You.

We often tend to forget about ourselves, don’t we?

We forget that we are humans. We forget that we have a tendency to bleed easily. We forget that we have a high thirst for certain things that may not be so good for us. We forget that we are burnt much too quickly, that we die out as subtly and as instantly as matches. We forget that we can be broken much more easily than our bones can be. We forget that we are all searching for one another, and in this, we also forget that we need to search for our own selves first. We forget that everything ends, that we will undeniably, perpetually, end, soon enough. We forget about humanity, and what exactly that means. We forget to be people.

We forget to live.

And that is perfectly okay, I suppose, in a way. It is perfectly understandable, to feel so disconnected from ourselves that we have to find ourselves in other people, who may not want to be found. It is quite logical, really, to feel the weight of everything collapsing unto our souls at once. It is okay to feel nothing at all, to feel discordant and unreasonably empty, to feel like a heap of burnt cards that was once so neatly stacked into a meticulous house. It is what we do.

We may be logical, but our whole existence is rather illogical, really. We live and then we die. We exist and then we cease to exist. That is it, that is all, that is enough. That has to be enough. There is nothing more, nothing less. Of course, you may choose to disagree, depending on what your beliefs have taught you. There is no agreement, though, that you can make with anyone to bring you longer time. To give you something more, something steadier, something more tangible, to hold onto. There is no deal. There is no hope for anything else.

And so, many times I find myself wondering, why do we continually choose to exist, to breathe, to be in a reality that will never, ever, be more than what it currently, so deeply, is? Why do we find ourselves hoping, constantly, consistently, against what we all know to be inarguably inevitable? What do we see to feel so nonsensically, ridiculously, hopeful, and yet to be wholly aware of our own self-transience? Why do we continue to attempt to thrive here?

There is no other way, of course, and we somehow have recognized that. That is the impossible existence we have. We are creatures who know of our ultimate endings and yet we also know to live in spite of these. There may be light and there may be unspeakable darkness and there may be unadorned devils and there may be hidden ones. But there will never, ever, be any other way to end but the one way we already do. There is nothing else to end in. And that is the strange miracle of us. At least, that is what I’d like to think.

I am both fascinated and repelled by our inane existence. There is no reason for us to continue, and yet, we do. There is no logic behind our heartbeat, and yet, they beat on. Our breathing will stop, but we do not want it to. There are the times in this world when we want absolutely nothing more than to surrender to our existence, to feel the holy, unjustifiable lives we are living. And it is understandable. God, it is more than understandable, to want nothing more than to leave it, to allow ourselves fade away into the delicate contrails of the sky, to burn ourselves until our candlelit selves become waxen remainders of who we used to be. It is justifiable, that desire. It is.

And of course, we do not know why we are living. We do not know why we carry on, but we do know the one, irrational thought behind it: hope. We continue, always, forever, to hope, even in the midst of total and chaotic questioning. We know, inside of ourselves, that our questions are never to be answered. That we are never to be answered. We, ourselves, are the question marks.

And so, is there any reason to try to find ourselves in this world? Is there any blatant reason to why we should try? Of course not. There is none, and there never will be. But I like to think that we find that reason in ourselves. That we find something inside of us that carries us into our lives. Something unspoken, something irrational, perhaps, but something clear. Something real.

There is no other option to accept the existence we thrive in. There is no second choice. And there are ways out, and those ways are understandable and acceptable, but they are not answers.

There are no answers, and there never will be.

And if you find an answer, it is the truth.

The only truth we can ever hope to find.

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the ultimate loss

Perhaps the most profoundly unfathomable and worst loss a teenage girl can go through is that of losing a person. Or, in simpler terms, a best friend. The loss of the type of friend that is not merely a friend, but much more like a non-biological sibling, more like a part of who you are. The type of person who breaks through your walls and allows you to see the light inside of you, light that would’ve been concealed before. The type of person who uncovers truth that had been stuck inside of you all along, but had only needed a slight push to let it through. The loss of such a rare relationship is an insanely harsh one. I have gone through this insurmountable change more than once, and the intense discomfort that comes with the loss of a best friend, I know, is awful. It is a tumultuous rollercoaster of a ridiculous amount of conflicting feelings, and yet it also seems like it cannot possibly be real. I understand this rollercoaster, and despite the feeling that it is endless, I promise you, it really isn’t.

