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Here's to the Mental Health Recovery Warriors

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Here’s to the recovery warriors — the ones whose scars are more than skin deep, or maybe not visible at all. The ones who fight like hell against a seemingly invisible illness. The ones whose family and friends may not believe anything is even wrong. Sometimes they don’t get it. They might say you’re being “too emotional” or “too dramatic,” and then you might feel completely invalidated and fall deeper into the hole. To the ones who don’t feel like warriors at all (I think that’s nearly all of us nearly all of the time): you are. You’re stronger than your illness. You’re more than your thoughts and fears and compulsions, more than a diagnosis, more than your darkest moment or hardest day.

Because you continue to fight. You continue every day, even when it seems pointless. Even when that voice in your head is screaming at you to just give in, to quit, that you’re not good enough, not strong enough to fight. You continue to fight even on the days when you can barely see a future past the next unbearably painful 60 seconds. There are days when nobody is there to help you up when you’ve fallen down, so you stay there on the floor until you’ve found the strength to call out for help or stand up yourself. There are days when you don’t recognize yourself because who the hell is this shell of a person who is numb and empty of everything except your demons? There are days where it feels impossible, where your mere existence is excruciating and every cell in your body screams for some sort of relief. There are days when you can’t get out of bed. People may call you lazy or overdramatic or ridiculous but you know getting out of bed for you would be impossible. And on all of these days and every day in between, your struggle is completely valid and your fight is just as courageous.

Here’s to the ones who live with a stigma, who get treated like they’re “crazy” for taking medications — as if my Zoloft isn’t every bit as life-saving. The ones who hide their illnesses and their symptoms behind a smile, who have gotten so convincing at saying “I’m fine,” and “Oh, I’m just tired,” and “let’s talk about you, what have you been up to?”

Here’s to the ones who make excuses for why they can’t attend social events because being swamped with work or having a family emergency is more accepted than being mentally ill. Here’s to the ones who put on an act in public and then go home and have a panic attack — shaking and clutching your bedframe while you gasp for air, alone in the dark. The ones who build others up and shine their light to make sure nobody feels as scared and unworthy and beaten down as they do.

You all are fighters. You may deny it; you may think you’re losing the battle or simply wallowing in self-pity, but you are a warrior. Every morning you wake up and step onto the battlefield, not knowing what adversary you will face today, not knowing how difficult they will be to defeat. And you do this all while being sick. Probably on insufficient sleep, likely plagued with doubts and voices around you calling you pathetic and weak. Hell, that is anything but weak.

Nobody can promise you tomorrow will be easier, but you will be stronger and better equipped to meet it. And you can be sure this war is not going to last forever. You may not see it while you’re crouched in the trenches, trying to see through the dark. You may not believe it when you’re trudging through the muddy turf, beaten down by rain. But one day you are going to wake up and your burden will be just a little bit lighter. One day a tiny bit more sunshine will peek through and illuminate your soul. One day you’ll see exactly why all your fighting was so worth it and you’ll see the beauty recovery brings.

It’s one of those things you have to do blindly. It requires so much trust in yourself, your treatment team, your support system and even the world around you. Some days the only thing moving you forward will be telling yourself to put one foot in front of the other and bravely meet each moment and all it brings.

You can do it, warrior. Fight on.

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Unsplash photo via Sebastian Unrau

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