Ok, I have mental illness. Now what? It took me at least 5 years of diagnosis, struggle, treatment, working through, healing, relapsing, losing jobs, ruining relationships, medications, two steps forward and one step back over and over and over again, before I fully accepted my illness.
I could look anyone in the eye and admit to them that I had mental illness, no problem. Accepting it publicly was easy; all I had to do was admit to it, sometimes open up about it, and move on. I was an open book, I always have been. Apparently except with myself, because admitting it to myself was a whole other animal. Holy repercussions, Batman. It meant I had to fully realize that mental illness was something I was going to have to live with every single day for the rest of my life because there is no cure, just rehabilitation, proper care, and management.
In came the tidal wave of what it all really meant:That some days would be MUCH worse than others, that it would affect the way people viewed me, that it affected the way I viewed myself, that it would at times affect my behavior, that I would have to continue medication and treatment for an indefinite period, that I may not ever know what it’s like to feel “normal”, that I had a lot of deeply rooted sadness, anger, guilt, truth, and pain to acknowledge, that I would have to be very gracious and gentle with myself and so would others that I had to make the decision to keep around or not, I could no longer push myself as hard as I wanted to, I had limitations, I had to only choose to keep those in my life that could and would accept both me and my illness, that my personal, professional, and scholastic progress would be stunted, that this would cost me money I didn’t have and didn’t want to be spending, that I somehow had to make the healthcare system my bitch, that I had to start eating better, exercising, and educating myself on what was behind all of this, the fact that I have a disease, that I had no idea how to deal with all of it, and that I’m mostly going to have to deal with it alone.
No f*cking wonder I didn’t want to cop to it for myself. Who the hell wants to deal with all of that shit? Life is rough enough as it it. I’ll tell you who- a person who refused to let illness have her and allow all of it’s implications to own her life. It meant I had to take responsibility for my shit, do something about it, and never give up no matter what. No one else was going to do it for me, I had to want it.
Much like an addict; no one can make them go to rehab and get clean. They have to want sobriety for themselves otherwise rehab fails and they will go right back to their diseased behavior until it ends up taking their lives from them. Sure I thought about letting it have me and taking the easy way out. In fact there were times where I was honest to god doing everything I could to try and get myself out of it and I felt at a total loss because things wouldn’t improve beyond a certain point. If something was going to take me by its own accord I was willing to let it because at least it would mean I went out fighting.
It made me feel incredibly hopeless, powerless and totally inept. But it also made me, in my very core, absolutely refuse to give up on myself. Luck, grit, perseverance, strength of spirit, Prozac, Ativan, Dr. Kennerly, surely I can attribute my path to wellness in part to all of those factors. Whatever it ultimately was, I just knew deep own inside that this wasn’t the pathetic existence I was marked for.
I was meant to be a vibrant being, one of light and love, as we all innately are. It just gets really grayed out sometimes by all our humanness. By all the ego, all the trauma, all the fear, negativity, societal, familial and personal pressure and expectations, yada yada. All the bs that is the opposite of love and acceptance, empathy and compassion. The opposite of all the things that truly bring healing. Deep down one of the biggest components of accepting my illness was learning to love and accept myself as I was. I was deeply flawed and in desperate need of help. But I was still a human being who loved, was loved, and was love.
Slowly but surely I kept making strides. Making better decisions, educating myself, doing everything within my power to get my life back. It’s MINE, goddammit! I’m not saying it wasn’t hard, it was quite literally the fight of and for my life and it still is. I still lost plenty along the way. But ultimately I gained, and it’s because I took responsibility for my illness and never gave up.
The best example I can give you, aside from an addict, is a cancer patient. What’s the biggest message that cancer patients and their advocates want you to know? That it’s a real fight, and every time a patient ends up on the other side of it, cancer-free, what do they have to say for themselves? That they fought it tooth and nail because they were determined to make it to remission and not let cancer take their lives. It’s as though there was never a question as to whether the cancer patient was going to fight it or not. They are revered as warriors, and those with mental illness deserve and should garner the same for themselves.
No one with any disease, ever, was told to go ahead and sit back because this is going to be easy. Accepting that now and getting help now will make that much more difference. It’s going to be hard but it’s the most worthwhile battle you’ll ever be valiantly called to: the battle for your life. Be a warrior, not a worrier. You’re worth it.
Peace, love, and wellness.