Favorite Quotes About Mental Illness

Content/trigger warning: mention of addiction, reclaimed slur, discussion of ableism, disordered eating

Hello, dear readers! Sorry there were no entries in November; I was NaNoing. But I am back with an entry on my top 10 favorite quotes about mental illness. I think that’s pretty self-explanatory, so I’m going to go ahead and start.

10) “Mental health is something that we all need to talk about, and we need to take the stigma away from it. So let’s raise the awareness. Let’s let everybody know it’s OK to have a mental illness and addiction problem.” –Demi Lovato

Quick note: if you haven’t listened to any of Demi’s songs post-eating disorder recovery, I recommend you do so (especially “Confident”). Few things will fuck up your voice like an ED (I would know). They sound so much better now. I’m glad they’re in recovery.

Anyway, yeah, Demi Lovato knows their shit. They are multiply neurodivergent, including being bipolar and in recovery for cocaine addiction. I like how open and honest Demi is about their struggles and the work they’re trying to do to destigmatize mental illness, including addiction, which too often is not seen as a mental health issue. However, this quote is only number 10 because “destigmatizing mental illness” isn’t the whole picture. Mentally ill people will always suffer from saneism in an ableist society. We have to dismantle the ableist society before “destigmatizing” can actually happen. Still, good for Demi. I’m glad they’re out there frankly discussing addiction and other mental illnesses.

9) “You have good days and bad days, and depression’s something that…is always with you.” –Winona Ryder

Ooof. Accurate, Winona. Depression can be completely dormant one day and completely fuck up your next day. You have good days and bad days, but no matter how many good days in a row you have, you still have depression. (Note: that’s why it’s important for people who take antidepressants to not go off the antidepressants if you feel better; if you feel better, that means you need to keep taking them.) There’s not a lot to this quote, but it’s still accurate as hell, so it got on the list.

8) “I found that with depression, one of the most important things you can realize is that you’re not alone. You’re not the first to go through it, you’re not gonna be the last to go through it.” –Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson

Good for Dwayne Johnson for speaking out about depression. Society needs to allow men to talk about their feelings more, seriously…especially when those feelings are about mental illness. And I relate to this quote because the worst times of my life (mental illness-wise, anyway) happened when I felt like I was the only person who was putting up with so much bullshit from my brain. When I was finally diagnosed with depression in college, one of the reasons just having a diagnosis helped was my understanding that many people suffer from depression; it wasn’t just me going through hell. I think the simple fact that I knew I wasn’t alone helped a lot. Thanks for the reminder, The Rock.

7) “Healing takes time, and asking for help is a courageous step.” –Mariska Hargitay

Mariska Hargitay is talented (and gorgeous), founded the Joyful Heart Foundation to help sexual assault survivors, and became a trained rape crisis counselor. If only her biggest role weren’t on a mainstay of copaganda. Sigh.

All that aside, this is a very true quote. Seeking any kind of constructive help with a mental illness is way harder than mentally healthy people can ever comprehend. You see, if you don’t ask for help, it’s easy to pretend nothing is wrong. In order to ask for help, you have to realize you need help, and that takes a lot of soul-searching and a lot of courage. Asking for help is also a damn near mandatory step in healing from trauma or making strides to improve from any mental illness, and Mariska is also right that healing takes time. I’ve been working on my mental illnesses since 2009 and I still have work to do.

6) “Just because someone has a mental illness does not mean they can’t be happy and in a relationship. It also doesn’t mean that person makes the relationship toxic.” –Pete Davidson

Full disclosure, I wish that the main real-life representation we got for borderline personality disorder weren’t…y’know, Pete fucking Davidson, but this is still a very important quote, especially for people with PDs. There is such a thing as being too mentally ill to have the wherewithal for a romantic, sexual, or queerplatonic relationship–trust me, I’ve been that mentally ill, and I have been in a relationship with someone who was that mentally ill–but it is also certainly true that a person having a mental illness does not necessarily preclude them from being in a romantic, sexual, or queerplatonic relationship.

Even more important than the idea that someone having a mental illness doesn’t mean they can’t be in a relationship, though, is the idea that mentally ill people are NOT necessarily toxic to romantic, sexual, or queerplatonic partners. “Being a toxic asshole to your partner” is not a symptom of any mental illness. It’s possible for a mentally ill people to be a toxic asshole, of course, but they’re not a toxic asshole because they’re mentally ill. (They might try to explain their toxic assholery away by saying they’re mentally ill, but that’s bullshit.)

