Having a mental illness is hard, no matter who you are.
Struggling with a mental illness as a man is hard, those stereotypes working against you.
But I’m a woman. And being a woman with Anxiety and Depression is hard, and that’s what I want to talk about now.
I don’t feel like a real woman.
Because women should smile.
So says the stranger in the street. “Smile baby!” he calls. So says the co-worker on their way past, “Chin up, might never happen” they remark without eye contact or so much as a pause.
Because women shouldn’t have loud emotions.
I should be quiet and demure. Smile sweetly and discuss grievances calmly and reasonably, or better yet, not at all. I can’t scream ‘stuff you’ at the man in the street or snap that I’m having a bad day. Not without shocked faces and the inevitable remarks about my ‘time of the month’.
I can’t ‘overreact’, as you say, to the anxiety fuelled worries filling my head or burst into tears for the smallest of reasons. Because sure, I can’t ever calm my racing thoughts and some days I don’t want to be alive and everything is so unbelievably hard, but remember, I’m just another ‘crazy girlfriend’ overreacting and ‘girls are crazy and over emotional, they’re from another planet so don’t even try to understand it.’.
I can’t refuse a night out with friends, because I’m a ‘flake’ and ‘she always does this’. I’m not acting how I should be! But I couldn’t giggle right now to save my life, so I’m dull. I couldn’t bring my self to socialise if I tried and I can’t drink because it makes me depressed and more likely to hurt myself, so I’m a bore. It’s not that I think I’m too good to hang out with you, like you whispered behind my back, I just need to go home and sleep so I don’t feel this ache anymore.
Because women should be beautiful and ‘frowning will give you wrinkles’.
Because whether I show my emotions or not it’s explained away by the time of the month or my inherent ‘female-ness’.
Because I’m afraid to be loud and unapologetic with my emotions so I bottle them up and hide myself away, and I’m judged even for doing that.
I don’t feel like a real woman and then I feel like a waking stereotype and all I want is to feel like myself again. I am more than my gender and I am more than my depression.
I am me.