For a long time I grappled with my mental health issues. Some were easier to deal with than others, but I still couldn’t stomach it all. I truly believed that somehow, somewhere I had just screwed up or thought too much about different things and that one day, it would be gone. I was embarrassed that I needed to see a therapist, start medication, and later enter into treatment. I’ve felt so many things regarding my diagnoses and tendencies: disgust, shame, disbelief. I’ve wanted them all to go away. In the past month or two that’s all changed.
I no longer wake up and hope or wish to be “normal.” My mental illnesses will always play a part in my life, whether that be big or small. They have shaped my past and will affect my future. I see them as a part of who I am. I can genuinely say that I am okay with all of this.
Now that I have come to full acceptance, I want to be clear on what this doesn’t mean:
- I am giving up hope of a better future. I know my mental health will always be clouded with irrational thoughts and behaviors. This does not make me hopeless, but realistic. I do have hope that things will get easier with time and hard work. I so desire that for myself and will do everything I can to get there.
- I define myself by my mental health. I am not the anorexic, depressed girl, anxious freak, compulsive exerciser, perfectionist, or self-harmer. I struggle with all of these with varying degrees of severity. They shape my actions and thoughts each day, but I will not be victim bound by labels. I am so much more than my diagnoses. I am Emily the college student, photography lover, girl in recovery, future nurse, etc.
- I am helplessly controlled by my disorders. Acknowledging the impact these have on me and that they won’t go away in no way leads to this belief. I have the power to recover and work towards quieting the bad thoughts. At times this may seem grueling and near-impossible, but I am never powerless.
- This is all the only/most important part of my story. Of course everything related to my mental health have significantly impacted my life. How could it not when I’ve spent the majority of my days battling irrational thoughts? Significance, however, does not mean governance. Playing soccer, attending the school system I went to, early college, and my faith are just a few influences unrelated to any of my MH struggles. They are important too.
- I will let any of this hold me back from my dreams. I will become a mother. I will work as a nurse. I will help support others who have the same struggles I do. I will move away from my family and other physical support one day. I will travel the world. I will create and keep meaningful relationships. I will have a better relationship with food and exercise. I will own prairie dogs, a papillon, an emotional support animal, and whatever other pets to make my heart content (not all at the same time aha). I will grow my faith. I will write a book or two or three. I will earn at least my master’s degree. I will love life. No mental illness, negative thinking patterns, or self-doubt is going to stop me.
Acceptance feels good. Its a starting point of understanding how I can manage all of this for the rest of my life. I feel so much better now. The weight of denial, uncertainty, despair, and shame have lifted. Yes, I struggle with mental health issues. Yes, I am going need constant self-monitoring and then working through each dark time I experience. Yes, I accept myself and how my mental health struggles have shaped me. I am okay with it all.