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5 Things I Would Tell My Future Self About My Mental Illness Recovery

I am not naïve. I know my mental illness will not just get up and fly away. It is quite possible this is something I will live with for the rest of my life. And it’s the same for many, many other people. So I wondered, if I could speak to myself, 10 years in the future, what would I say?

1. It’s OK to be afraid.

Some days, everything scares me. Loud noises, bright lights. Spiders. Dark corners. Knocks on the door. Text messages. The thoughts inside my head. The prospect of living my life this way. And automatically, I criticize myself for these fears. Tell myself I’m being ridiculous.

But fear is not always a bad thing. Fear can motivate us. To change. To fight harder. I’m not saying I would want to live with intense, debilitating fear every day. But don’t beat yourself up over it. If you’re scared, that’s OK. Chances are you’re already feeling bad enough. There’s no need to add to it by shouting at yourself!

2. Talk to people.

Don’t keep it all in. Let people help you. They won’t be able to make it all go away, to make all the doubts and worries disappear. But they can be a shoulder to cry on. A hand to hold. It can be so tempting to bottle it all up and avoid ever mentioning your problems. Most of the time though, your friends, your family and your colleagues will want to help. They might not understand, but they will try. So let them.

3. Never apologize for the way you feel.

It’s all too easy to apologize. For anything and everything. A lot of the time, I apologize for my feelings. If I’m tired or depressed or anxious or agitated, I will usually tell somebody I’m sorry. It makes me feel like a burden. But sometimes, I can see I’m not. I can’t help my thoughts and my feelings. No one can. You did not ask for this illness. You did not want it, or choose it. It was not an intentional action. You didn’t wake up this morning and decide you were going to feel so very awful. And so why should you say you’re sorry? You have done nothing wrong. Remember that.

4. You are always enough.

Sometimes, people will not understand your illness, and they will not even try. They will make you feel less of a person, like you’re not worthy of the same amount of love and attention as, say, somebody without depression or anxiety or a personality disorder. Maybe they will even tell you you’re “strange,”you’re “mixed up,” you’re “crazy.” Never believe them. Ever.

You are enough. Always. Exactly as you are. Don’t let the ignorance of others change you. Don’t let it quieten you. Speak up. Shout. Be who you want to be.

5. Never stop fighting.

There will be days, weeks, months, when you feel like it’s all too much. You won’t want to fight anymore. The idea of letting your illness consume you will become so, so strong. But those are the days you have to be stronger than ever before. It will pass. You’re reading this now and you might not believe me. But I’ve been there. I can tell you, in all honesty, those days will pass. The sun will set and you will wake up one morning and feel a little better. So don’t stop. Don’t let it take over. I know it seems impossible sometimes.

But when the world tells you to quit, hope whispers “try one more time.”

And hope will always win. Always.

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Thinkstock photo via ChooStudio.