Mental illness – more specifically anxiety and depression – is not a fate reserved only for the truly degenerate and damaged. Unlike most other illnesses, mental illnesses are, in essence, an attack on a person’s sense of self and identity. In my world, this is what its like living with a mental illness:
It’s waking up in the morning with bags under your eyes because too much was on your mind last night to get any sleep. It’s convincing yourself that you did something wrong, even when you didn’t. It’s running the same scenario through your head a dozen times, thinking the outcome might change. Assuming if you did better, said better, things might be better. It’s jumping in front of a mirror, to see if those extra five pounds you put on caused your stomach to jiggle. It’s arriving to work an hour early because you somehow convinced yourself you might be late if you waited any longer before leaving. It’s completing a project three weeks before it’s due because you’d feel like a procrastinator if you hadn’t. Constant planning and thinking ahead. Trying to convince everyone that you didn’t mean to hurt their feelings, you just weren’t mentally prepared to handle that conversation. It’s unintentionally ruining every relationship you’ve ever been in by asking too many questions, thinking too much, or wanting too much. It’s laying on the floor of your living room, with rain pouring overhead, wondering how to move on.
Mental illness is nearly impossible to accurately describe in words. If you have suffered from it you know what I mean when I say suffering from one is like living in an alternate reality.
Mental illness is a pit of darkness. A black hole waiting to suck anyone and everyone down into its depths. But you see, it is afraid of the light. And, it does not want you to know that because if you choose light over darkness, no matter how dim the light may be, mental illness can not hold you captive any longer.
I always thought those who seek help, or take medications are cowards. But those who suffer from, and even more so those who fight mental illness are among the most courageous of all. It was not until I branched out to seek counseling that I began to understand myself, my emotions, my thoughts, and how I react when it all seems to bear down on me.
When conquering your mental illness, you stand at the start of two paths. One path to continue to lifelessly walk through this world as a helpless captive of the sickness. Or, the path to recovery – peace of mind. The latter is a path that is full of pain and turmoil, and it is uncomfortable and hard -but, it is a path that makes you stronger with every step. It will illuminate the light at the end of the tunnel until the day you realize YOU were the light all along.
Mental illness is not a choice—but recovery is.
Yes, you can fully recover from even the most severe forms of mental illness. Research shows that even people with the most severe forms of mental illnesses are capable of regaining significant roles in society and of running their own lives.
Recovery is a commitment to climb out of the dark pit of depression and anxiety that has been home for so long. It requires patience, and the acceptance that for every amount of progress you make, there will be setbacks.
Your progress will not be visible within a few days, or even weeks. You will see it after months. Progress while still battling with mental illness can be slow, but, you will find the strength to continue on your journey to recovery.
With every step towards recovery, you will uncover the beauty of life that you had once forgotten while you were in your hopeless pit. You will even come to appreciate parts of life simply because you previously could not experience them.
When you have recovered from your mental illness, you must continue to heal emotionally.
As you make your way towards recovery, you will occasionally look back to your life in that dark, hopeless hole. You will shed a tear, maybe many, because your life in that hole, as miserable as it was, has now gifted you with an incredible gift. A gift of being incredibly humbled by the beauty of life.
If you have a friend or family member who is suffering from a mental illness, just being supportive is often the best thing you can do for them. Consider talking to a mental health professional about how you can keep an eye out for those who struggle, and how you can be a better friend to them.