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“Perhaps when we find ourselves wanting everything, it is because we are dangerously close to wanting nothing.” — Sylvia Plath

Sylvia Plath’s story always strikes me as such a sad one. She must have suffered silently, and perhaps with some guilt, from depression with people wondering why a woman who had so much at an early age, could possibly be unhappy.

Mental illness gets a short shrift from many sides: People who have never suffered from depression, anxiety, phobias, or thoughts that push out from some hidden abyss inside, don’t get it. They don’t credit these as being real problems — they attribute these conditions to weakness, lack of fortitude, not enough self-control, or morality issues. Most mental disorders have a very real physical and chemical causes and require medication and therapy,and sometimes hospitalization.

Here comes the second problem: mental health rarely gets the same coverage under insurance policies as physical conditions do. Many mental health conditions are chronic, and will require medical care more than once, unlike a broken leg which is healed and largely forgotten. Lack of treatment (or lack of money for treatment) means that people who would otherwise be happy, productive, and alive are left to suffer, and be less than they can be.

As one who has suffered from anxiety for many years, I know that mental problems are real. I also know they can be alleviated with proper care (medication and therapy). My father was bipolar, in an even darker age for the mentally ill, and he committed suicide even though he was receiving good care, and some promising new medications. Mental illness is cruel and sneaky.

Finally, for a variety of reasons (including the ones mentioned), people don’t want to admit they have a problem, don’t want to discuss their issues with a professional — don’t want to “bear their souls”, and will seek other ways to cope or cover up — often alcohol or drugs are involved, or simply avoidance of the things or people that cause the most problems. People like to feel they can control their actions, and admitting one has a problem makes them seem weak.

Sylvia Plath had everything to live for, but filling up a broken vessel with “things” does not suffice. Nothing can fill the empty or hurting places in some people, and nothingness seem preferable to continuing to fight the hopelessness and despair.