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I Am More Than My Mental Illness

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The world can often be a cruel and judgmental place. We often allow misconceptions and strong, inaccurate opinions to pass as factual information. We constantly question the actions and motives of others, passing our own evaluations of each other based on a simple glance or the mere label of a medical condition. We are all beautiful, unique individual humans, though; every person on this planet has a purpose and reason for existence…even me.

I may have a lengthy list of mental illnesses that follow me around in my medical charts and documented history, but I’m finally starting to learn that I’m so much more than these labels.

The truth is, I’m more than my mental illness.

My mental illness tells me that I’m incapable. I constantly worry that my efforts are not enough and that I’m inadequate in every aspect of my life. I tremble as a I worry if my boss is satisfied with my work; I cry myself to sleep at night, wondering if I showered my sweet daughters with enough attention and love. I apologize for my perceived shortcomings to my family and my friends; I admit to my therapist and psychiatrist that I’m falling short on my recovery goals and treatment expectations.

Is that all I am, though?

The truth is, I’m more than my anxious, troubled mind.

I am hardworking and determined, always seeking new knowledge and opportunities to improve the person I currently am. I push myself to do more, try harder, be better with each and every breath I take. Although I may fall short on occasion, I’m also doing the best I can and it shows.

Some people believe that my mental illness means that I’m manipulative and self-centered, and at times, maybe I am. I demand time and attention, sometimes asking for advice or answers at the least ideal times. I need constant reassurance and validation from those who mean the most and whose opinions I truly cherish. I don’t mean to bother people or collect pity; I just haven’t learned to love myself just yet.

But does this make me a monster who is unworthy of friendship and love?

The truth is, I’m more than my instability and fear of abandonment.

I’m constantly committed to those I care for; I am fiercely loyal and love unconditionally without end. I pour my soul into everything I do and everyone in my life. My faith in humanity is unwavering, and I constantly encourage the people I hold in my heart to pursue their passions and reach their full potential. I see the validity in the feelings of others and empathize with their struggles because I care about others just as much (if not more) than I care about myself.

My mental illness often convinces me that my life is hopeless and dark. My mind whispers that I’m a burden and that I constantly let people down. I easily become lost in the storm on my bad days and resolve that drowning is far easier than swimming to higher ground. I fear that I’ll never fully recover, that I’m beyond help, and that everyone will leave me in the end.

Isn’t there supposed to be sunshine after the rain, though?

The truth is, I’m more than my dark and dreary days.

I am full of smiles and laughter, random dancing and silly songs. I provide endless hugs and hopeful messages to others when depression tries to possess their hearts and minds. I know that even in those moments that seem so unbearably breaking there will be a breakthrough. At the end of the day, I am aware that every step I take is toward a life worth living — one filled with hope and love.

Many of us live with mental illness, and although it’s an aspect of our existence, our conditions don’t define us. Remember that you are more than your anxious tics or dark thoughts. Past traumas and current struggles don’t make you any less of a beautiful and amazing person. I’m finally finding the reality that I’m more than my mental illness, so believe me when I say that you are more than those disorders and labels, too.

A version of this story originally appeared projectwednesday.

Photo credit: kieferpix/Getty Images

Originally published: April 25, 2019
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