Mental Illness Is Not A Competition to See Who’s Most Tired or Messed Up

By: Ali Sakr

Disclaimer: This article is about mental illness, and so many sensitive topics will be mentioned throughout. If this might cause any distress, read at your own discretion.


  • “Ok, so, last night I stayed up till 6 AM to get all my studying and assignments done. Then I decided it was a good idea to still wake up at 7 and come to school so I literally can’t even see right now.”

+ “6 AM? Dude, I pulled 2 all-nighters in a row. I’ve only slept 3 hours in the past 2 days.”

  • ”Oh damn, but you know what really sucks? I still have so many things I didn’t finish. Staying up so late didn’t even help that much, not to mention the fact that I won’t be home today before 10.”

+ “Yeah I can relate. Did you even see the classes I’m taking this year? I’m so tired all the time it’s not even funny anymore.”


And so it continues, the “who’s more tired” game – one we’re all unfortunately guilty of playing at some point. As self-centered as it might seem to always want to be seen as victims able to overcome unbearable struggles compared to our peers, having a longer to-do list isn’t even scratching the surface of how messed up we can get, trying to prove a point to others – or often even ourselves. The way this sometimes happens, specifically with mental illness, portraying it as some quirky feature of a personality that makes you more “interesting” is honestly sick. Before we understand why it’s so terrible, let’s try to get the more common perspective first, and maybe even uncover the reasons our societies might as well become more full of mental illness competitions than they are of shit (that’s a first).

Over-normalization. While normalization is often a very required process when introducing a new concept into a society, we, being the humans we are, end up taking it too far, and completely forget the point of this normalization in the first place. When words like “depression” and “anxiety” are used so sparingly as synonyms to “sad” and “nervous”, that’s when you know we have a problem. We’ve become so used to these words, they’ve lost the weight that should be beared when using them. This, coupled with the romanticization – talking about something in a way that makes it seem better than it actually is-  of mental illness in both the media and TV shows makes it all seem like an integral part to every human’s life, rather than literal diseases that affect a certain set of people. And as we always feel when anything new is introduced in our lives, we want to be the “best.”

While I’d love to go into detail about how appalling this romanticization is, the focus of this article is more about its results and the desensitization it’s had a hand in creating amongst us. Our innate desire to constantly have attention – to constantly be the victims of some terrible hardship out of which we’ve managed to crawl – has lead us to take “tired” to whole new heights. Being sad is no longer unique so maybe we’ll use “depressed” instead. I get worried before exams and large gatherings, so I’ll just say I have anxiety. Besides, I just saw one of my favorite youtubers put out some new merch. with anxiety written all over the hoodies, and some others that say “anxiety society”, so now I feel like I’m finally part of a community that understands me.

What we’ve, by doing this, failed to realize, is that the consequences of our actions are in fact dire. Not to ourselves so much as to those actually suffering mental illness. A person with anxiety disorder won’t use their illness as a fashion statement. They don’t want to have anxiety. It doesn’t make them feel like part of a community that understands them – it makes them feel like they’re constantly worried to a point where they can’t live their lives properly. So when we, people who only unfortunately suffer from the ever so rare disease of human, grasp at the closest opportunity to self-diagnose and consider ourselves ill, the ones that actually need to speak up are too afraid to do so.

They end up being too afraid of being seen as “just another girl trying to seem quirky with anxiety”, or “just another depressed teen,” and so they shut up. They keep it 100% to themselves, because the only thing worse than having an actual disorder is being ridiculed about it and told to stop bandwagoning. To “walk it off,” or just “be happy”, because in the eyes of anyone they might possibly speak up to, they’re just one of millions who seem to be following a trend. I’m sorry if this analogy is a bit sadistic, but this is an equivalent of taking up spaces at a hospital that treats cancer, because acting like we have a tumor is giving us the self-satisfaction and attention we need. When people are clinically ill, it, ever so unfortunately, is no longer about us.

While no one is ever completely free of all mental illness, no, being sad sometimes doesn’t mean you have depression. And no, worrying about exams and presentations doesn’t mean you have anxiety. If you truly believe you might have either of these disorders, or any for that matter, then seek an actual diagnosis. This is not an issue to be taken lightly.

And at the end of the day, being sadder or having a longer to-do list is quite literally the opposite of winning at life. And if these things really do make you feel more accomplished, I’d suggest accepting the fact that in some “competitions”, it’s best to lose.

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