Oversimplification and stigmatization of mental illness

The below set of illustrations and descriptions of mental illness “monsters” came up on my fandom tumblr from tumblr user mouzekiller and it turned out I had a lot of thoughts about it.  I’m copying and pasting here, because, um, some of my fandom tumblr stuff is super-specialized and kind of weird and I don’t feel comfortable linking it here.


mental disorders in form of “monsters”.
monster description:


“The borderline personality disorder is one of the most delicate but perhaps most sinister of monsters. The gather is small swarms around their victims and use pheromones to heighten the emotions of said victim, before feeding off on the emotion itself. They feed upon any emotion but tend to favor feelings of depression.

The monster is made almost completely of a clear ice, rendering it invisible. Only the maple shaped leaf on its tail is visible to the naked eye and looks like a falling leaf. At times, when the monster gorges itself too much on any given emotion its can overwhelm them and they simply shatter like glass.”


“The depression monsters floats around endlessly, always covering his eyes becuase of his depressed state. Because of this he always bumps into things causing more distress to himself each time.
Hugs are known to relieve this poor creatures levels of depression and lift its mood slightly.”

Dissociative Identity Disorder:

“Dissociative Identity disorder (also known as Multiple Personality disorder) can be characterized by its ability to alter its form into whatever it likes. As well as changing itself physically, the creature also takes on different personas of itself each with their own personality.

Occasionally, the monster can become confused about its original identity and multiple personas can play out in the same from, complete with a mish-mash anatomy. No ‘DID’ monster looks or acts the same as another.”


“Paranoia is similar in its biology to Anxiety and they can often be found together. Paranoia uses its tall ears like a radar, scanning the area. Due to the tight curled up nature of their ears the sounds often get confused and muffled meaning Paranoia almost often hears the wrong thing. They are quick to judge and quick to point the finger of blame.

They sometimes work as minions for Schizophrenia and seek out victims for it.”

Bi-Polar & Anxiety:

“The Bipolar monster is always at odds with itself, its two head constantly bickering with each other in a language of gibberish. The blue head is always depressed and easily irritable and the orange head it always on a high and in a frenzy.
Other monsters tend to stay away from Bipolar due to the constant noise it created with its arguing. “

“Anxiety is small enough to sit on its victim’s shoulder and whisper thing in to their unconscious. No-one has ever seen the face of Anxiety for it always wears a skull as a mask.
They often carry small objects linked to their victim’s anxieties. Clocks are a favorite.”


“The Schizophrenia monster is a vile and disgusting creature that manipulates its victims into doing its bidding. It uses hallucinogenic gases secreted form the pores on his underbelly to control and influence others to do what he wants.

They are often accompanied by other monsters such as Paranoia, with Schizophrenia taking up an authoritative role much like a circus ringleader.”

Social Anxiety:
“The Social Anxiety monster spends most of it life underground or in secluded sheltered areas, away from human contact. Because of this their skin appears pale and anemic apart from hard plates that serve as as a means of defense.

They will shy away from all contact, even from a fellow monster making them elusive and rarely seen. They are from the same biological family as Anxiety and Paranoia but due to their extreme way of life they have evolved to look quite different.”

(SC: and here’s where I had thoughts…)

I am having a hard time trying to respond positively to these drawings, including the real, incredible talent exhibited by the artist, zestydoesthings, and the imaginative and mostly accurate descriptions (remember, your mileage may vary, and mine certainly does when it comes to bipolar, contrasted with what’s listed above) all to the side.

On the one hand, I think it’s really important that people find ways to cope with their disorders, and if expressing themselves artistically and finding a way to imagine what’s going on in their head in this format helps them work their way to a stabler self by seeing and then “taming” their monster, then perhaps it’s all to the good.

On the other hand, I think a lot of people with mental health issues already are faced with generalized social stigma against being “crazy.” When you’re identified as your disease— as monsters— that stigmatizing, alienating, reductionist behavior dictates that you’re no one and nothing but your crazy, you possess no real emotions, no ambitions, no real self, no dreams, just crazy, and it creates doubts and anxieties in the suffering person that are hard to get past.  Those marginalizing behaviors create a false sense of other and create a dissociation and an unhealthy case of denial in the person suffering the mental disorder. They feel guilty for something that isn’t their fault, and that just isn’t healthy if they’re going to learn to identify that they’re getting into a bad mental state and they need to do something before it gets worse, be it by reaching out to talk to someone, getting their meds switched, or doing whatever else it is that they need to do to feel better.

I guess I worry about oversimplification.  About dissociation and escaping into the trap of “I’m fine as long as I just take my meds, it will keep my monster at bay.”  About secrecy about your disorder even to people whom you might be able to trust, and to not more generally just owning up to the fact that you have feelings, whether or not they’re a bit more amplified than someone else’s.  They’re still your feelings, and you have a right to them, and to have them acknowledged, and to learn to express them in a way that’s safe for you.

Until the person with a mental disorder accepts and integrates their own monster and knows— it’s part of who they are and they are not a bad person because of their diagnosis— and decides that society and neuronormative people who who blithely toss off shit like “OMG, she was so bipolar, she was wicked moody” can go fuck themselves, because no, they don’t know what it means, and no, they don’t get to define you, because you— you are still human, and if you’re a monster, so aren’t we all, because one of the defining qualities of humanity seems to be our capacity to be inhumane to each other.

We all have monsters inside us.  Jealousy.  Anger.  Self-doubt.  Rage. Racism.  Sexism.  Self-absorption.  Willful blindness.  Those things may not fall within the ambit of the Diagnostic & Statistical Manual (which, fuck the DSM anyway) but they’re every bit as pernicious as someone who’s “officially”  crazy.  Until we recognize that the gamut of “normal” human emotions lead people to do monstrous things, too, I guess I’ll continue to worry about “monstrous” depictions of mental disorders— because I know more “crazy” people living sane, compassionate lives than I could list if I had enough Klonopin to let me stay up long enough to write it all down and not go totally manic.

We can’t forget the green-eyed monster, and the times we all were so mad the monster inside us saw red— were those times when we weren’t “sane?”


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