Mental illness is a very difficult illness to deal with. Since you're not physically broken, there are no casts or scars to show. You don't have a physical form of cancer, so there's no chemo, no look of "sickness" about you. Most mentally ill people lead normal lives and stay very quiet about the pills they have to take, and the doctors they have to talk to.
I talk about my mental illness. I'm not sure why, but I also don't go up to total strangers (well, except strangers on the internet) and tell them that I suffer from clinical depression. But I talk to my friends and family about it. The family is the easy part. My family is completely messed up, so the fact that I only have depression almost kind of sets me apart. Talking to friends, though, is the hard part. Not all friends, but some friends. There's this idea in non-mentally ill people that some of us just need a good kick in the pants to get our lives back on track. You hear it when they're talking about the homeless guy who talks to himself on the benches outside our buildings, or when people discuss the Hoarding shows. "I just laugh when they get mad about throwing moldy food away!"
I think as a society, Americans have started recognizing that addiction is involuntary, that one person can do marijuana once and walk away while another person tries it once and can't ever put it down again. It's compulsory, it's something your body craves. Something, if you will, is broken and needs to be fixed, but no one can see the break or the tear. All they can see is addiction. The same thing goes with mental illness. Most of the time, I'm a normal, happy, functional person. In public. But sometimes, and in private, I'm just a big ole mess. And there's nothing I can do about it. I'm not sad because something happened. I'm sad because I can't help myself. You can't cheer me up. I have to just wait out the storm.
I had to explain this to someone I know because she was talking about a lady on a hoarding show, and she just didn't get it. I had to explain that she wasn't attached to a useless bolt of fabric because she was callously disregarding the many charities it could go to, but because she had an irrational emotional attachment to it. I likened it to the guy on the bench, talking to himself. Not because he wanted to, but because he didn't have any other choice. It took us fifteen minutes of going back and forth until she finally listened to me.
I really hate reality shows, especially when they exploit people who are drug addicted, or families that are waiting for their soldiers to come home, or forty-year-old women who haven't figured out how to use birth control yet, but I can't deny how Hoarders and Intervention have helped raise awareness to the mental illness that causes the symptoms of hoarding and drug use, and it makes me wish someone would make a show about depression, schizophrenia and self-mutilation in order to raise awareness about how it affects us. About how it's a symptom of a problem that you can't see. How we can't just take a walk and cheer up...how it kills your soul and makes you wish you were dead because anything is better than living like this.