The Excuses I Gave to Avoid Getting Help for My Mental Illness
Who am I? I’ve wrestled with this question my whole life, and I still have trouble with the answer. Of course, my mental illness has plenty of answers. Weak is one. Pathetic is another. Needy. Incompetent. Embarrassment. The list goes on and on. For years, this was the voice I believed. I thought this voice was my own, that this voice was the reality. Of course back then, I didn’t know this voice wasn’t mine. It is the voice of a sick brain that doesn’t function the way it’s supposed to.
I’ve come up with plenty of excuses for why I shouldn’t recover. My main reason was that I wasn’t sick. I was simply as awful of a person as my mental illness made me out to be. The truth was, I was so sick that I believed every word my mental illness said about me.
I am sick. I’m finally able to admit this to myself. It isn’t easy for me. I can’t just erase the years of self-doubt and self-hatred or the effect it’s had on me. And I can’t make the voice of my mental illness go away.
I’m not sick. I’m just an awful person. I still think these things often. It’s not depression if you’re really just an awful person. It’s not anxiety if everybody really does hate you.
Perhaps if I had been educated about mental illness as a child, I could have been spared a lot of pain. Or perhaps not. It would have been a difficult, if not impossible task to break through my severe childhood social anxiety and get me to open up about what I was feeling. But maybe I would have recognized something wrong inside of me and found the help I needed. But then again, maybe not. Between the social anxiety and the fact that I was convinced I was really just a bad person, I may not have been ready to hear the message.
Recovery is a beautiful ideal, but the reality of it is scary. It requires me to strip away my entire identity and face some dark things about myself. Have I ever had an actual thought in my life, or has it only been my mental illness all this time? Is my body nothing but a puppet for my mental illness? If you take the illness away, will there be anything left of me? I don’t recognize the girl I see in the mirror. I know she is sick, but I don’t have any idea who she really is or if there’s anything to her besides illness.
Self-love is a scary thing too. To recover, I know I need to replace my self-hate with self-love, but I don’t feel worthy of loving myself. My mental illness has had me convinced I’m an awful person for so long. It’s hard to let that go when that’s the only thing I’ve ever known.
Recovery is a leap of faith to me. I’m running away from everything I know with only the hope that I’ll end up somewhere better on the other side. The problem is, I’m scared it won’t work. I’m scared I’ll realize after all this time that my mental illness is right and I really am an awful person. This fear has held me back for a long time now because my mental illness, as awful as it is, feels safe. It is who I have always been, how things have always been.
Except, as I’m trying to accept, it’s not who I am. There is so much more to me than my mental illness. I am a unique individual who deserves love and happiness. I am kinder, stronger, and wiser because of the struggles I have faced. I am full of hope and love. I have so much to give to this world, and I am ready to embrace myself.
I am sick, and that’s OK.
I am still in the middle of my recovery, and that’s OK.
I am scared, and that’s OK.
Recovery is scary, but we are strong. We can do this. We deserve it.
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Thinkstock photo by Kichigin