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What to Know If You Believe You’re ‘Too Sick’ to Recover From Mental Illness

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I want to leave a gift. A tiny gift for the people who don’t think they deserve one. A little light in the darkness.

The one thing I needed most when I lived with depression was a story of victory, a story of survivors. There is information to be found in the media about other people living with depression. However, knowing I was not alone in my struggle was not the point. In fact, learning how widespread this illness is didn’t give me much hope for a cure.

What I missed in the midst of darkness was hope. To many people, this shouldn’t come as a surprise. Hopelessness is one of the main features of depression. All your positive thoughts and expectations are drained away like water in a sink. What’s left is a murky pile of lies that depression tells you: it will never be OK, I will always continue to feel like this, no one cares about me, and on it goes. This is why we see depression as black and not as gray: it is absolute in every sense of the word.

So, what about hope? For me, my despair was characterized by the belief I would never be “alright.” I had this detailed, worst-case scenario completely planned out and I was sure my life was gonna evolve in this way and there was no other way except death. This belief was strengthened by the fact I lacked any role models to compare myself with. I knew people recovered from depression, but to my mind, these people were not like me. I could not be fixed; there had been too much going on for too long. I had never read about people like me getting their life back on track. So, I reasoned, people like me could not be cured.

The first time I saw a therapist, I was 14. I was depressed and anxious and some bad stuff had happened. Over the course of 10 years, I have been through what they call double depression, social anxiety, insomnia, addiction, chronic pain, gender dysphoria and more. I have tried countless medications. I have been in therapy for about eight years. And guess what? I am “fixed.” I have many good days and neutral days, I recovered from addiction, I am way more confident and less anxious than I used to be, my chronic pain has decreased to a level I can live with and I am definitely no longer depressed. I am successful in my academic pursuits and I enjoy what I am doing. Of course, I still have bad mood swings sometimes and I still feel anxious, but the point is: I will be alright. The future will inevitably bring additional hurdles, but I am confident I can deal with those. I am hopeful.

My gift to you is to give you a positive story of a person who overcame not one but a whole pile of disorders over many years. My story may deviate from yours, but people like you and I are out there and they are surviving. You can recover from a lot of bad stuff if you mentally and physically put up a fight. Don’t give up hope; yours too will be a tale of victory.

Photo by Kristopher Roller on Unsplash

Originally published: January 30, 2019
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