Please don't romanticise mental illness
I can't really be bothered to think up a good title for this; I'm too angry.
As a mentally ill person, I absolutely beg anyone who's reading this right now not to romanticise mental illness. I beg anyone who's reading this right now to spread the word, to tell their friends and family and loved ones and children, to go and shout it from their roofs that mental illness is a terrible thing to live through.
Please don't wonder why I care so much: I live through this. Rather, wonder why I don't welcome it.
I'll start with demonisation first, because it's simpler to understand and to explain. This demonisation is dehumanising, as it strips the humanity from mentally ill people. Instead of being people who love, cry, fight, laugh, smile and struggle, we are turned into violent rapists and murderers. We are made to seem heartless and manipulative. We are labelled "worthless" and "broken" as though we are just objects who need to be "fixed" by some sane saviour. This in no way reflects the actual reality of mental illness, which is centred around the mentally ill person's own lived expericence, does not automatically make someone brutal or cruel (the idea that mentally ill people are evil is a massive misconception), and does not make a mentally ill person inferior to a sane person (matched for age, race, gender, disability and socioeconomic status I've done better for myself so far than several sane people I know - how's that for being a broken, inferior, worthless human being?).
You see, romanticisation trivialises mental illness. It glosses over all the awkward, unpleasant bits because they don't fit the narrative it's trying to shape - one of slender tragedy wrought with pointed hands, ignoring the fact that it's not really a narrative at all because it's a pointlessly, meaninglessly tragic condition and not a story.
One of the traits of the romanticisation of mental illness is that it tries to make even the most harrowing of things look beautiful - like self-harm, suicide and being dangerously underweight. I've starved myself, sawed at my arms with blades and tried to take my own life - all of which are traumatic experiences.
Romanticisation, and people who romanticise mental illness, seem not to give a flying fuck about that trauma. Sure, they might say "This blog may be triggering", but will they put trigger warnings on specific posts or images? Generally not.
The thing is, I am learning to deal with it and I have far less destructive responses to triggering things than I used to. All the same, I'd quite like to know what might be a trigger and what isn't one so that on a bad day I know what to avoid. If it helps, consider triggers like allergies: no-one chooses to be allergic to certain substances, but you still generally put warnings on them so that people know what to avoid.
There is one final argument for romanticisation, particularly romanticisation in literature: that it's not really romanticisation, but rather an exploration of serious topics that affect people all around the world.
Well...no. While lots of texts do romanticise illness because it's seen as difficult to talk about, there are also some that don't - and here are three main examples.
Les Fleurs du Mal by Baudelaire. This is one of my favourite pieces of literature right now, simply for its honesty; Baudelaire was one of the first modernists and aimed to explore the beauty in vice and evil without confusing it with goodness. Indeed, one of his poems, Un Voyage à Cythère, talks about "le courage/De contempler mon coeur et mon corps sans dégoût!" (the courage/to contemplate my heart and body without disgust), and this is a major theme in Baudelaire: the courage to face up to the evil in our world and inside ourselves, for only then can we start the process of working on that evil.
Secondly, the poems of Sylvia Plath. This is pretty much expected, because of her reception as that one mad girl who killed herself and Ted Hughes. However, if you actually read her work she was so much more than that: her poems are dark, unsettling and absurd.
Lastly, Lighter Than My Shadow by Katie Green. It's a bit different from the other two examples I've given, as the other two are poetry and this is a graphic novel, but it's every bit as honest and nearly brought me to tears at several points.
There are also some honourable mentions that aren't strictly about mental illness, but still helped me through some hard times: anything by Jean Anouilh or Eyvind Johnson, and the plays of Anton Chekhov too - and this song by Phil Ochs.