Mental illness isn’t romantic
Society’s misconception of mental health is unhealthy, Julia Gagnon writes.
Like many other fans, I anxiously awaited Lady Gaga’s latest release, a single titled “The Cure.” The week before I had immersed myself in the melodies of her previous album, “Joanne,” an album that had seen my tears, desperation and ultimate revival after a recent breakup. I thought her new song would bring me into the next stage of healing, yet I was shocked at the emotional regression that the track displayed. While I do not know the intentions behind Lady Gaga’s art or her creative process, I can only speak to how it made me feel and what I think hints at a larger issue.
The song harkens back to the dancey, pop infused style of “Artpop” but its melodies distract from the striking lyrics. Gaga sings, “If I can’t find the cure, I’ll fix you with my love/ No matter what you know, I’ll/ I’ll fix you with my love/ And if you say you’re okay/ I’m gonna heal you anyway.” The rest of the song is a variation of these lines, telling the story of a person who believes that their love is enough to cure their partner from whatever emotional or personal issues they are facing. The notion that love can heal people is beautiful and noble and, in an ideal world, it is one that I would want to be true. However, if we operate under the misconception that you can fix another person with sacrifices and will power then we are sending the message that mental illness is not really an illness.
I often see the romanticization of mental illness plastered across the internet. While certain social media sites and blogs can be releases for those unsure of how to communicate their depression, the idea of hating oneself or even tenets of suicidal ideation is displayed in a way that is meant to be wistful or grunge. The reality is that there is nothing easy or wistful about having a mental illness or loving someone with one.
Like any physical illness, those who suffer from depression or anxiety have symptoms, such as difficulty concentrating, fatigue or irritability. It is far too easy to internalize these involuntary actions and grow frustrated with them or yourself. Taking too much responsibility for another's symptoms creates a toxic relationship dynamic. However, if you love someone it is not easy to separate yourself from what they are thinking or feeling. The National Alliance on Mental Illness suggests that the most important thing you can do is be a part of a community of empathy and validation that surrounds them.
Loving someone isn’t easy. There is no handbook or beginner’s guide and when you’re young it can be scary, especially if your partner struggles with mental illness. In a culture where mental illness is romanticized and even fetishized, it can be difficult to grasp the consequences and magnitude of what it means to be in a relationship with someone who is struggling. If there are two things that I have learned to hold close to my heart, they are you can’t make projects out of people and someone else’s mental health should never be a priority over your own.