The Mighty Logo

Why Thinking Positively Isn't Enough When You Have a Mental Illness

The most helpful emails in health
Browse our free newsletters

Trying to manage one mental illness is already difficult, but juggling multiple disorders is very confusing to say the least, because not only will the thoughts that stem from these illnesses contradict each other — I still have a rational side of my brain that knows they are just feeding me lies. But the conviction of those lies is so strong, there is a constant internal war going on in my head about what is true and what is false.

My depression tells me I am worthless and I should end my life, although I know that’s nowhere near the truth. On the other hand, my anxiety worries about what would happen if I did die. My borderline personality disorder (BPD) tells me that everybody hates me and would be better off without me, and my obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) tendencies repeat these intrusive thoughts in case I didn’t receive the message the first time. I constantly have to challenge these thoughts and ask myself what evidence I have to support these false claims.

My BPD also craves close relationships with people and social contact, but my depression tells me it’s better to isolate myself and withdraw. I’ll then feel lonely and wonder why I’m listening to the negative thoughts. Logically, I know that I have a lot of people who love and care about me, but it’s almost like my depression and my BPD are working together, taking turns to hit me on the head with a rolled up magazine while chanting, “You! Are! Wrong!” Or when I’m fully aware that I’m splitting on a loved one or completely overreacting to a situation and I want to flick my emotions off like a switch, but I just can’t seem to control it, like I’m a passenger in my own mind.

Am I suspicious and paranoid because my subconscious is picking up on something wrong, or am I really just manipulative and conniving and I’m projecting my own flaws onto others? Do I truly like someone, or do I just idealize them for giving me attention? Do I feel empty and unfulfilled, or am I feeling so many emotions at once that I’m too overwhelmed and have shut down and dissociated?

It’s a struggle just to get through the day sometimes when you are regularly questioning the validity of your own thoughts. If I’ve had a bad day, it’s easier to listen to the nasty ones. For people with BPD, depression and other mental illnesses, just simply “thinking positive” isn’t nearly enough to fight off our negative internal monologue. So when I’m quiet, it could mean I’m running a metaphorical marathon of conflicting thoughts in my mind. No wonder people who battle mental illness are so exhausted! 

We really are trying the best we can. 

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Thinkstock via agsandrew

Originally published: March 7, 2017
Want more of The Mighty?
You can find even more stories on our Home page. There, you’ll also find thoughts and questions by our community.
Take Me Home