This is a personal piece. Please be aware that some content may be triggering.
This will be controversial but it has come to my attention that having a mental illness feels at times like a competition as to who has it worst. We find ourselves comparing how we are suffering to those who are also struggling.
I’m guilty of this too. As someone who self harms I find myself comparing my degree of self harm to others. I feel I should be harming worse than I am. I aspire to hurt more. I find myself looking at images of self harm and wondering if I’m capable of hurting that bad. And I hate myself for this.
Mental illness should not be a competition. It is that simple. But try telling that to my brain. I am constantly comparing myself to others. I know I shouldn’t. But I don’t think I’m alone in this. It’s nature to compare ourselves to make ourselves better but what about when we’re making ourselves worse? Surely that can’t be right.
I think some of the issue here is with the requirements by mental health services to get help. It feels like you have to be at breaking point to get any help. If you have an eating disorder, for example, your weight has to be at certain low level before any intervention happens. For me the issue came when my self harm was said to be superficial and my suicide attempt was classified as “not serious”. This made me feel I had to harm worse and try harder to die. That noone was taking my distress seriously. This needs to change.
There needs to be a major overhaul of mental health services. Everyone who self harms, attempts suicide, has an eating disorder or any other sign of mental illness, needs to be taken seriously. Mental illness is not a competition and shouldn’t be encouraged as one by mental health services.
If you find yourself comparing yourself to others or trying to get worse to get help, please don’t feel bad about it. Unfortunately this in itself is a part of mental illness. It makes you try to get worse. It’s how it survives and takes an awful lot of work to fight. But you can fight it. I have faith in you even if you don’t. (By the way I’m not talking of full recovery but just being able to live with mental illness in someway as I know recovery for some people is just not possible).
Picture from Pinterest