Monday, July 21, 2014

Living with a mental illness

Every day is a struggle. Some days it takes every ounce of energy I have just to get out of bed. Some days my anxiety is so bad that I can't bring myself to leave the house. You see, mental illnesses don't just go away because you have a child. My life is full of every day stressors just like everyone else, but for the most part I am living the live I've always wished for. I have a beautiful daughter who is growing rapidly before my eyes and constantly makes me smile, a caring, patient husband who is my number one fan and the love of my life, a very supportive treatment team that does whatever they can to listen and help me, family and friends that love my unconditionally, a house to live in, food to eat and two crazy yet wonderful cats. I am blessed beyond measure and am grateful for these things every single day.

Yet, life is still hard for me. The battle that I am fighting isn't always visible to others. It's a battle with myself. Although I don't partake in the behaviors as often as I used to, the eating disorder thoughts run through my head 24-7. I never feel good enough and always feel like I should be doing more. I am ashamed that I am not fully recovered by now, especially after being in treatment, therapy etc for the last 3 years. I hate that I struggle with crippling anxiety and depression. While I recognize that there is only so much I can do about my physiology and brain chemistry, I wish I could find a solution. I want to feel better long term. I want things to get easier. Deep down inside I know that I am doing the best that I can.

I love being a mother and a wife. Having my own littler family is truly wonderful. Even at 3 months old my daughter teaches me something new every day. She has forced me to grow and branch out of my comfort zone. She brings out the best in me and has brought so much joy to my life. She looks past all of my perceived imperfections and sees the real me. She is one of the big reasons why I continue to fight.

I naively believed that when I had the things that I have longer for, for years, that I would instantly be better. That I would finally be free from the eating disorder that has stolen the last 12 years of my life, the self doubt and self hatred, the anxiety and depression. Now don't get me wrong, I am happy. depression doesn't mean you are unhappy all of the time. When I look at my daughter or spend time with my husband, I do a lot of laughing and smiling. I love my life and the blessings that I have been given. All of this has nothing to do with those things. This is what it's likes living with mental illnesses. At least my experience with them. It's not easy. Although I have moments of reprieve, these things have never completely gone away.

If you know someone who struggles, be kind and patient. They are probably doing the best that I can. Even if they aren't, cut them some slack. Don't judge.Ending the shame and stigma around mental illness is why I speak so openly about my struggles.

If you struggle, please remember that even when you feel trapped and stuck, you are loved by many and you matter. The world is a beautiful place because you are a part of it. And of course, don't give up, there is always hope. Help and support is out there.     

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