Guest Contributor: Grayson Flood
To quite a few people, the road to recovery from a mental illness seems relatively straightforward. Get a therapist, go on some medications, start getting better, go off your medication, and live a happy and fulfilling life.
For some, this may be true. However, for others, the reality is much more complicated.
To start, many times there is no true “recovery” from a mental illness. Many, if not most mental illnesses are chronic and can be lifelong. While one person may have a single depressive episode and go on to never have one again, the next person may have recurrent episodes for the entirety of their life.
And that’s OK.
Rather than a road to recovery, it’s more of a road to being able to manage your illness and still live a fulfilling life. But that’s a bit of a mouthful, so I’ll just say recovery.
The road to recovery is a complicated one, but it’s not a hopeless one.
I like to think of it differently. Rather than a long straight road, it’s a bunch of short segments of road, winding back and forth and in every direction. Each segment leads to something small. For example, maybe the first stretch forward is learning therapy skills to recognize depressive episodes before they’re full blown and take steps to reduce the severity of the episode. Another may be landing a job, or getting an A on a project, or maybe even just getting out of bed and showering. Little things, but ones you were unable to do before. Each little thing is a step forward.
The road doesn’t always go forward, though, I won’t lie. Sometimes you’ll think you’re making progress, only to be thrown back into a loop for whatever reason. I’m personally dealing with that right now.
I was diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder and Generalized Anxiety Disorder about a month ago, along with a non-specified impulse control disorder. I knew I had a history of up and down moods, but I didn’t think it was any sort of mood disorder, and we figured the impulse control disorder was just undiagnosed ADHD.
Recently however, a psychiatrist substituting for my usual one at the partial hospital program I attend suggested mood stabilizers for a possibly unidentified mood disorder. Then a few days later my actual psychiatrist said that I likely don’t have any sort of mood disorder, and that it was instead anxiety causing my mood swings. While I’ve tried to emphasize that my anxiety isn’t as big of a problem as it seems to be, and that all my fidgeting isn’t anxiety, but instead is a lack of impulse control and general restlessness, it seems as though no one is listening. I have different messages from different doctors, and it seems I’ll never get any sort of clear answers.
However, I have to remind myself something. The road to recovery isn’t straight, and it doesn’t always go forward. That’s simply how it is, and nothing will change that. I have made progress, everything I’ve learned in therapy still does apply. While my medication and my diagnosis could be wrong, in due time it will all be figured out.
What I can say is be patient. Take each day one at a time. A month ago I would’ve ignored you if you told me things would get better, but they truly do. I can’t promise your life will ever be mental illness free, but with the help you need, each day will get just that little bit more manageable. I’m not going to sit here and lie and tell you that you can do anything you set your mind to, but you will learn your limits, and with the right help, you will be able to push yourself and do more than you ever expected you could.”
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