be more destructive than people realise. Pride and arrogance are extremely dangerous words when describing yourself, with pride being on the cusp of a derogatory term. However, I see no reason why a little pride cannot be introduced into ones self esteem, and I for one am proud to be me. I’ve been through a lot, i’ve faced it all head on – and I refuse to be stamped on any more. Yes – I may have Depression, and it may be tough to deal with, but if that’s all life can throw at me, i thank my lucky stars and embrace it wholeheartedly.