You didn’t know me, and I didn’t know you. But you took the time to talk to me. You took the time to say out of the blue, “You don’t look like you need to be here.”
It caught me off guard. I was sitting on the public computer nervously emailing my professors about being in the hospital when you said this. I could barely think of a response. So when you then asked accusingly, “Why are you here?” I timidly replied, “My brain…”
So, tell me. What is a patient on the psych ward supposed to look like? And why can’t it look like me? Why can’t it look like a 22-year-old college student dressed in a Micky Mouse sweatshirt?
Why must we continue to enforce this stereotypical image of what a mental health patient looks like? Better yet, why are you stereotyping yourself? We’re both patients on the same ward.
I deserve to be here getting help the same as everyone else on the ward. Yet, your comment made me feel like I didn’t belong, like I wasn’t bad enough to deserve the help.
And amazingly enough, you weren’t the first to say this to me. Without fail every time I am on a behavioral health unit at least one person makes some form of this comment to me. “You don’t look like you need to be here.” “What’s wrong with you? You seem fine.” “You look like you should be a nurse, not a patient.”
Well let me tell you this: mental illness comes in all shapes and sizes. You can’t see it from the way someone looks. And words have the power to affect others. Now I have to work with the nagging thoughts that keep coming up that maybe I don’t deserve the help.
But. I. Do.
We all deserve help, no matter how severe or mild our mental illnesses are. We all deserve help, no matter what we look like, our age, or anything else.