“You’re really articulate for someone with social anxiety…”
The scepticism in that therapist’s voice was more insulting than anything else. She didn’t believe me. You could tell. That was my last session with her.
Throughout my time trying to get help for my mental health, I’ve always been met with this dumb idea that intelligence and mental health issues can’t co-exist and happen at the same time as one another.
To be blunt, this is utter crap.
I won’t lie- I am academic and always have been. I’m an overachiever and like to be the best at everything. Yes, I was the kid everyone hated for scoring so high in tests and coming across as a teacher’s pet. Fight me, OK? My grades did drop when my ADHD became more of an issue but my ability hasn’t gone.
Somehow, this makes all my depression and anxiety invalid. I apparently cannot be depressed if I’m academic and if I’m well spoken? Clearly can’t be anxious. This assumption by professionals is part of the reason I ever started to lack faith in the NHS mental health service.
The general feeling has always been that they think that me being clever means I can sort my own issues out… should I actually have any
My current psychiatrist thankfully doesn’t disregard my struggles due to my intelligence and he actually acknowledges my academic ability (why thank you). My GP also doesn’t treat me like I’m lying. But for the rest of the mental health professionals I’ve spoken to, the vast majority all seem to bring the validity of my struggles into question because of me being smart.
I’ve found myself playing the role of being less academically able, just to be taken seriously and that’s heart breaking. The idea that only less intelligent people suffer mental health issues is absurd and something I simply cannot fathom.
It’s also a reason people doubt I have ADHD. Because of those stereotypes that ADHD is just a loud, disruptive kid who doesn’t want to learn at school, people see my grades and assume my diagnosis is wrong. This is absolutely not the case.
The idea that smart people can’t struggle needs to stop and attitudes need to change. I’m not sure if people think that because we’re smart we can deal with our own issues and therefore don’t need help, or whether it’s simply a case of sheer ignorance. Whatever the case may be, it’s damaging and part the reason some people never speak up when they’re struggling. These thoughts and ideas almost make us ashamed to admit we’re struggling.
My academic ability doesn’t change the fact that I have chemical imbalances and neurodevelopmental disorders that impact my mental health. My knowledge of Weimar Germany doesn’t provide me with dopamine and serotonin that I need to function normally
I’ve always told the NHS that I don’t feel I tick their boxes- I don’t feel I’m enough or feel I’m too much of something to get helped. Too academic. Too articulate. Not suicidal enough. Not showing ADHD symptoms before 12. These are all things I’ve been told along my mental health journey.
I get that our country’s mental health service is terribly under funded and stretched to absolute breaking point but these comments keep being made and it’s only adding to the stigma that mental health advocates and charities are fighting so hard to change and get rid of. We’re almost shaming people into hiding their struggles or making them feel as though they are lying.
I have grown to have a backbone and talk back when I get these kinds of comments but some people don’t. They sit and allow whoever to say these things, sometimes feeling that they have no voice at all to use and argue.
Some people may even go on to commit suicide because they feel they can’t get help or don’t deserve it because they aren’t “ill enough”.
The overriding message of this post is that words have impact and also that intelligence does not mean you cannot struggle with mental health issues. You absolutely can. And to anyone who is academically able or well spoken, struggling with their mental health… I hear you. I understand you. You struggles are valid and you are entitled to get help and support.
Just keep fighting and somehow, some day, things will start to get a little bit better.