“it’s all in your head” and other ignorant thoughts

Recently, I came across a video response on YouTube which was produced by Laura Lejeune in response to a video by Julia Boer who claims that eating disorders, anxiety, and depression are all choices, not illnesses.

In her video, Julia Boer claims that “[mental illness] is all in your head” and inferiorizes the suffering of individuals who experience the latter illnesses when contrasted with so-called “real” mental disorders such as schizophrenia. Boer claims that she is “trying to help” and “[has] the key to success” when it comes to recovery from eating disorders. So, you ask, what is this magical key to success? Well, dearest reader, according to Boer, it’s very simple! All you have to do is stop making the “choice” to have an eating disorder and BAM problem solved, you will no longer have an eating disorder.

a4ac53f6ee31931b81ca88238df5e816Now, wouldn’t that just be so nice? Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could all just wake up one day and decide to recover? Or, better yet, wouldn’t it be great if we could decide to stop the disorder before it even begins?

Yeah, that would be fantastic; however, it is ignorant to suggest that this is the “key to success”. Mental illness is not a choice. Recovery does require you to make the choice to fight for your life to get better, but developing a mental illness in the first place is not a choice. To suggest such a thing is offensive and –quite frankly– naive.

In the video, Lejeune makes a great counterargument to the “it’s all in your head” statement that I hear so frequently. She states:

“I never really understand when people say it’s all in your head. It’s kind of like, well yeah it’s in your head. It’s in your head because it’s a mental illness. It’s not called a mental illness because it’s physical. If you’ve got a pain in your leg you don’t say ‘it’s all in your leg’. That doesn’t make it any less severe. […] yes it’s in your head, but so are you”. 

When I heard this I actually had to pause the video and play it back three times to let that really set in. It’s so simple and yet so true. It’s in your head, but so are you. You can’t just remove yourself from your own mind. If you had a limb that was slowly killing you then you could amputate the limb. This may not be ideal, but it is at least a possibility to save your life. The same cannot be said of your mind. If you have a diseased mind threatening your life (i.e. depression causing suicidal thoughts) you can’t just amputate your mind. You’re stuck with it. You can’t escape from it. You cannot live without your mind and you cannot replace it in the same way that you might replace a defective organ with a transplant. So why is it that people say “it’s all in your head” as a means of diminishing the suffering of people who experience mental illness? Should that statement not act as a justification for why an individual should seek help immediately? Why is it so hard for people to grasp that mental illness is a serious, potentially life threatening issue that is most certainly NOT a choice? Why?!

Listening to what Julia Boer had to say about mental illness brought up a lot of emotions for me, but the two most prevalent of those emotions were anger and disappointment. I was angry that someone who is so obviously ignorant and uneducated about mental illness would speak out about an issue that she clearly knows absolutely nothing about and I was disappointed that we live in a society in which these oppressive opinions are relatively widespread. My mission as a future social worker is to break that stigmatization and educate people like Julia about the reality of mental illness.

If you have a mental illness it is not your fault. You did not choose to suffer. And if you are suffering but you do not believe that you deserve help, please reach out and talk to a doctor, a friend, a teacher, or someone else that you trust who can help you get the support that you need. Mental illness is not a choice, but recovery is. You did not make a conscious decision to suffer but you do need to make the choice to fight for your life and for the happiness that you deserve.

Remember, mental illness is in your head, but so are you.



10 thoughts on ““it’s all in your head” and other ignorant thoughts

  1. Kelly says:

    Great post, and thank you so much for sharing it on here. I would like to add that there is also a group of people out there that are training “spiritual counselors” that mental illness, including schizophrenia, depression, DID, bipolar, etc. has the root of sin that needs to be addressed then the “sin of mental illness” will go away. It is really sad that they are not only believing a lie that is so completely unsupported by all research but are teaching others this. Unfortunately there are several churches in my area that offer this “spiritual counseling”. The God I worship is a much bigger God than their God though in that He can see and love me the way I was created. My mental illness is no different than someone elses cancer, broken leg, etc.

    • Discoverecovery says:

      Thank you for adding this point! I’ve heard of these spiritual counselors as well and it’s disgusting that this has become a new form of oppression. It upsets me so much when people use religion as a means of oppressing people. I don’t go to church and I while I believe in some form of a higher power I refuse to believe that any spiritual being would support the oppression of people due to a mental illness.
      I’m so glad that you have not let these people who believe in such a thing tarnish your own relationship with your higher power. Thanks again for sharing!

  2. rootstoblossom says:

    Our brain is a part of our body so of course something can go wrong with it, like any other part of our body, and we don’t choose our diseases. Like you said, we do choose to fight back and get treatment. We choose to monitor ourselves and manage our symptoms to live a better life, like anyone else with a chronic disease. We choose to ask for help or suffer in silence. We choose medications with horrendous side effects because we trust our doctors. We have many choices, but waking up without mental illness is not one of them.

  3. jlstanding says:

    Thank you for sharing that video. Ugh it made me so mad. For someone to judge a situation they are clearly not educated on in any way and have no personal experience with!! Good lord.

    • Discoverecovery says:

      That’s actually the annoying part. She claims to have had an eating disorder and she bases her claims off of her own “recovery”. I am assuming that she never had a sever ED or her opinions would be different

  4. hgalley12 says:

    So many ignorant people in the world. I worry there will never be a mutual understanding of mental illness. Great post!

  5. capturing the corners says:

    I hate it when people say this! It’s infuriating to me, especially since I run a blog about a neurological disorder that decays your brain to the point of mental illness. Some people still don’t get it. Thank you for sharing!

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