Recently I have rejoined the ranks of the socially aware and repopulated my Instagram account with pictures of various dogs I know. I approached this venture like I do any other; I searched for like-minded people sharing my interests. It started off as an innocent search of the hashtag borderline personality disorder and what I found made me immediately regretful. The page was littered with photos of self-inflicted wounds, thinspiration quotes and far too many teenage girls. I had heard before of a secret society of sorts where teenagers are posting photos that would make their parents faint, but I wasn’t prepared.
I am fiercely protective of my disorder, like a mother to a child. I want it to grow big and tall and break through the barriers surrounding it. I want progress for my illness, and this is not progress. I am all for talking about it. Hey, I want to end the stigma just as much as the next mentally ill lady. That’s why I write my blog. It’s why I talk about my experiences in an open forum and encourage other’s to talk about their own struggles. When I saw these images with a distinct claim on my disorder, I felt sick. Many of these girls were well below the age of being diagnosed with a personality disorder, but that didn’t stop them from clinging to it as a way to excuse their actions.
It seems as though social media has bred a whole new mental illness fashion. When I was a teenager it wasn’t interesting to cut yourself. No one “liked” my scars, I was ridiculed and made into an outcast when word got out that I self harmed. It was shameful and secretive. I hoped then that, some day, mental illness would be more tolerated and the sufferers would be looked at with compassion and understanding rather than unease and distrust. I think now that we have crossed a line. We’ve gone too far over the other side. Social media has allowed symptoms of mental illness to be so accepted that they are now often overlooked.
This new trend is dangerous. It has led these teenagers to believe that self harm and mental disorders are not an issue to be dealt with seriously and delicately, but rather just another fashion trend to follow. Something you can easily pick up and put on until the trend fades and you can discard your calorie counters and blades in the back of your closet. I can say from experience that mental illness is not a craze for me and I can not turn it off when I get bored with it. Mental illness is a life long struggle and the more gruesome details of my mental illness are not up for likes. They are harmful behaviors that require attention and careful self-reflection.
I hope that we can find a way to reach out to these teenagers and show them that while it is not shameful to have a mental illness, we certainly shouldn’t use our own pain to further a social media career.
Author: Allie Tesnakis. She has lived with mental illness since before she can remember. Now, she writes to bring awareness and acceptance for herself and other’s who share her struggle with stigma.