When this loss happens, it is most usually rather unexpectedly abrupt. The distance that can fall between even the closest of friends, is enormously shocking. I, myself, have grown so far apart from those who I never even imagined I would not spend the entire day talking to. I know the uncomfortable awakening that accompanies the loss. It is as if this person, this chosen person who you’ve shared everything in your life with, from the strangest and darkest places inside of you, to the lightest moments of your life, this person is suddenly and entirely, just gone. It’s like a piece of you disappears right with them. It is completely awful. And the thing is, I know it can so easily feel like the end of the world. But, trust me, it really isn’t.

The first thing you must do when learning how to live without your best friend, is to truly think, long and hard, if the friendship is one worth fighting for. If it is, then attempt to fight for it. Go right up to this person, no matter how difficult or impetuous of a move you think it may be, it will be much worse if you lose them completely and you never even tried to fix it. You have to try. It’s up to you to make that effort, which does, admittedly, suck, but if you don’t step up, then what hope is there? Go and fight to keep the friendship alive- what is wrong? Why is this problem happening right now? Is there any way to stop the problem? Try, if you feel like you really can put in the effort, and that the friendship is worth holding onto. Try to fight the distance. You can grow up without growing apart, but it takes a whole lot of hard work. And of course, a whole lot of communicative understanding.

And then, there’s the next worst stage of this: the realization that despite the tireless efforts you can go to, to hold onto your friendship, it will never be the same. You might realize that it is simply too little, too late. Growing apart is a normal, important part of life. Your best friend isn’t a bad person (I hope!). They’re just human, and so are you. You have to realize that blame isn’t going to really get you anywhere in the instance of growing apart. Oh, I have thrown my fair share of fits while cursing out my friends and singing along to “Bad Blood”, more than once. Truthfully, you can be as brutal and bitter as you want, but it isn’t ever going to solve anything. Losing people you once thought would be with you forever is probably the worst thing I could think of, but one day, maybe you will reflect back on the loss and think, hey, maybe I felt sort of terribly abandoned for a while but, I’m actually okay now. You will recover from this loss. Like all losses, we lose what we allow ourselves to. Losing the person is one thing, but we can save what the person gave you, preserve the strength they brought out in us. We can save what we would like to, and ban ourselves from ever losing ourselves.

If all of this isn’t helping- well, let me go on. The most painful feeling of all is the feeling that you aren’t good enough for someone anymore, the most rudely awakening feeling that no matter the lengths you go to try to make yourself better, you will never be enough for this person. You will never recover what you once so strongly had. That feeling is complete hell. And honestly, it does ache for quite a while. It takes a long time to really recover, but once you do, you’re better. It is easier to accept the distance, and you don’t have to completely ignore your former best friend, of course you can be normal people and interact, but it’ll progressively get easier to accept the strange fact that they might not always be there like they once were.

I know how terribly difficult this crazy transition can feel, trust me, I do. But I endured it. I got through it, rather slowly, but even though it took time, I still got through it. You may lose who you think defines you, and you’ll always have history, it is just unavoidable, but guess what? Who you were with that person, it doesn’t define you. You define yourself. Maybe this person made you stronger, and now, it feels like they’re somehow making you weaker. Don’t allow that weak person that you are right now overshadow the strong person they helped turn you into. Gently drift away from the friendship without leaving behind the goodness you got out of it. If you spent this much time with this person, if you trusted them that much, then they were obviously worth it at the time. So why regret your trust? Why feel painful remorse for making a choice you once believed to be a good one? This person made you better, this person helped you see yourself clearer. And you can keep your memories with them forever, they may hurt at the moment, but one day it will get easier to think of this person without losing your mind over the details of what you could’ve done, what you should’ve said. One day, it will become easier to breathe without an old memory choke you. Memories are often permanent, but as I previously said, people are not. You choose how you allow your memories to define you.

People change, they grow entirely apart, and I know it can really suck, but guess what the great thing about it all is? It’s actually okay. You’re still yourself. You can go out in this world and make yourself someone who you want to be.  You’re not alone, even if it feels like it. You’re just going through what we all go through right now. It happens to every single person in the world. It is called growing up, in the most awkward and uncomfortable of ways.

It is all we do in this life, and it is endless, but it is necessary.

