When I Realized 'Suck It Up' Logic Doesn't Work for Mental Illness
Learning to accept I couldn’t control my mental illness and how I reacted to it was probably the hardest part of getting better.
Growing up in a family with four sons and no daughters, and most of us being wrestlers, we really had the “suck it up” idea when it came to anything that hurt. I wrestled knowing I had arthritis and I didn’t quit until I couldn’t walk anymore. We didn’t talk about feelings, and we never admitted anything was wrong.
This set me back so far on my pathway to treatment and, ultimately, recovery.
A few years ago, I was robbed while working alone at my (now previous) job. I was forced to the back of the store and my hands were zip tied and I was left there alone. This completely flipped my world around.
I didn’t leave my house for two weeks after the robbery.
But with my “suck it up” logic, I went back to work after those two weeks. I kept working for a couple months, and this made the post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and anxiety that came with it so much worse. Eventually I quit because I realized it was making me worse, but I thought that if I just ignored it and pushed on that it would go away… I was dead wrong.
Months later, I am still feeling unsafe no matter where I was, and it was affecting my schooling. I finally convinced myself to go talk to a therapist at school. This was such a hard decision and I never even told anyone, not even my parents, that I had a problem still, or that I was getting help.
I went to him a few times, felt much much better after some behavioral therapy, then decided I could fix the rest on my own. I was mostly correct, but once the one year anniversary came back around, the PTSD and anxiety came back way worse than before. Instead of replaying the robbery over and over in my head and different ways it could have panned out, I was doing this with everything. Driving a car? My mind would play visions of me getting in terrible accidents. Sitting in my room? My mind would play visions of someone breaking into the house and killing me/my family.
There was always a rational part to my mind that knew these were all irrational thoughts, but my body didn’t care. Physiologically, my body would react to how I was reacting in the visions and this made me angry. I ended up abusing prescription pain medicine because it made my mind go blank. I would self-harm because the physical pain would distract my mind from the irrational thoughts, so it was myself hurting me instead of “nothing.” I didn’t want to accept I wasn’t in control of myself.
A friend convinced me to go back to therapy, and I cannot thank them enough for that. I started doing more behavioral therapy and just generally talking about how I felt and what was going on.
I hadn’t even thought about the fact that I had PTSD at this point, but after doing some tests and explaining my symptoms, my therapist told me I probably do have PTSD. This was a huge relief to a part of me, because now, I knew why I felt the way I did, and I knew that there wasn’t a whole lot I could do about it. This was when my recovery took a huge turn for the better. She listened to what I said, and was understanding. She helped me realize that it’s “normal” to not have control during episodes and this is what really helped me gain control.
From this point on, it was all uphill for me as far as recovery. It definitely wasn’t easy, and it didn’t happen overnight, but I was on my way to getting better.
Over that year and a half after the robbery, I didn’t want to accept there was something wrong and that there was nothing I could do about it. If I had just accepted there was something wrong, I would have realized that it’s OK to not have control, because it’s not your fault. I needed help. I was foolish to think I didn’t need it, and that just made everything worse.
It’s OK to admit something is wrong. It’s OK to admit that at least part of it is out of your control.
If I had known these two sentences before the night of the robbery, I would have still been traumatized, but it wouldn’t have controlled my life for so long, and I would have gotten the help right away like I needed.
If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741.
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