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When Mental Illness Makes You Feel Inferior

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In the depths of your illness, whatever it may be, there seems to be an endless trail that you must travel alone, blind to the rest of the world around you. Whether it be the unlit pit of depression, anxiety’s grasp on your shoulders that pins you down and holds you hostage in your bedroom, or you’re everyday living is fundamentally affected by your current mental health condition.

I can personally relate this to my exhausting battle with anorexia, where my body rapidly deteriorated along with my mental state, consequently causing me to metaphorically “lose touch with reality.” It has become apparent to me that anorexia will gladly bring along a couple of uninvited friends that cause every day to become undoubtedly more exhausting.

When your illness latches onto you, you can become consumed. At times, it may be difficult to differentiate yourself from your illness when you have a morphed perception of yourself and the world around you. You know yourself — whether you thrive off social interaction, working hard or whatever it may be. But did you really just dismiss all social occasions to lay in bed all day staring blankly at all wall? The whole world passes by right outside your own front door, yet you lock the door, block the letter box and shut all of the blinds. You don’t choose to, you just do. That’s what can happen when you’re consumed — you can get tunnel vision.

You didn’t choose to be sick, you just are.

Sometimes your illness will make you choose to believe you are inferior, but you are not.

Of course, I believe that whatever state you’re in is not perpetual. You can take that first step in unlocking your door — to be struck simultaneously by a sense of motivation and a shock of the reality of the world around you, outside of your own head. As days go by, it might become increasingly evident that as time stood still for you, it didn’t for everybody else.

I remember being a clever child when I was younger — innocent and unaware of what the future held for me. I got good grades, I had hobbies, I had friends. I was like any other stereotypical child. Unfortunately, this was not everlasting. I left primary school as an intelligent student grasping a bright future, but I entered college a year late, lagging behind, merely reaching any grades at all due to an extensive mental and physical battle (including 11 months inside a mental health unit hours away from home). You may be able to relate to this sense of isolation in some way.

Your previous detachment from the world around you may have had adverse consequences and everyone else may have superficially detached themselves from you. It can take a prolonged period of time to bring yourself back into a “normal” life and reconstruct the relationships you once had, or even rebuild new ones. When you feel lonely, as though nobody wants to know you, you are not alone. I urge you not to let your illness make you feel inferior. Those relationships can rekindle over time and replace your emptiness with warmth and belonging.

When you’re not as well as you may have aspired to be within your education or work, when it seems like everybody understands except you, remember the painful uphill battle it has taken to reach this point (which you may still be in the process of pursuing). You should take pride in that. Please don’t compare yourself or your performance with other people. There is no measurement that can measure your immense amount of strength, bravery and courage. That is incomparable in comparison to any grade on a test, especially the grade of another person. Focus on yourself, for yourself. Do not let this make you feel inferior.

When it appears that every single person in this world is holding themselves together immaculately, as if they are made of stone, I hope you remember that they may be struggling too. Everybody stumbles over hurdles. Just because your hurdle happens to be invisible to everybody else, it is still valid. Just because you vigorously try to reach the other side while some take a simpler route doesn’t mean that you are weak. Don’t let that make you feel inferior. Your hurdles will only construct you into a stronger individual. Or perhaps the strength is already inside you, although you’re yet to believe it. It’s OK to have confidence in yourself.

It is crucial to remember that recovery is not always linear, so you shouldn’t expect yourself to be on steady road that constantly goes up until you reach the “point of freedom.” Of course there will be good days, but inevitably, there will be down days where all hope appears to have vanished. You know yourself and what you need to do. These days are crucial for taking care of yourself. You shouldn’t let others who don’t recognize your bad days make you feel inferior. You are the most important person in your recovery, and as long as you continue to focus on your own recovery, I believe you will get there. Embrace the journey and let it create you. Find yourself along the way.

Please remember mental illness does not make you inferior. You are unique. How amazing is it that you fight your own mind day in and day out, yet here you are, standing strong. Your journey is beautiful and you are not inferior.

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Thinkstock image via bruniewska

Originally published: September 29, 2017
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