International Women’s Day

Today, as I hope many of you are already aware, is a well-needed day to recognize the power, the immeasurable hardships, and the incredible feat of being a woman. Today is International Women’s Day. This day is an unequivocally well-needed one. Unfortunately, regardless of one’s age, intelligence, or situation, sexism is significantly prevalent throughout the entire world. Sexism, not solely being reserved for repressing women, but men, of course, as well. But today we celebrate women. Today we embrace the empowerment that is necessary for equality, today is a day for feminism to be recognized and appreciated by every person out there. I can only hope that this day serves as what it is meant to symbolize- a unifier. Not a unifier simply among all women, but among all human beings. A unifier of those who demand equality and demand it now.

Feminism seems to be a word that is commonly met with a strange controversial ambivalence in our society. This hesitation to accept feminism as a cultural and human value is what bothers me tremendously, and is why I feel this celebratory day is so desperately needed. I myself do not ever find any hesitation to identify immediately as a feminist. I’ve noticed, rather prominently, and quite surprisingly to me, that many of my female friends are tentative to identify themselves as feminists. The association with the word is usually regarding the ridiculous stereotype of man-hating, overly aggressive and impetuous, screaming, protesting rioters. And this could not be farther from the truth. Feminism, by definition, is “the advocacy of women’s rights on the grounds of political, social, and economic equality to men.” If the dictionary is not proof enough, then I do not know what is. Identifying as a feminist simply means believing in gender equality. That is all. Advocating for gender equality does take bravery, though, it takes courage and strength. And at the same time, it should not be so foreign to raise your voice about this subject. It’s crucial to us, as humans, not just as different genders. We all have a heartbeat, we all have a brain. Why do we not see that underneath the external layers of ourselves, we have so much to offer the world, all of us, equally? What matters is not how we are seen, but how we are heard. We all have a voice. Our own voices, which are all beautifully expressed in many differing forms, are our most powerful tools. And so, today, we raise our voices. For the women out there who have sacrificed their dignity due to misogynistic stereotypes, who have been harassed by horrible acts of ignorance, who have fought and won and who have raised their voice.

It is a difficult and terrifying thing to do, to speak up. But once you do, you refuse to be silenced. You refuse to conform to oppression. And that is change. That is progress. That is feminism.

International Women’s Day celebrates what women have achieved, individually and as a whole. This day empowers us, reminding us of our accomplishments, and urging us to make more. This is the description that I found on the official website:

Annually on 8 March, thousands of events are held throughout the world to inspire women and celebrate achievements. A global web of rich and diverse local activity connects women from all around the world ranging from political rallies, business conferences, government activities and networking events through to local women’s craft markets, theatric performances, fashion parades and more.

I urge you all to contribute to the critical and powerful movement for gender equality. It is, and I promise you, not very difficult at all. Emma Watson (who is one of my favorite humans in the world) said something very thought-provoking today, hitting the issue of gender inequality right on the mark. “Gloria Steinem gave a speech last week at a HeForShe event in New York, and she used this really beautiful metaphor. She said that the human race is like a bird. and it needs both of its wings to be able to fly. And at the moment, one of its wings is clipped. And we’re never going to be able to fly as high unless we’re both in support of each other.”

That, my friends, is the absolute and undeniable truth. We, of all genders, despite and because of them, need to help each other out. We have to support each other- fully and completely- without stereotype, without implicit bias, without judgment. We have to accept each other and empower one another. We can win this fight for gender equality- maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but if we educate each other and refuse to disregard ignorance, we will win, one day. And the fight is what matters now. The fight is what counts. Brushing over seemingly harmless statements, treating one another with disrespect, continual ignorance, and of course, blatant misogyny, are what we must work to end and end them now.

I am so incredibly proud of what we, as women, have accomplished, and I congratulate every single one of you who has overcome and had to live with sexism affecting your lives. It’s unacceptable, and remember that. Remember why there is a day like today- to remind you to be strong, to fight for yourselves and for others. I know how ridiculously frivolous and cheesy I may sound, but this issue is anything but. The fact is, 1 out of every 6 American women has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime. Equal pay is still being debated about (seriously?) and not accepted as a, I don’t know, human right. And if you want to look at a whole abundance of other horrifying, and sadly unsurprising, examples of the inequality that exists everywhere today, please, simply search the word “women’s rights” in your browser and I am certain that you will find some sources that prove my words right. It’s inarguable, no matter how much you don’t see it, it is very much still there. Sexism can be insidious, but it exists, without a doubt. And we can combat it.

Here are some links to help you all out:

Emma Watson on gender equality (facebook Q&A)

Emma’s incredibly powerful speech 

He For She

Who needs feminism?

