June 11, 2012

Photo of Rebecca, a Time to Change bloggerThere's a bit of a trend at the moment on Facebook of posting and sharing pictures of beautiful, smiling, young people, with no hair, accompanied with a message about how cancer needs to be beaten.

It's nice and I quite like it. I mean, it doesn't do anything to stop cancer but if even one person who is suffering from cancer sees it and knows that there is a whole world of people out there rooting for them... I think it means something. I do. Especially when you're young and the rest of Facebook seems to be out having the time of their lives.

These kind of circumstances are probably one of the only times I think a Facebook thing like this might make a difference. You are not alone.

It's an acknowledgement of suffering and a message of the beauty of the fight and the person at the centre. A reminder that the disease isn't all; there's light and a life that's so very valuable, an absolute strength and fire that makes up a person.

But it makes me sad, ‘cause criiiikey, that's not the only type of suffering. I can appreciate how a message like that might mean a little when you're suffering because I'm a bit sad there wasn't, and won't be, anything like that for us.

When I was bedbound from my eating disorder... there was nothing

When I was bedbound from my eating disorder, crying in the middle of every conversation and spending my life plotting my demise and trying to ignore the voices screaming in my head, or else stuck in a hospital, there was nothing. Not a thing. And just because that’s not all my life is anymore, doesn’t mean that that’s not the life of other people, right now.

If you posted a picture of a young person with swollen, bloodshot eyes, skin a pale yellow, rotten teeth, neck and chin glands swollen like eggs, all from vomiting? An emaciated person? A person stuck to their bed? Scars? A person terrified from the visions and the voices, crying? There would be no cries of the beauty.

They don't understand that cancer is as ugly as mental illness

You'd be inundated with comments of disgust, or humour. And I can sort of get that, the disease isn't beautiful. People only see the ugly, but not the fight and the light and life and strength and fire that they see when they see somebody battling the cancer. They don't understand that cancer is as ugly as mental illness; they can't separate the mentally ill person from the ugliness of the disease in the same way they can separate the person fighting cancer from their cancerous cells.

In a way maybe that's alright. We don't want our children seeing the beauty of the manifestations of mental illness, right? Maybe then they'll develop their own mental illness? If they see someone who is emaciated or scarred, they’ll want to emulate that ‘look’? No. You don't get a mental illness because you want to be pretty or even because you just want one, full stop. I don't believe in glorifying emaciation or self-harm but I believe utterly in glorifying people.

Being mentally ill shouldn’t feel like a crime

We are not the disease; we are the fight, warriors battling every day at the front line. My fight and my recovery have left me with marks and scars, treatment damaged and hurt me much like chemotherapy damages and hurts. We are, as beautiful as the beautiful bald girls. Being mentally ill shouldn’t feel like a crime, we should be celebrated not vindicated… and we have to start that celebration ourselves, right now.

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