When you’re in a mental health crisis, many people are quick to jump in and say, “You’ll get through this. It’ll be over soon.” But what they don’t tell you is that if you live with lifelong mental health issues, it becomes a chronic condition that ebbs and flows over hills and valleys, for the rest of your life. Like most chronic illnesses, you have good days and bad days. You have days where you feel that you have it all under control, that you’re going to beat the demons, and you can live a “normal” life – just like your friends and family. Then, something triggers you and it can change the trajectory of the whole day, week, month. The ripple effect reverberates down every muscle and hair of your body and you feel it so intensely – you were doing so well, and now you’re not. There are never days where you feel that you have beat your mental illness. There are merely days of coping. It’s never healed, it’s always something that you will drag around with you, that will shadow you, that will affect your ability to interact with the world. Some days you can cope. Some days, you’re back in the dark place you vowed you’d never go to again. Sure, there are ways to dull the pain of mental illness, like medication, therapy, self-care. But they don’t heal it. They simply make it manageable, but not forever. Because eventually the therapist won’t “get you” anymore; the medications lose their effectiveness; the self-care just isn’t cutting it anymore. Doctors scramble, trying to figure out the best way to treat you and your unique set of circumstances. It can take years to find a doctor who finds the magical cocktail of remedies to get you in a good place. Worse, some are apathetic to your struggles. They’re numb to it, because they’ve seen it all. And yet, life goes on. While you’re trying to figure out a way to handle the day to day life, you’re in unimaginable mental pain, sheer exhaustion, and many times, physical ailments rock your body as well. Sleep disorders, fatigue, headaches, stomachaches, clenched jaws – things that would make even average people struggle to work or engage in relationships. What they don’t often tell you is: it gets worse before it gets better. By the time you’ve asked for help, acknowledged that you are in crisis, it’s almost too late. You beg for a reprieve. But no one knows how to help. You get worse, your days blend together, you don’t take care of yourself. Showering and washing your hair are chores that you don’t have energy for anymore. Mental illness is a condition that you will spend the rest of your life dealing with. Whether you manage it well or not depends on a variety of circumstances. There will be years where you feel that you have hit rock bottom. There will be days of sunshine and grace and smiles and laughs. Hold on to those sunshiney days, because some day you will need to dig deep to remember what it felt like to have the sun on your face and the wind in your hair. A day when there was no darkness, only happiness and love. Mental illness is chronic. But you can survive it, and you WILL survive it. You just have to push yourself, reach out for help, promise yourself that you won’t give up, no matter how tough it gets. Promise me that.
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