HuffPost Gender Equality

And, some closing words for everyone out there to keep in mind every single day of your lives:

“Freedom is what you do with what’s been done to you.” -Jean-Paul Sartre

Fic Obsession

It takes me much pain to admit this, but yes, I am an avid fanfiction reader. One Direction only, of course. See, I discovered fanfic almost three years ago, after first becoming a Directioner. I hadn’t understood, or really even taken the time to check out, the obsession until I clicked on my first Wattpad discovery. And it was all downhill from there.

I do not want to tell you all what my favorite fanfics are, because if you were to search them up and read them, for me that would be mildly humiliating. What I will acknowledge is that most of the fics I obsessively indulge in are absurdly popular on and off the internet. See, one certain Harry Styles fanfic has been developed into a book series. Can you believe that? The all-powerful internet, meshed with the unbreakable and insurmountable power of fandoms, has turned into one of the most powerful toolkits for writers and readers today. What is it about fanfiction that makes so many teenagers, so many people, go perhaps literally insane with weird and unpredictable emotions?

Dreams.

We all have that one brilliant ambition, our dream, to do whatever we are passionate about while having someone alongside us. Our other half. Our person. And yes, of course, when we young people haven’t found that person yet, we imagine them to be someone we idolize. Celebrities. We need someone to put our hope in, so we chose those who we perceive as perfect. Someone, perhaps, like One Direction. Of course, we don’t actually know these people. I could read every tweet, every Instagram caption, every article, learn as much as I possibly can about one of these celebrities and I would still not truly know them, every inch of who and what they really are. To us fans, they have no fatal flaws, no hamartia to dwell on. To us, their “flaws” are small and make them even more perfect. Of course this isn’t the truth. I desperately wish I knew those five boys, but in all honesty, I really don’t.

So fanfiction allows us a gateway to our dreams, written out on screen for us to bask and live in. We live out our dreams in a story that has been so generously shared and created for us by someone carrying the same dreams. We share our sometimes seemingly insanely unrealistic dreams, passions. It makes us all feel as if we know these celebrities, like we actually might have a chance with them. We feel like we can really connect to them, relate to them in different and uncommon ways. Of course, the personas of these people that we read about probably are not even remotely true. They’re guesses. They’re what we want them to be, our deluded illusion of who they are. But they are truly just people, tragically and numerously flawed, screwed up humans, like us. As Niall Horan says (indeed, I memorized this quote), they’re normal people with abnormal jobs.

I love reading fanfic not just because it allows me to “get to know” my idols, but because it really and truly shows the creativity certain celebrities inspire. You can say whatever you want about One Direction (just don’t say it to me), but you can never say they don’t have the most dedicated and talented fans in the world. I don’t like how condescending people can be, the agonizingly patronizing way adults shake their heads at me when I say I’m a Directioner, smiling and saying “You’ll forget all their names by next year. It’s just a stupid phase.”

Maybe that’s so, but guess what! I don’t give a damn if it’s a phase, maybe it is (trust me, it’s not, it’s lasted almost five years) but what does that even matter? Why does it matter, if I truly and deeply love something, how long that love lasts? It’s very damn rare to actually find a feeling, in adolescence, that makes you unspeakably happy. Fanfiction is the nearest escape route to calm. The exit sign of the internet.

Adolescence is the constant stage of always searching for something, but never really knowing what that something is. All I know is that I want to want something that will make the muted voice inside of my soul scream so loudly that I will be deaf to anyone else’s voices but my own, and those who I have to try to hear. And though I have not found my passion yet, reading fanfic helps me have a passion. I am a crazy Directioner because they let me feel something great, something beautiful and maybe reckless and naive, but it’s still something. I feel that too often, teenagers feel like we have to be silenced and indifferent to everything. What’s wrong with feeling insane once in a while? What’s wrong with turning that insanity into something good, something that you can share with all of those other people who feel the same way? Feelings aren’t going anywhere, are they? So why pretend that we don’t love something all for the sake of being perceived as indifferent?

To reiterate all of my endless rambling, fanfiction is the blissfully accessible gateway to feeling things other than nothing. It’s acceptable, when we read/write/devour fanfiction, because all of our “crazy” feelings can be channeled into writing. We’re in our own world of feeling happy. It’s quite incredible, the way we have taken our favorite idols and turned them into our own works of art. And of course, there’s always going to be badly written, idiotic/offensive fanfic, but there’s also always going to be quality, incredible writing out there.

