My Complicated Relationship With Mental Illness Recovery


Recovery really isn’t as simple as it may seem from first glance. Having a mental illness is like being in an abusive relationship, but it is a relationship that you both equally loathe and love. You can become addicted to the distress it causes you, but without it you believe you would feel isolated and lost. You fear change and you fear the unknown and you can’t ever remember being deemed as “normal.” You don’t even known what “normal” is anymore, as you’re too consumed by the torturous comfort that being in the relationship gives you. In many ways, the more you walk away from the relationship, the more you want to stay, but deep down you know it’s causing you more harm than good. You never decided to begin the relationship in the first instance, you may have no idea how it came about, but at the very least you can be the one who decides to end it.

However, breaking up the relationship means you have to leave your “safe place” for a long time until you eventually find another one. But what if? This is the question that has a million answers… But what if you still don’t feel safe and you still miss being in the relationship because what feels “normal” for many other people, does not feel “normal” for you? But what if it all goes wrong and you never end up being free from the relationship? But what if you can honestly never see this all ending? Unlike some conditions, there is no magical tablet that can fix all the issues. It has taken you this long to become this unwell, and it is most likely going to take you even longer to recover. Recovery is different for every mental illness and is unique to every individual. However, the question is, what does recovery look like? What do you want from recovery? Why do you want to recover? Trying to explain to a family member, a friend or even a complete stranger how both mentally and physically hard recovery can be is virtually next to impossible. Imagine trying to throw yourself full force into the exact opposite direction, mindset and lifestyle you are used to, and the most difficult thing within all of this is the challenge of trying to want to stay there and not relapse.

Denial… “I’m fine” is the statement of the century. You feel as if you are in full control and can stop whenever you please, but this isn’t the truth. You are not in control, instead you are being controlled. You believe all in all being in the relationship is helping you, not hurting you. You finally have control over things in your life and you are convinced that things are fine. Although inside you feel utterly terrified by the thought of letting your mental illness go, without it, who are you? When you try to pull away, it tries to grip you even harder, when you consider recovery, it gives you a list of reason of why you can’t ever recover. You need it in your life, after all, it is your life.

You didn’t always have an eating disorder, you didn’t always have anxiety, depression or body dysmorphic disorder. You didn’t always have borderline personality disorder. Your life didn’t always used to be like this! You can recover and you will. Things can change and eventually you will grow stronger than the demons in your head, your voice will be even louder and you will scream right back at it. You are not your illness, you have a name, a history and you were given this life for a reason.

Recovery… It will be challenging, it will also be worth it. You will relapse and that is OK. You may feel alone in your struggles, but you will be able to help others who are struggling. Your loved one may not always understand, but you can try you best to explain. You will have good days and bad days, but in time the bad days will get fewer. Your problems won’t magically disappear, but they will become more manageable. You might not feel different at first, but when you have finally won the battle that is going on inside your head you will be happier, healthier, stronger and recovered. This is why you need to keep on fighting.

Many say you will never be truly recovered from any mental illness. This is a fair statement, you can be in recovery for the rest of your life. There will be many triggers, slips and setbacks and times when you want to sprint right back to where you started, back to the welcoming arms of your illness. Yet you need to remember the pain it causes you and you need to remember that it takes your whole life away from you. It is nothing but a nasty monster that wants to drag you down and make your life a living hell. You do not need it anymore, you have yourself, your amazing, brilliant, fantastic self, and that is more than enough.

If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, you can call the National Eating Disorders Association Helpline at 1-800-931-2237.

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Thinkstock photo via Veleri


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