I read an article yesterday claiming to be written by a mentally ill person, about the “tiredness” those with mental illnesses typically suffer. It was supposed to be an article that was informative and directed to those without mental illness but who know someone who is mentally ill. I read the article top to bottom. And I came to one conclusion, you can’t pass yourself off as mentally ill, if you aren’t mentally ill.
I will admit that the article while completely ridiculous was well-written. The author knew enough about being tired and mental illness to make some points. The problem lie not in the points, which they probably got off the internet, but the justification, the facts that make the point valued.
I love telling people that if you aren’t mentally ill you can’t understand the concept of being mentally ill. Just because you are a doctor sitting in an office listening to people talk about their mentally ill days doesn’t mean that you have one iota of a chance of actually understanding what it feels like, what it tastes like, what it means to have this horrific family of diseases. Don’t have the disease, won’t actually understand it. Period. Exclamation point. End of paragraph.
I am a snob when it comes to those who are writing about mental illnesses. I truly believe that although much of the internet contains the information you need to write a bullet point list about some of the effects of these diseases, if you don’t have the diseases then the inconsistency will be apparent. Problem is, those glowing errors, or at least mis-directions, can not be detected by the average person. Even if you are a mother who comes across one of these articles, written by someone who is not mentally ill, you won’t know. And then you will take information and apply it to your child as if you do know. And that can lead to a terrible price.
The article in question was about being tired when you have mental illness. It didn’t mention the exhaustion that comes with depression, or the despair that leads to a heavy head falling down, or the sheer bone deep knowledge of the truths of these diseases that can lead you to living in your bed, yet never closing your eyes. The article mentioned that our mentally ill brains that are moving so fast, dealing with so many problems and issues, and containing so many elements of differences, is what is causing our tiredness.
I am not tired because my brain moves too quickly. I am tired because I realize that my brain is never going to stop moving despite my deep seated desire for a quiet moment. I am not tired because of the voices I hear; I have been hearing them for as long as I remember. I am not tired because there is darkness one day and light the other; I get tired when I have to confront the truth that this is my life and will be my life for the rest of my life.
Everyone these days are talking about “fake news”. Even ’60 minutes’ had a segment of the stuff. We can all acknowledge that reading a site that says it is The New York Times brings us some sort of confidence that websites with strange names and interesting logos can not. We all know by now, unless of course it is fake news, that organizations like Facebook continually put news through their feed based on some mathematical equation that doesn’t all the time catch the truth. We still read the articles. And most of the time we still believe the source.
Personally, I read opinion pieces. I find those are safer because from the beginning I know they are essentially fake news. They are usually not actual fact but an opinion. There is a weird sense of comfort there. Almost like if I don’t go in with blinders, I won’t run into any walls. Yet I have members of my family and friends who will swear on the Bible itself that certain things are true. Whether they be things that Hillary Clinton has done, the many pregnancies of Gwen Stefani, or simply how Congress governs, there are always people who need to believe what they read. And those who are read algorithms by some faceless guy at Facebook are those that I would argue are most susceptible. They are young, they are hip, and they truly think they know it all.
But the truth is, there isn’t one organization that actually gets it right all the time. I grew up in a bull pen of a major newspaper. I sat at the desks and played on their typewriters and later their computers, waiting while my parent was meeting with the editor. I saw what it took to get the story those same reporters were desperate to deliver, and I saw what blindness could cost. The truth is boring. The truth leaves us with bad tastes in our mouths. The truth is debatable.
But when you take an article, written about a disease, you better get it right. You can’t be vague. You can’t have read another article on the internet and tried to use it to justify your article. When you write an article about a disease you have to know that disease so intimately that it becomes a real and breathable part of you. When you write these articles you have to know more about the diseases than the audience you are talking to.
I didn’t comment on that article. I read some of the comments and honestly couldn’t tell if they were real or not. But that article did drive home the importance that those of us with these diseases must be willing to share our lives in order to edge out the mis-truths that our own mothers are reading. We must be louder. We must be more direct and find ways with adjectives and adverbs to describe that which no one but our own selves will know. We have to. We don’t have a choice. I never want my mother to come to me and state how sorry she is that I was tired because my mind was complicated.