One Direction, as well as many other celebrities, have inspired so much… art and change and pure unity, within people, mainly teenage girls, but for me, being a teenage girl is EXACTLY the time when I most need this inspiration, to keep on going, to simply keep breathing. Being a teenager, much like being a messy human, is sort of impeccably hellish, as it should be. And fanfiction serves the purpose of giving us a little escape from hell into something better. It inspires something in me, to start something, to… believe that one day, I will be able to have my person.

Preferably, one out of those five boys.

A Long Time Ago

Middle school was a tempestuous time for me. I know how naive that does sound, because all it was was middle school, a part of life that should be easy to forget, a period of time that that is ubiquitously painful for every awkward preteen, and I do not have such a right to claim that it had a greater effect on me than anyone else. I know that it was simply middle school, trust me, I sincerely do know this. Yet I cannot help but reflect upon those three, quite tragic, years with inordinate penitence. Can anyone help what they possess pain for? Can we ever truly move past our mistakes, and most unforgettable wrongdoings? I do not believe that we can simply “let go” of whatever it is that is ensnaring us in our pasts, notwithstanding the countless songs (cough cough, Frozen) and culture preaching for us to let go of our mistakes, let go of who it is we used to so honestly be, and move the hell on. And perhaps this is a personal feeling, but I do not want to let go of who I used to be. Quite bluntly, for me, who I used to be is not a part of me that I can just so easily and regardlessly dismiss away, banish from myself. I can’t. I wish I thought that I was even able to accomplish such a feat, but I am not a person who likes to lie to myself. And so I know that I will never truly forget who I used to be. Over time, though, I’ve come rather slowly to realize that perhaps that isn’t such a terrible thing after all. Maybe our endurance of ourselves is a sign of strength, not loss, not weakness.

There are so many people who I have lost over the past few years, not in the literal meaning as in the terms of tragedy such as death, but there are losses that hurt just as horribly. And believe me, I have felt these losses all too prominently over the past few years. I never imagined that I would ever hate anything about myself, but I do. I hate abundant aspects of myself, traits of my personality, darker thoughts that cross my mind repetitively, not simply because I have recognized these darknesses in myself instantly, but rather, I have learnt so much of my weaknesses because of what I have been through. In times of crisis, I understand myself better. I know how to anticipate my reactions to certain things.

That’s the thing. The past will never disappear and dissipate into thin fragments that are gone with the wind. That will never happen. I know this. And I know that sometimes, many times, we may want certain parts of ourselves to vanish without a second look. And this makes sense, when you look at it like that. But here’s the thing: why would we want to forget what made us us? All of the strenuous horrors that you may have faced in your life, all of the weak feelings you wish you could surrender to, they make you who you are. But at the same time, they do not define you.

The past does not disappear as it ends. However, the past also does not define who you are. Your present self is who you are, but your past self led you up to the present, didn’t it? Had you made one choice differently, your life could be irrevocably different. And that is somewhat frightening, but also somewhat relieving. What’s life without uncertainty? Why would you waste your entire life questioning the inevitable what ifs and instead question the right now? This is where you are, this is who you are, and every single thing that you have done in your life, every single moment that you chose to spend doing a certain something, have helped lead you to where you are now. And if where you are is not where you would like to be, well, you do have to let go of what you are unable to change. We needn’t burden ourselves with the past, but we also must accept our pasts, because they are the most unchangeable parts of ourselves and our lives.

I miss so many people, so many things that I could’ve, should’ve, would’ve done if I had the chance or choice now. But I don’t. I simply am not Marty from Back to the Future. The past is utterly irreversible. The past is gone, but the future can be whatever the hell you make it to be. Opportunities are rare but they are also present in this world if you can allow yourself to stop holding onto what holds you down. Do not let your past self shove you down. You are worth so much more than a few choices you made, a lost person, a heartbreak or a few. You’re worth trying. And god, this all sounds terribly cliche, and I generally despise cliches, but you know what? Right now, I know that I am using a cliche and I’m owning it. Too bad. It’s one that I believe we must all do at some point in our lives. We must accept our pasts, without them ruining our present.

spotify:user:sofsea:playlist:5QuA1Geng51Gc96xcr8Txa

Mental Misconceptions

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There is a silently prevalent issue that I feel so outrageously strongly about, an issue that has consistently pestered at me for a long period of time, an issue that I have unequivocal passion for. This issue is the stigma surrounding mental illness.

