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What I Remind Myself When I Feel Unlovable With a Mental Illness

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I recently finished an intensive outpatient therapy program and became close to many of the other members of the group. When it was my last day, everyone expressed how much I had helped them and many exchanged numbers with me, wanting to hang out outside of the group. 

I felt such overwhelming love and compassion, but I couldn’t accept it. It felt like balls being thrown at a glass wall — it looks like they could go through, but they bounce right back. I just couldn’t accept any part of me was worth loving.

I went on a trip back to my old college town and met with friends who knew me from before my mental illness. The same thing happened: They expressed love and compassion — I just couldn’t receive it. How could people love me? They don’t really know me. They are just being nice. If they knew the real love me they wouldn’t love me.

Then I realized, they’ve known me for a long time and seen me through my darkest times. They know me minus the mental illness; these people do really know me. They know the parts of me that aren’t my mental illness. The real me shining like the sun through the dark clouds.

It was difficult, but I finally started to accept there are some parts of me are worth loving. This is not easy to do — I still felt unworthy of love — but I’ve learned to accept there are qualities of myself and my personality that are worth loving. A big part of mental illness is that it lies to you and takes over, claiming to be all that you are. You begin to be unable to separate the illness from yourself.

But that’s where it is: I believe you have to recognize your illness isn’t all of you. There are parts of you that are uniquely you. You might not feel like the person you were outside of your illness, but you still are. That is the real you and it is worth loving.

It’s still hard for me to accept love; when someone says a compliment or something nice about me I still want to say, “That’s not true” or “You’re just being nice.” But then I reach down and look deep inside myself, past the lies of the disease, and realize there are parts of me that are worth loving.

Originally published: March 15, 2016
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