Depression, Bulimia, Anorexia: Not Attention-Seeking Behaviour

By Hannah Tong

As seen in Pegasus Pages (Summer 2014)

Suppose someone said this to you: “I’m getting very tired of this cancer thing of yours. It’s high time you snapped out of it.” Not only would it be unimaginable, offensive and insensitive, it displays a clear ignorance in the assumption that the illness was under any of our control. And yet this seems to be many people’s attitude towards mental illness. I don’t doubt that compared to a hundred years back, awareness of mental health has increased. It seems to me however that as the awareness has increased, so have the misconceptions.

I’m tired of constantly hearing things such as “She just wants the attention” or “It’s just a phase.” With illnesses such as depression, anorexia or bulimia, the sufferer’s biggest enemy is his or herself. They certainly do not need anyone else’s judgement. No one understands what an individual is experiencing with mental illnesses as each person thinks in a different way and their circumstances may differ greatly. We live in a society that often misjudges an individual’s pain perhaps because it is not visible. This “phase” as people so kindly label, made one of my childhood friends look in the mirror every morning and not recognize that she was healthy. This “phase” meant that she starved herself until she fainted and was hospitalized. This “phase” that she needed to “snap” out of meant that she lost all her school friends because she was “attention seeking”. She did not need society to judge her; she did not need her friends to judge her and much less her parents to judge her. Her pain was very real.

What annoys me the most however is the lack of understanding of some terms that are thrown around by supposedly educated people. I do not claim to be an expert psychologist, but even I can tell you that just because you can’t sleep once in a while does not mean you suffer from insomnia. Nor does skipping a meal once in a while constitute as having anorexia. And just because you are sad sometimes definitely does not make you depressed. This casual self-diagnosis is extremely ignorant and inconsiderate to people who actually live with these conditions and it trivialises the situation other people may be going through. No. Sleeping for the first time in 2 days and still not getting enough sleep because you wake up early for no reason and feeling so tired you could die and yet you still can’t sleep is what insomnia is like. Anorexia is feeling absolutely disgusted with yourself for having a tiny piece of chocolate. Not having the motivation to get up in the morning and physically feeling pain when having to do simple things such as showering is what people suffering from depression can go through.

But we all need a little humanity, mental illness or not. So maybe the next time you pass a judgment about someone being attention seeking, take a step back and remember that we all want attention, we just ask for it in different ways. Just please, please stop self-diagnosing your illnesses.

“We’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad.” Alice in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll.

If you need to talk to anyone, remember that there are Daisies, your Housemistresses and Ms Ralph who can listen

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