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5 Things I Wish People Told Me Before My Mental Health Recovery Battle

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I’ve been relatively stable for three years now. To me, that consists of working full-time, going to school full-time and having a few side gigs in writing and education. However, it took a lot to get me here and there were a lot of things people didn’t tell me going into this battle to get better that really would’ve helped. Here are a few of them:

1. The process of recovery can take a long time. 

For me, it took four years of intense treatment to even start feeling better and become functional again — and before that, I was symptomatic another six years. With that being said, I still know I’m in the middle of the recovery spectrum. Some people take even longer to get stable after seeking treatment. It’s frustrating to me that I lost so many years of my life to my illness, but it’s also so, so exciting that I now get to live the rest of my life making fond memories and achieving things I never thought I could. That’s pretty special to me.

2. Therapy will most likely do nothing if you don’t have the right therapist.

If you can’t be honest with your therapist, most of the hard work you need to do to get better probably won’t happen. Before stability comes the hard part — the part where you need to be terrifyingly vulnerable. And based on my experience, you’re not going to want to be as open as you need to be if you don’t trust your therapist. I went through roughly six therapists before I found my current one and when I was seeing them, minimal progress was made. Then, as soon as I found my current therapist, I made huge strides in getting better in the span of a few months! Looking back, so much time was wasted trying to force myself to trust my therapist.

3. The most essential part of recovery is probably going to be learning how to do the things that scare you the most.

For me, that was drawing boundaries and being authentic. I wanted everyone to like me, so I never said “no” and I molded myself into whatever person the people around me wanted me to be. It’s unbelievable how detrimental that was to my health. Now, having the power to say, “Sorry, but I don’t feel comfortable with that,” even if it creates inconvenience, might have saved my life. Don’t let where I’m at now fool you: being myself and not letting people steamroll me was super hard! But getting to live the life I have now, where I’m rarely put into uncomfortable situations and respect myself enough to say, “No” is so worth it.

4. If you’re anything like me, unhealthy people will keep you unhealthy, so as hard as it is, create distance.

I know I hated believing that because unfortunately, a lot of my friends were unhealthy, but in my experience, it’s true. It’s hard to keep yourself on track if you’re hanging out with people who don’t care about their health or well-being. To be blunt, it’s almost definite that it will sabotage you. And your health is too important to be sabotaged.

5. Last but not least, taking medication is OK! It might even be the key to your stability.

Having a diagnosis of bipolar disorder and knowing my symptoms get as severe as they do, I’ve accepted I’ll always need to be on medication. That was a reality my doctor told me right when I was diagnosed, but it took a long time to accept due to the stigma attached to psychiatric medication. However, I now know that medications are an essential part of my recovery. I can do all the right things, I can use all the coping skills in the world, but none of them will work if I’m not on the right meds.

Recovery isn’t easy. It’s not something that happens overnight, and it takes a lot of hard self-work (not to mention trial-and-error). Just know that even if recovery is hard or you feel you’re going nowhere, you’re not alone. There’s still hope for you, and there’s still someone out there who believes you can come out on the other side. One of those someones is me.

Photo by Ilona Panych on Unsplash

Originally published: February 5, 2020
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