When Mental Illness Convinces You That You Don't Want to Get Better
“I don’t want to feel this way for the rest of my life.”
“I hope things get better soon.”
“I hope there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.”
“I just want to be happy.”
“I just want to be OK.”
“I just want my life back.”
“I want to heal.”
“I want to find a way out of the darkness.”
“I don’t want to hurt anymore.”
“I don’t want to be sad/lonely/scared/stuck forever.”
These and other similar phrases are things we hear over and over from the millions of people around the world who struggle with mental illness. Understandably so, because they are suffering, and they want to find a way out. Mental illness can put people’s lives completely on hold. It can affect their jobs, relationships, energy, hobbies, diet, motivation, safety, and every other aspect of their lives. It can cause debilitating symptoms such as panic attacks, hopelessness, flashbacks, agoraphobia, insomnia, isolation, dissociation, intrusive thoughts, paranoia, substance abuse, suicidal ideation, and more. It’s no wonder people don’t want to feel that way, even if they’re not sure how to change it.
But what if I don’t want to get better? What if I want to suffer for the rest of my life?
For me, the worst part of my mental illnesses is that they make me want to keep them.
Take my depression, for example. It has led me to believe that deep down inside, I am inherently a bad person. It tells me I make people’s lives worse by being in them and that I make the world worse by existing. It tells me all I do is mess everything up, and everyone would be better off without me. Why, then, should someone as terrible as me feel happy? I don’t deserve happiness. I don’t deserve to feel better. I don’t deserve to like myself because there’s nothing about me worth liking. I don’t deserve to feel good about myself because I am not a good person. I don’t deserve to take care of myself or be kind to myself. I deserve to suffer. I deserve to punish myself simply for existing. I deserve to hate myself. I deserve to hurt myself. I deserve to deprive myself of food and sleep. I deserve to isolate myself. And I don’t deserve to change any of these things.
“So you just want to keep suffering until you die?” my mom asked. We were sitting in the car together, stuck in traffic. The stillness hung over us like a fog.
“Yes,” I answered matter-of-factly.
My anxiety also makes me want to cling on to it but for a different reason. It has convinced me it is there to protect me. Without my anxiety, I might try something new and hate it and be miserable. Without my social anxiety, I might talk to people and say something wrong and make them hate me. Without my fear of failure, I might – god forbid – do something I’m not good at. Without my panic disorder, I might not accurately sense danger. Without my OCD, my life would have no order or rules, and everything would be out of my control. Without my perfectionism, I might produce mediocre or downright terrible content – and not even care. I would rather live a life of fear than a life of chaos. At least, that’s what my anxiety tells me.
I almost didn’t publish this because it doesn’t have an antithesis. My story doesn’t have a happy ending because I don’t want one. This is a side of mental illness that doesn’t get talked about. People don’t understand why I wouldn’t want to feel better, why I would want to stay trapped in the grasps of my depression and anxiety. I am hoping to shed more light on these “taboo” emotions, as dark as they are.
These are just my personal feelings. I fully believe everyone else who struggles with mental illness deserves healing and recovery. I believe everyone else deserves to find a way out of the darkness, that no one deserves to suffer. But not me. For years, I have chosen to sit motionless on the floor of the tunnel, while encouraging everyone else around me to keep walking towards the light at the end.
Getty image by sSplajn