Mental illness is an extremely misunderstood and universal problem in society, one that is very commonly and immensely misinterpreted as well as misconstrued throughout not only the United States, but many other countries, such as the UK, as well. My fueled passion lies in correcting the many misconceptions about mental illness, without blame or pointing haughty fingers at those who simply do not understand. I am a big advocate for empathetic education, meaning that I wish for everyone to be able to empathize and at least attempt to understand one another, rather than living in oblivious ignorance with no regard for those who struggle to be heard. I truly hope that you all will at least continue to read my humble little piece here, because even if this issue is one that doesn’t seem to be of utmost importance or interest to you, trust me, it is so important. It may not seem to affect you, but it does, indeed, affect many, many people in this world. In fact, nearly one in five people in the United States are living with mental disorder. It is a silently prevalent health and cultural issue in our world. And I want to expose you to the truth of the problem, without the typical stereotypes that surround these illnesses today. I have no room for stereotyping here.

I will first start by stating this: I am not going to write about my personal struggles here, but rather, I will attempt to encompass the many problems that I have noticed within the stigma surrounding many different mental illnesses. I am so passionate about this problem because, like any other stereotype, it really does hurt people. All of the prejudiced isms in the world are harmful to our society, and this, most definitely, is one of those. I wish I could say that we were more informed about this less talked about issue in school, or somewhere we are forced to listen, but unfortunately, we aren’t. I think that this is the root of the problem: we don’t fully educate people on the severity of this problem.

I hope I can educate you all, a little bit- I have tried hard not to write about this, but it’s been bothering me for so long, that I decided I just had to. And I’m not embarrassed for my feelings about this issue, because I believe that you should all understand it as I have personally understood it. You have to know the importance of this.

The most prominent problem that I’ve noticed, not only recently, but in the last few years, is that many people seem to trivialize mental illness as something much smaller and less significantly impactful than it actually is. The most common example of what I mean is this: Someone, perhaps in class, will need to have a mark erased on the board that the teacher left, or maybe they need their pencils all collected away in a neat pencil pouch. Or maybe a better example is someone who needs their closet to be perfectly in order. During this, someone will inevitably say, “Oh my god, I’m just so OCD right now,” or “This gives me such bad OCD.”

Okay, I’m going to be blunt here:

I call BS.

I mean this in no hurtful way towards anyone (unless you purposely try to hurt those with mental illness, than yeah, you’re not such a great person), as I myself admit I have been bad at calling people out on this, but this HAS to stop. I am not blaming any of you, we’re all guilty of misunderstanding, we’re only human. Humanity has a long history of complete and blatant ignorant misunderstanding. And I am assuming that those of you who use obsessive compulsive disorder as an adjective don’t do so to intentionally offend anyone, but most likely because you don’t understand what you’re saying. And I do get that, completely. I’m here to clear all this misconception up.
Obsessive compulsive disorder, in no way, can ever be used as an adjective. Besides the rather obvious fact that saying “I’m so OCD” isn’t grammatically correct, there is a huge issue with using mental disorders as adjectives. Obsessive compulsive disorder is, by definition: (this is from the New York Times) Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is an anxiety disorder in which people have unwanted and repeated thoughts, feelings, ideas, sensations (obsessions), or behaviors that make them feel driven to do something (compulsions).

Often the person carries out the behaviors to get rid of the obsessive thoughts. But this only provides temporary relief. Not doing the obsessive rituals can cause great anxiety.

A better and more detailed explanation of this paralyzing illness can be found in the powerful Hank Green video, explaining in depth the illness, which I recommend you all must watch (it’s Crash Course, it’s short and simple). Hank explains a mental disorder, such as OCD, as follows: “ A deviant, distressful, and dysfunctional pattern of thoughts, or behavior, that interferes with a person’s ability to function in a healthy way”.

One of the most important things that Hank says about obsessive compulsive disorder is this: “We tend to minimize those disorders, using them as nicknames for things that people do, think, or say.” THIS is exactly what I mean when I say that people use mental disorders as adjectives. Obsessive compulsive disorder is a seriously intrusive illness, that does not cause cute quirks in people, but rather debilitating anxiety and worry that causes victims of the illness to sometimes be unable to leave their home, or even unable to participate in a normal life, due to the severity of the anxiety. We cannot trivialize and downplay these disorders to be used as words to describe, well, anything. We can’t. It’s hurtful and ignorant and uncomfortable for those who actually have these disorders.

