Mental illness is a hard battle to fight for many reasons.
It is unseen.
Unlike many physical illness where there is an outward sign of poor health, mental health is a an unseen illness. This makes it hard in two ways. It is harder for other people to notice which can often mean you aren’t treated in the best manner. And it is harder for us to recognise so we can often find things deteriorate before we even notice.
We resist our own recovery.
Another challenge with mental health is that often the illness itself can mean we are resistant to recovery.
For anxiety the idea of change can itself trigger the illness. I am reminded of that line at the end of Twilight movies. ‘Only the known is safe.’ Our bodies do a great job of trying to protect us from the unfamiliar or unknown. So once we have lived with anxiety for a while we quickly become acclimatised to the lack of sleep, panic attacks, lack of social interaction. The idea of things being different can make the anxiety itself even worse.
And with depression based illness we physically and mentally struggle to be motivated to make a change. Imagine an illness that took away your ability to naturally heal. We find ourselves question are we worth the effort, is “it” worth the effort. We struggle with basic daily tasks let alone the discipline, education and effort to improve things.
We have very long memories.
It has been years since my diagnosis of PTSD following the burns. And even now there are certain things that I can tell put me on the verge of descending into a dangerous place. Some of them are obvious like when people are playing around in the kitchen and I am cooking. Some of them less obvious, like when I see a friend who was with me for the two worst anxiety attacks I had. She did not cause the attacks but for some reason my brain have kindly associated seeing her with feeling anxious.
Our memories are programmed to store and recall potential dangers. A trait helpful for survival not so helpful in modern lives.
And that is why you should be patient, persistent and proud.
To overcome mental health challenges or support someone else you should always be
- Patient – it can take time and lots of it to overcome or learn to live well with a mental illness. Remember you are working to improve something that at times is actively working against you.
- Persistent – you will need to persevere, you may feel like you are just about to win the battle and something knocks your legs out from under you. Just trust as long as you keep trying you are at worst learning what does not work.
- Proud – some illness we tackle in life can be fixed relatively easy. Mental health illnesses do not always fall in that category. What ever you have done to continue living with or indeed overcome a mental illness you should be proud of yourself.