5) “There’s something freeing about realizing you have a mental health issue. ‘There’s nothing wrong with me! There’s just something wrong with me!’” –Jordan Raskopolous

Jordan Raskopolous is hilarious, isn’t she? For those of you who don’t know (and who don’t read my Rock, Roll, ‘n’ Stim blog), Jordan Raskopolous is an Australian comedian who is also the lead singer for the comedy band Axis of Awesome. She’s both funny and musically talented. She also gave a great TED talk from whence came this quote. She has an anxiety disorder and describes herself as getting “not stage fright, but life fright” [sic]. (See, I told you she was hilarious.) And she absolutely nailed why getting a diagnosis of a mental illness can be a huge relief. It makes you feel like there’s nothing wrong with you even though something technically is, because there’s a name, explanation, and (hopefully) treatment plan for what you’re experiencing now. Most importantly, now you can understand what’s going on, whereas before you were probably like “THE FUCK IS HAPPENING IN MY BRAIN.” Thanks for being pithy, accurate, and funny, Jordan!

4) “Anything that’s human is mentionable, and anything that is mentionable can be more manageable. When we can talk about our feelings, they become less overwhelming, less upsetting, and less scary.” –Fred Rogers

I feel like this quote may not be explicitly about mental illness, but it does apply to mental illness. There’s currently a huge taboo around discussing the bullshit our mentally ill brains pull. Of course, working on that taboo alone is a Band-Aid solution to systemic neurotypicalism, but that doesn’t change the fact that we all need to get more comfortable talking about mental illness symptoms. This is partly because Mr. Rogers is right; voicing your feelings about mental illness can make them seem less overwhelming, less upsetting, and less scary. For instance, when I’m catastrophizing, I need to bounce what I’m thinking off of someone so they can tell me “Yeah, that’s out of proportion.” Also, if neurotypicals get more used to hearing about mental illness symptoms (especially ones experienced by people with ~scary mental illnesses, as I discussed here https://thisisforyoucarrie.wordpress.com/2017/06/24/scary-mental-illnesses/), maybe they’ll get some practice not being saneist cockwaffles. I know, unlikely, but a woman can dream.

3) “Using mental illness as a punchline reinforces the idea that it is okay to treat people with mental illnesses or any mental disability with mockery or pity, instead of as real people who deserve respect for self-determination and bodily autonomy.” –Lydia X. Z. Brown

Absolutely critical quote from the legendary Lydia X. Z. Brown (if you don’t follow their blog or their Twitter, go change that after you finish reading this entry) about how using mental illness as a punchline in comedy is saneist. I’ve written about this (here: https://thisisforyoucarrie.wordpress.com/2017/10/08/im-triggered/) and Lydia managed to say something more eloquent and more precise than that entire entry in one sitting. This is a big part of why Lydia is a huge inspiration to me. I also don’t feel like this quote requires any more explanation. It’s just a very accurate truth bomb about ableism in comedy. Don’t make mentally ill people the butt of your unfunny jokes.

2) “When you are insane, you are busy being insane–all the time.” –Sylvia Plath

Here we have Sylvia Plath landing at number 2 with a painfully accurate statement. Being mentally ill is a full-time job. You spend way too much time dealing with your brain’s shit, going to doctor’s appointments, dealing with your brain’s shit, fighting with insurance companies (if you’re USian), dealing with your brain’s shit, and dealing with the fallout of your brain being shitty. Being mentally ill can be so all-consuming that you don’t have the fuel/spoons/wherewithal to do anything else besides being mentally ill.

Hell, sometimes your brain is the one convincing you that you can’t do anything but stay in bed. Even if you outwardly appear to be a Functioning Member of Society™ like me, you may still have to deal with–to use an example that applies to me–constant intrusive thoughts and the sheer exhaustion of having to try to focus at work while dealing with constant intrusive thoughts. Is it any wonder I’m totally wiped when I get home? When you are insane, you are busy being insane–all the time.

1) “One of the things that baffles me (and there are quite a few) is how there can be so much lingering stigma with regards to mental illness, specifically bipolar disorder. In my opinion, living with manic depression takes a tremendous amount of balls…At times, being bipolar can be an all-consuming challenge, requiring a lot of stamina and even more courage, so if you’re living with this illness and functioning at all, it’s something to be proud of, not ashamed of. They should issue medals along with the steady stream of medication.” –Carrie Fisher

Could anyone besides Carrie land at number 1 on this list? I mean, this blog is called “This Is for You, Carrie.” Honestly, she has so many great quotes about mental illness that it was hard to pick just one. And yeah, this one is specifically about bipolar, but I feel like it can apply to pretty much any mental illness. If you’re mentally ill, you need stamina and courage, and you should be proud of yourself for living with that shit. Being mentally ill isn’t something to be ashamed of, so fuck the saneist stigma that says you should be ashamed.

Like I’ve said before, stigma is not its own discrete problem but a manifestation of systemic saneism, but Carrie is still right about stigma making no sense. Stigma makes no sense not only because mental illness does not make us immoral or wrong, but because you have to be a badass to put up with being mentally ill. They really should issue medals along with the steady stream of medication (if medication is right for you, of course).

And that’s the list! Thanks for reading! And thank you to my Patreon supporters: Ace, Hannah, Emily, Mackenzie, Sam, and Sydney! It’s only $1 a month to be as cool as them, and that also gets you early access to my blog entries and access to polls about what I should write about next!