Today’s post was written by Warrior Aimee Eddy. You can find her bio at the end of this post.
Many people with mental illness feel like they are doomed to live their lives stuck in the midst of the depths of sadness, anguish, and torture of their sickness.
It’s also a common misconception in society that people with mental illness can never get better. The truth is that most people who are suffering from a mental illness can reach recovery. They can become a functioning part of society and find happiness. It seems impossible, but it isn’t.
Recovery is possible.
WHAT DOES RECOVERY LOOK LIKE?
First, we have to define what recovery is. When we think of someone recovering from an illness, we think he or she is cured and back to normal. Recovery from mental illness takes on a different meaning.
It means you have learned to manage your illness with coping techniques, self-care, and medication enough for you to live a productive life. It doesn’t mean your illness will completely go away, but that you have it under control. There will still be bad days, but you’ll have the skills you need to get through them, and those bad days won’t seem so hopeless.
Another important thing to point out is that recovery is slow and can take several years to reach. It doesn’t happen overnight, even though we would love for it to just *disappear*. It takes determination, strength, and hard work.
I’ve been through the recovery process more than once; first in college, and nearly 17 years ago after being hospitalized for depression and Borderline Personality Disorder.
THE FIRST STEP TO RECOVERY
My first step to recovery took place many years ago when I was in college. I had to admit to my family that I had an illness and I needed help. I had hit rock bottom. I was suicidal, I was self-injuring, I was deeply depressed, and I could barely keep food down. I kept denying the fact that I was sick.
My mom asked me about it several times and I told her I was just stressed with school. I hid my injuries under long-sleeved shirts. When I couldn’t handle my anguish any longer, I broke down in tears and confided in her. I told her everything. Admitting I was sick and no longer hiding my pain was a big relief.
If you want to get better, stop hiding or denying your illness, admit you’re sick, and ask someone you trust for help.
My mom searched for help for me. First, I went to a therapist who said I was injuring myself to hurt others. My mom went to a hospital in a nearby city that referred us to another therapist. I also started seeing a psychiatrist who diagnosed me with depression.
I began to work with them both and took a year off from college to focus on getting better. I also started working at a grocery store. I did, in time, reach a period of recovery. I had a social life. I returned to college while working on the weekends and graduated from college.
But my recovery only lasted a couple of years.
When I fell again, I knew the signs and went to a program through my job that assisted me in finding a therapist. Even though I was going to counseling, I continued to fall deeper into my illness.
I fell in love and moved in with a man. He began to abuse me physically and mentally. I began injuring again, I could barely function, and I began calling off work frequently. I started making mistakes in my checkbook, and I couldn’t even do simple chores like cleaning the house. I burst out in angry fits and clung to my boyfriend tightly, fearing he would abandon me.
I was hospitalized after my boyfriend packed my bags and said he couldn’t handle me anymore. It was in the hospital when a friend brought me a journal, and I became determined to do what it took to get better. It was also then that I was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder.
RESEARCH YOUR ILLNESS
Once I left the hospital, I began to research my illnesses. I figured the more I knew about depression, Borderline Personality Disorder, and self-injury, the more I could understand what was going on with me.
Suddenly, years of heartache and struggle made sense.
The angry fits I had as a child, the sudden mood changes, and my intense fear of losing friends made sense. When I thought I was having a nervous breakdown in eighth grade, I was actually struggling with depression. My self-injury wasn’t to hurt people, but a way to release my inner pain. My whole life suddenly made sense.
I suggest you educate yourself about your illness, whether it’s bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, social anxiety, or any other illness.
I had to find the right medication for me. This is not an easy process. It takes time for medications to work. I wanted to take an antidepressant and suddenly be better, but it didn’t work that way.
My psychiatrist would put me on a medication and told me it could take a couple of weeks to work. When it didn’t, we had to try another one. One made me feel worse, one made me tired, and another did nothing. I had to be patient and keep trying new antidepressants until one worked.
It’s a tough process. Once I did find a medication that helped, I learned it did not take all of my symptoms away; I also had to do therapy to help.
RECOVERY IS HARD WORK
I went to group therapy for people suffering from Borderline Personality Disorder. There, we were given a booklet and homework. I did the homework diligently and tried hard to use the coping techniques I learned. I also began to see a therapist who gave me homework.
I had to change my negative thinking into positive. This was a big challenge, but I was willing to give it my all. I had to write down positive things about my life and I had to learn the different types of cognitive distortions. I also had to learn healthier coping techniques than self-injuring.
My thought process had been negative and distorted for most of my life; changing it seemed nearly impossible. But I knew that if I wanted to reach recovery, I had to do it, and I worked hard on it. I had a journal with my feelings and a journal with positive things in it. Sometimes I got frustrated and felt like giving up. At times it seemed like an impossible task, but I knew I had to work hard.
If you want to get better you have to work hard.
I also had to build a support system, friends and family I could turn to when I needed to talk or have someone listen, or when I needed someone to just get me out of the house. I had to choose people I could trust and who were encouraging. Also, when I was going through the process toward recovery, I had to end negative friendships.
When I met my husband, I gave him information about my illness, and we went to couples therapy so he could learn about my illness and how to help me.
YOU CAN RECOVER!
After years of hard work, ups and downs, therapy, and finding the right medication, I have reached recovery. I have found happiness. I am married to the man of my dreams. I’ve kept a job for 24 years. I have written and am in the process of editing my memoir, I am a published writer, and much more.
I am very aware of the symptoms of my illness and what I need to do when I start having problems. I’m not cured, but I’m in recovery. I’m managing my illness well.
With hard work, the right medication, determination, and strength, you, too, can reach recovery. It’s a long process and it’s not easy, but if you’re willing to give it your all you can find happiness. You can work or volunteer and much more.
I encourage you now to take that first step – admit you have an illness and ask someone for help.
Come on, you can do it! Do it for you, do it for a new beginning, and do it so you can enjoy life. If I can reach recovery, you can too.
Fight with all that’s in you.
Aimee Eddy is an insightful overcomer who advocates for other strugglers. Her stories are in “Change Your Life” by Alexander Kovarovic. She serves as assistant to the director for the National Youth Internet Safety and Cyberbullying Task Force. She writes the blog, Finding the Light about recovery from mental illness and breast cancer.
You can read more of Aimee’s work here.
As always, Warrior, thanks for reading. Recovering from mental illness is definitely Keepin’ it Real!
Please share the love! 🙂
Previously published on depressionwarrior
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