There much confusion and misunderstanding of mental illness. Some think sadness following a dramatic or traumatic event is mental illness. When things get better, they think their illness is cured. All people face hard times that put them into periods of depression, but that doesn’t make them mentally ill. Mental illness is something you can’t get past without medication and therapy. It’s a sickness that can not be cured. There is no magic potion or wand to make it go away. It’s not temporary. It is a lifetime battle.
It’s confusing to think of this illness as not temporary when there are people living successful lives and working at successful careers after struggling. How can a man with schizophrenia be the CEO of a company? How can a person with major depression go from being non-functioning to working a job and going to college? Some come up with the automatic assumption that the illness must be temporary. If it’s temporary, many assume you can just watch funny movies, think happy thoughts, and tada! your illness is gone. The moment of insanity will suddenly disappear. Then the old happy person with no problems will return.
Sorry to disappoint you, but mental illness doesn’t magically go away. If it did, I wouldn’t have gone through years of suffering and therapy. It is easy to mistake recovery for a cure, but unfortunately it is not. Those people who are doing so well after struggling are managing their illness with coping techniques, medication, and therapy. Their illness is being treated and they must work each day to keep it under control. It’s like any illness. When you have high blood pressure, you have to cut down on salt, eat healthier, and take medication to keep it down. It’s the same with mental illness.
I’m in recovery, but I work each day to keep my mental illness under control. I take antidepressants, anti- anxiety medication, and medication to help me sleep. I go to my psychiatrist every two months to let him know how I am doing. I no longer go to therapy, but I have a big support system to lean on during bad days. My husband reminds me to stay positive, lets me vent on bad days, and talks me through anxiety attacks. I journal out my feelings instead of keeping them inside. Like high blood pressure, I manage my illness to stay well.
Recovery is in a way like going through remission from cancer. Remission doesn’t mean the person suffering with it is cured and the disease will never rear its head again. It’s only temporary. Recovery from mental illness doesn’t mean you’ll never struggle with the illness again or that you’ll never fall down that dark hole again. It means your illness is being controlled. It’s not a forever fix. Even in recovery you can still tumble down into darkness again. You’ll just know how to handle it better.
I struggled with my mental illness through-out school and college. After taking a year off from college, I found recovery. I made friends, I had a social life, I started dating, and I was enjoying the life I never got to have as a teen. My life seemed great. I went back to college and graduated. I moved in with a friend. I sometimes went with a friend and her husband to their cabin to spend a few days. I went bowling late at night to early in the morning with a group of people from work. Life was going wonderfully and yet I tumbled down into that hole again. I went back to therapy and an abusive relationship made the illness worse. I was hospitalized.
I found my husband and I found recovery again. We married, bought a house, and were incredibly happy. My therapist told me I no longer needed therapy. Then a few years later, I started obsessively worrying about paying the bills and my husband was working days and I was working nights. I couldn’t handle being alone while he was at work and once again, I fell. I went back to therapy.
Recovery doesn’t mean you will never struggle with your illness again. Recovery doesn’t mean mental illness was only temporary and you’re cured. It means your sickness is being controlled and you have the proper techniques to cope with it. It’s the same with any illness that is incurable. You treat the illness and its symptoms to maintain it.
That person who struggled with panic attacks who is now a lawyer is maintaining his or her illness. That woman who once was too depressed to get out of bed and is now enjoying time with friends is not cured. She is taking care of her sickness so she can live a happy life. Mental illness is not temporary. It is a lifelong battle. That CEO who once heard voices in his or her head is controlling his or her illness with medication, coping techniques, and maybe therapy.
I had a manager tell me she got depressed when her husband found out she was seeing another guy. She told me how she wanted to end her life. Then she and her husband discussed the situation and he forgave her. She was happy again. She claimed to have had mental illness, but she didn’t. She had depression brought on by an event. Mental illness is a chemical imbalance in the brain. A person may have a happy, wonderful life and still be sick. Life situations can increase the severity of the illness and can bring the illness to the surface. It’s the unbalance of chemicals in the brain that causes it.
I have been in recovery from mental illness for several years. I no longer go to therapy. I work hard each day to maintain my illness and this keeps me in dancing in the light.