My mother-in-law sent me an email a while ago when I was feeling pretty down. She told me she wished I’d stop beating up on myself and remember that I’m sick, not weak.
She was right.
On my down days it’s difficult to get out of bed, difficult to shower, difficult to feed myself and difficult to take my medication. It can feel like I’m taking steps backward in my recovery. It took me a long time to realize that that feeling of slipping backwards is part of my recovery – every day can’t be rainbows, unicorns, and sprinkle-covered donuts.
Mental illness is just that – an illness. The brain is a very complex machine and we don’t understand a lot of what makes it do different things. Psychologists, psychiatrists, and neurologists are getting better at it all the time, though.
We are living in good times. People are no longer locked away in asylums for the rest of their lives, militaries are starting to recognize that PTSD is not “cowardice”, lobotomies are no longer suggested as the only way to “cure” patients, and Electro-Convulsive Therapy (ECT) is a precise and safe tool – far removed from the old brute force electroshock days.
There are many antidepressant, antipsychotic, and panic-relieving drugs available. Combine that with new psychological treatments like Cognitive Behaviour Therapy and it becomes apparent that we are very lucky to be living in this age of psychiatric and psychological treatment.
There’s still a long way to go, however. Too many people still view mental illness as a weakness or a failure on the part of the sufferer. Too many employers either don’t recognize mental illness as a problem or don’t follow their own mental illness program. Other employers have a mental illness program but have byzantine requirements in place to access it. Insurance companies hate paying out money so they’ll put applicants who are having difficulty functioning through the wringer to try and avoid it.
It’s very important to remember that mental illness IS an illness. I certainly didn’t ask for it, and I’d really like to return to a somewhat normal state as soon as possible. It may take years, but I’m going to do my best. I’m sick, not weak.
You’re not weak, either.