Many people think that being neat or orderly, or very clean and liking to have things a certain way, constitutes the use of the word OCD. This could not be farther from the truth. Another thing Hank brilliantly points out in the beginning of the video, is how he makes jokes about horrible diseases such as polio, and asks if you’ve ever made those sort of illness-related jokes to your friend. And then he goes on to say that no, you probably haven’t. This may sound farfetched to you, but using mental illness as an adjective is just as harmful as using cancer or a physical illness as an adjective. Mental illness is a terrible, crippling thing that intrudes a person’s ability to simply live. In many cases, in fact, mental illness causes one to take their own life. It is a complete and total loss of control over one’s mind, just like a physical illness is loss of control over one’s body.

I will sum the invaluable importance of my words into one simple summary: Being a generally fastidious and orderly person, or rather, being fastidious about certain things, or liking to have things a certain way, does not, in any way, mean that you have obsessive compulsive disorder.

Another commonly misunderstood mental illness is bipolar disorder. I have heard, countless times, people say their teacher is “so bipolar” or, the weather today is “bipolar” because it’s unpredictable. This is a problem, because bipolar disorder is an incredibly serious mood disorder, which is marked by “emotional extremes and problems in regulating them”. This disorder was once known as manic depression, which you might be familiar with. Bipolar disorder is defined as follows, according to the National Institute of Mental Health, is as follows: Bipolar disorder, also known as manic-depressive illness, is a brain disorder that causes unusual shifts in mood, energy, activity levels, and the ability to carry out day-to-day tasks. Symptoms of bipolar disorder are severe. They are different from the normal ups and downs that everyone goes through from time to time. Bipolar disorder symptoms can result in damaged relationships, poor job or school performance, and even suicide.

I will reiterate what is also true with what I have said about OCD: shifting from happiness to sadness quickly does not constitute bipolar disorder. In fact, using this disease as an adjective is so incorrect because people with bipolar disorder have extreme manic episodes where they experience both mania and depression, which can cause them to do extreme and impulsive things, such as emptying their bank account, or even in many tragic cases, commit suicide.

We must end this widespread and prevailing stigma of mental illness. Remember that mental illness rarely, if ever, looks like what you see in the movies and in pop culture. Ignorance is the cause of such misunderstanding, and I’d like to change all of your perspectives on this ignorance that perhaps you were unaware of. Next time you are about to tease your friend about being so OCD about her color coordination, think twice. There are people living with these illnesses, and the insult of their crippling disorders being trivialized is painfully silencing. I know how difficult it is to speak up against this, as well, I myself have had much trouble with it, but in the end, you are not blaming the person misusing the word: you are simply informing them of their misunderstanding. And that is nothing to be embarrassed about, in fact, I believe it is something to be very proud of. Raising your voice is no easy feat, and I commend you for being brave and intelligent enough to educate others.

I advise you all to end this common stigma with mental illness. Mental illness is horribly insidious and can silence a person living with one, as the misunderstanding around it can cause one to not want to admit to their illness. You may know someone with a mental disorder, or perhaps you know someone but are unaware of their illness because they feel like they have to hide it. I encourage you to take small steps to finally end the prejudice, and this is truly so easy to do. Stop using mental illnesses in trivializing manners, stop using them as adjectives, and start listening to those who have the illness without bias, and with full respect.

This was only a brief and blunt piece about all of this, and so, I suggest you research much more about this issue, because there are abundant charities for this as well as many ways that you can help. I promise, understanding this stigma will change your perspective remarkably. I understand mental illness so much better now, as well as being able to recognize bias and misunderstanding in general. It’s really damn important to know how to do this, no matter how hard it may be.

I will leave you with some extremely helpful links about this subject that you should look into:

http://www.rookiemag.com/2014/10/ocd-and-me/ (powerful piece from Rookie on OCD)

http://iocdf.org/ (International OCD Foundation)

http://bringchange2mind.org/ (Bring Change 2 Mind)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aX7jnVXXG5o (one of two Hank Green videos on mental illness)

http://www.buzzfeed.com/kasiagalazka/why-you-should-stop-using-words-like-ocd#.btmnjj4Ob

And on that note, I will end with a beautiful quote by one of my favorite authors, Toni Morrison:

The function of freedom is to free someone else.