It’s Mental Health Awareness Month and I’m not done talking. Stay tuned for my post on suicidal ideation.
Every time you read a blog post or watch a YouTube video about someone’s new diet or fitness regimen what do they always say? “You see this change is gonna stick because this isn’t about just going on a diet. This is about a lifestyle.”
When I was religious it was always “Christianity isn’t about religion, it’s about a relationship.”
Folks are always trying to prove that what they’re doing or experiencing isn’t some fad, they aren’t doing what they “should” and they’re not being forced to suffer against their will. No they’re doing this thing because this is what they love. Now this is who they are.
It Feels Like Mental Illness is My Lifestyle.
A few weeks ago I read an article discussing how tired the author was of reading about people who had “overcome” mental illness. She was sick of reading the same old story. “Oh I used to struggle. I used to be depressed. I used to be anxious. I used to this or that. But now I’m recovered. Now I’m cured!”
I’m writing this post today because I want you to know that, sure, it gets better. But it also gets worse. Sometimes it gets worse before it gets better. Sometimes, it gets worse before it gets even worse.
Even If You’ve Done Everything Right
I’m medicated. I lift heavy weights. I’m strong. I quit a job I hated. I have family, friends and a partner who love and support me. I know that I’m a good person. I’ve spent years (YEARS) in therapy. I’ve spent years learning how to care for and about myself. I’ve dramatically reduced my self-loathing. Everyday I accept and acknowledge my “bad” parts just a little bit more.
I did all of those things and I got better.
Then I got worse.
Then I got better. Then I got sick all over again. Then I got kinda, but not completely, better and sorta stayed in that limbo for a while. Then I got worse again. Then I got better.
I still have bad days. Awful weeks. Terrible months. If I’m lucky I just have a seemingly unbearable morning or night. I still get nervous when I get sad because I wonder whether I’m just sad like a “normal” person or whether this is just the beginning.
Some people experience depression once, get treatment and get better. Your struggle was real. Thank the heavens that you’ve been delivered.
For Some Folks This Is The New Normal
But for some of us, so very many of us, depression and anxiety might just be a part of our life now and recurrences are something we just know will occur. Whether it’s because you struggle with dysthymia, or because, like me, you experienced a cruise ship load of trauma during the first 18 years of your life and didn’t seek help until your third or fourth clinical depression.
Depression Can Be Chronic
It’s scary to admit that depression might not go away for good. At first it felt like giving up. I thought this proved that I was weak. I wanted to beat the depression.
But with time I’ve come to believe that it isn’t giving up at all. Instead, it is a show of strength. It is showing that you have the courage to face the truth.
Look, nobody’s perfect. Everybody’s got struggles. This just happens to be my cross to bear.
It takes resilience to be knocked down by your own mind and stand back up. It’s something unbelievable to be told by your own thoughts that you’ll never make it and you don’t deserve it and yet turn around and fight, and hope against hope, from somewhere deep down inside, that you can make a comeback.
Last Week Felt Like Hell
And the beauty of my treatment is that I learned that that was a moment. Maybe I will feel bad again tomorrow.
But Maybe Tomorrow I Won’t.
When you have a chronic illness of any kind, every single day you wake up, you assess how you’re doing and then you face the day the best you can.
Everyday you choose whether you’re going to keep facing those days.
On days when it sucks you know that there are going to be more days that suck. You also hope for more days that are really good. On days when it’s good you do the same.
When you struggle with mental illness, you just learn how important it is to get through today.
Even if that means typing through tears. Even if that means feeling completely out of your mind. Even if that means being broken open for reasons that you can’t even name, let alone face or understand.
Look I don’t know why you do it. Hell, I don’t even know why I do it.
I just know that we do.
Because mental illness is not just a moment.