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Attitude Is Not Everything When Your Brain Is Sick

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Navigating through life with a mental illness is like riding a roller coaster. From the realization that something is wrong to actually being given a diagnosis is the first part of the journey. I have learned many things along the way and it has changed how I view myself and this horrible illness. For most of my life I’ve struggled with anxiety. Many people think being anxious is the same as being nervous, but that’s far from the truth. With anxiety, a panic attack could come out of nowhere. I’ve come to terms with the fact I will have generalized anxiety disorder for the rest of my life.

Taking medication to some is weakness, but to me it takes strength and courage to seek help. What works for some may not work for others. There have been many times that I have been told by one person or another I should stop taking my medication. Just go outside and get some Vitamin D. Would you tell someone with another illness not to take their medication? I don’t believe anyone chooses to have a sick brain.

After becoming disabled and having many spine surgeries, I developed major depression. Dealing with chronic pain and everything else life was throwing at me was the trigger. I have always been a happy social person. I love to laugh and and make others laugh. When I was clinically depressed, I was unable to laugh, or smile for that matter. I wasn’t hungry and found no joy in anything. This lasted eight months for me. I almost didn’t make it. My daughter almost lost her mom. There is no meme that would fit this illness. Attitude is not everything when your brain is sick. I’ve had people ask me if I am off of my meds yet, or they say maybe I will be back to “normal” someday.

Why am I not “normal” because I have a mental illness? I take care of myself. I am a mother, daughter, aunt, sister and friend. I am educated and had a career before all of this happened to my body. I smile a lot even when I am in pain. I help others whenever I can. I am a good person. My illness does not define me, but I do have to deal with it. I thought my toughest time with depression is over, but I’ve learned there are still peaks and valleys. Days when I’m down, and it’s not easy to get out of bed. Days when I can’t concentrate and my mind is full of sadness remembering the life I used to have. Days when I just want the physical and mental pain to go away.

I don’t believe all of this happened to me because of the energy I put out in the world. It just happened. My husband left me when I needed him the most. I used to beat myself up about that too, but the reality is I know many people who have supportive spouses who stay by their side.

I’m writing this to raise awareness and to share my story. The stigma of mental illness needs to change. To anyone who looks down upon those who are taking medication, please know we are fighting a battle we can’t control. I will continue taking my medication and being kind to myself. I know where I once was, and it was the scariest eight months of my entire life. I am still me. I still have the same personality and heart.

I have hope for the future. I’m scared, but I still have hope. To all of you reading this, stay strong and know you are not alone.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741.

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Image via Thinkstock
Originally published: January 1, 2017
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