…But you don’t look ill, you look fine to me!!

…But you don’t look ill, you look fine to me!!
(self-harm trigger warning)

How many times have we heard the words;
“But you don’t look like someone with a mental illness.”
“Gosh, I didn’t know you were Bipolar”
“What have you got to be depressed for, your life is great!”

“Oh sh*t, sorry. I forgot my pink neon mental illness sign at home today, I will make sure to wear it tomorrow!”–(a little bit of sarcasm to lighten the mood up).
Why is it that to be taken seriously, to be listened to, people think that you need to look ill? Sometimes mental illnesses can show physically, of course, like the appearance of somebody struggling with eating disorders or scars made through self-harm. But so much of the time there is nothing physically wrong to see, and you would never know!

We have a special superpower to hide behind- a smile or a laugh, to carry on as normal in front of people and to take the mask off when we are alone. As someone who has self-harmed on and off since the age of 13 years old- and now fast approaching 29, my body is covered in the giveaway marks that cannot be mistaken for anything other than self-harm. But yes, I still feel the need to lie sometimes when someone asks, “What happened to your arm?”
“Oh, I scratched it whilst gardening at the weekend!”
I have had my fair share of stares, and looks of horror, fear and disgust. The thing about my self-harm though, is it’s not punishment, I don’t feel the need to punish myself. For me, it’s a form of release. When you are in such a dark place and you feel numb, to inflict pain is a way of feeling alive and feeling SOMETHING! It does become highly addictive, once you start it is very hard to stop. It will be 9 months this week since I last self-harmed, the thought of it creeps up on me every time I have a slip, but I find distraction straight away and try to fight the urge to inflict physical pain on myself, but all of my scars from over the years are still there… still visible… So, to have them pointed out to me, is yet another reminder of the struggle I have to live with every day!
Then ignorance sets in. I also struggle with depression, and regular suicidal thoughts, as well as having crippling anxiety (as if all the rest wasn’t enough!)
If any of this is mentioned, people will look me up and down, with puzzled expressions on their faces, before announcing, “Well, I would have never of known, you carry it so well.” But what they fail to understand is that to be ill, you don’t need to look sick.
I believe that there is such a risk nowadays, that any type of mental illness will not be taken seriously, due to the misconception that people who look okay are okay, and I really hope that people begin to realise that saying to somebody who is ill that they “look fine” or “You’ve got it all, just cheer up” can demean that person and their illness, and prevent them from seeking the help that they need. I also wanted to show anyone who may be struggling that they should not feel as though they do not deserve to be listened to because they aren’t “ill enough” or “look ill”.
I really hope that this article encourages people to ask for help as early as possible and that they will reach out to others so they do not have to suffer alone. I also hope that others reading this will look at the person next to them and just BE KIND, because we never know what someone may be going through!
Don’t forget to write to me or follow me on Facebook @mswillowbipolar
Lots of love,
Ms Bipolar x
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