The truth about mental illness is that it never just goes away. You can go months or years and suddenly, seemingly out of nowhere, it can rear its ugly head and pull you back in.
It was something I was never really warned about as I went through treatment roughly two years ago. The sole focus was simply on getting better– learning how to cope and manage the turbulence it caused me on the inside before it could wreck havoc on the rest of my life.
There was a time when anxiety ridden days, sleepless nights, and tear-filled mornings seemed to be all I had known and ever would know. Before taking steps to better myself, I never imagined waking up with a sense of purpose, a genuine feeling of happiness, or the ability to control my anxiety and rollercoaster emotions.
Days would go by and I would be amazed at how much better I felt. Those days turned into weeks and those weeks into months, and eventually I lost track of how long it had been since I woke up with gnawing emptiness.
And then it came back.
It was as though one morning I opened my eyes, and there sat my mental illness at the end of my bed. I asked what it was doing back; how did it get in? Had I not taken the key and changed the locks?
I looked directly at it and told it that it was not welcome. Yet I woke up each morning to my depression and anxiety sitting side-by-side until no skill I had learned could block out the thoughts they fed into my head.
But I had been doing so well. I thought I had overcome this. I don’t think I can go through this again. I didn’t understand. I worked so hard. What am I going to do?
Work hard again. That’s all I told myself. One recent morning I woke up, looked the unwelcome guests in the eyes, and told them I wasn’t going down again this time. I couldn’t simply give up.
I grabbed the hands of those who reached out to me, the ones who realized a difference in my behavior, my demeanor, my entire self.
I sought out the love from others by being honest with my struggle, admitting when I wasn’t okay instead of trying desperately to cover it up.
There was a time when I felt the need to fabricate what I was doing when loved ones would contact me, or anyone would ask me what my upcoming plans were. I didn’t want to admit to anyone that my busy meant sleeping all day on the couch because anxiety kept me up the last few nights. I didn’t want to tell them that I was actually using all of the energy I had to get out of my bed to walk to the bathroom and back again.
This time I couldn’t do it anymore. I didn’t want to pretend I was happy when I simply just wasn’t.
I didn’t want to lie about a made up obligation when the truth was all I wanted to do that day was sleep and cry and hide out. And I learned something so incredible… the moment you stop trying to hide your pain and struggle from others, is the moment you begin to heal.
I worked so hard to love myself. To be gentle with myself. To be honest with myself. But sometimes you need the love from others when your own tank has been depleted. And that’s okay.
It gave me the fuel to work harder once more. And I finally know I am not weak for admitting that. We are taught that we can accept love from others, but only if we have enough love for ourselves. But you can’t tell me that support from another person doesn’t make all the difference in the world when you feel less than enough.
Today, someone told me I was starting to seem like myself again–that for a time, they were beginning to worry. They expressed their happiness to see me back to the person I truly am. Without having to mention it, I could feel their love wash over me and I let it fuel my desire to keep pushing as hard as I can.
Today, I woke up and no longer saw my mental illnesses sitting at the end of my bed waiting to be the first to greet me when I awoke. Today, I realized this is a fight that will never truly be over. Today, I feel victorious, yet prepared for the moment they break back into my home and try to invade my mind.
When your mental illness comes back, fight like hell. Fight until you win again. Because you will win again.