Today is a sad day for me. I’m not depressed or anxious because of my mental illness which is usually why I experience sad days. Instead it’s because I was let down AGAIN by people I love. Not only people I love, but by people for whom I would do anything for – and have shown that to them over and over. I guess I was wrong for wanting, and even expecting that they would naturally want to reciprocate. After a night and morning of soul searching and reflection, I’ve come to the conclusion that they just aren’t wired to do things the way I do. Does that make it acceptable? No. But it does make it somewhat easier to understand.
However, having the ability to understand doesn’t take away the hurt. For most of my life, I have strived to gain the love, acceptance, and approval of those I love. I needed it to validate my existence in this world – a world I often feel distant and excluded from. Why am I here? Is it my destiny to go through life feeling lost and empty?
These feelings stretch long back into my childhood. I always thought there was something wrong with ME, wanting this validation and love. But as I get older, and somewhat wiser, I am realizing that it’s not that I expect to be loved, it’s that I DESERVE to be loved. Unconditionally. I am a kind and generous person who loves fiercely with those closest to me. And it’s not too much to ask to have the same love bestowed upon me in appreciation of all that I do for them.
Underneath the sadness is a great deal of pent up anger and frustration. I have never handled the emotions of anger easily as it makes me uncomfortable and afraid. Anger was never an emotion that I was permitted to feel – in doing so I often suffered great consequences. From an early age, I learned to suppress my anger so not to have what little love and affection I was shown taken away. This has carried on into my adult life and it’s something I continue to struggle with.
It’s just not fair that those I love not only can expect my generosity, kindness and support, but that they have come to take it for granted, without offering the same in return. I’m a simple girl who doesn’t ask for material things – I just want them to make me a priority in their lives and to occasionally make sacrifices to accommodate me.
I don’t know how the next few days will unfold as I do plan to finally try to express my feelings of sadness and disappointment. I expect that I will be met with resistance and denial and there may even be some attempts at gaslighting to make me feel like I shouldn’t be feeling the way I do.
But I deserve more. So much more.
As I sit here this evening, once again reflecting on life, I realized that I finally feel like I am at the point in my life where I believe that I have forgiven myself. For most of my life, I carried around guilt and shame, decreasing my own worthiness. I succumbed to the idealization that I was a horrible person and had wronged so many in my life. I accepted blame that was not mine to own and I heaped loathing upon myself for wrongs I never did.
Getting to this point in my journey has not come easily and not without its setbacks. For the last twelve years I have struggled to push myself forward, despite the many times I felt myself stumble backwards. I had the idea that my recovery would be like a continuous linear increase as I moved from despair to any sort of peace. Much to my dismay, I would find myself making huge strides after attending whatever therapy program I could, but then experience a relapse in my depressive symptoms. In those times, I became despondent and suicidal and the self-loathing returned with a vengeance.
I’m grateful that I’ve had a number of consecutive months without experiencing any serious suicidal ideation. By serious I mean the thoughts that are accompanied by a plan. I don’t know that I will ever stop having the thoughts, but at least the planning has eased up. When I find myself considering what action I would take, that’s my cue to get into my psychiatrist immediately. I accept that I will have to remain ever-vigilant in my life long battle with depression, but I also accept that I can relish in the times that the clouds lift. It’s those times when I replenish my soul and build strength for the next episode.
Forgiveness begins with myself.
I’m not sure if I’m embracing this idea because I’ve matured and as a woman in my mid-forties, I honestly believe that what others think isn’t nearly as important to me as what I think, or if I’m far enough along in my mental health journey to finally understand this. I think it’s likely a combination of both but whatever the reason, it is incredible!
Like most women, I started worrying about fitting in around the age of 10. For me, that was when my body started to change and adolescence began. I always felt like I was too fat, or ugly compared to the girls around me. I hated the feeling of always wanting to be something I wasn’t and I spent the next 30 years trying to do that. First, I wanted to be the cool girl in school. And then the hip beautiful young woman in my early twenties. When babies came along, I wanted to be the perfect mom. I needed to be the best employee. The problem was, I didn’t know how to be me.
After enduring a psychotic break at age 32, I began a journey to recovery that has involved multiple hospitalizations and countless hours of therapy. When I broke, I shattered all of my facades, and had to build myself back up. But I learned along the way that it was important to build myself the way I wanted to be.
It hasn’t been easy and I have had setbacks along the way, but today I am more self-confident and accepting of myself for the person I am right now. I don’t need the opinion of others to justify my existence, just as they don’t need mine. I don’t need the approval like I used to – the only one who needs to approve of my choices is me.
I know that I will continue to accept myself for who I am and set goals that are important to me for change. I am the master of my path.
It’s been so long since I wrote something that I have forgotten where I was …..so much has changed in the last year as I work towards achieving a recovery for myself. For so long, I wished that I could back to who I was before my psychotic break and I spent a lot of time trying to do so. It’s only been the last year that I have accepted that I don’t want to be that person. I want to be who I’m happiest being.
I returned to work after a two year hiatus, but instead of returning to my former employer, I made the decision and took a huge leap of faith to start with a new employer. Gone was my safety net of accessing disability if I needed it and I have to admit I was shitting my pants – convinced that I would not be able to handle working full time. But to my surprise, not only am I handling it, I’m kicking it’s ass!
I have also been successful at maintaining stronger personal boundaries for myself. I’ve learned to put myself first and in doing so, I have more to offer others. The relationships that I do have are getting stronger and I don’t feel the need to hide behind a mask anymore. If I’m experiencing anxiety or depression, I let people know that and I take the time I need to get through it. I’ve stopped telling myself that I need to be everything for everyone because that’s where I believed my self worth came from. I need to everything for me.
Physically, I am facing some new challenges, after neglecting my health for so many years as I struggled to survive mental illness. People don’t understand how much of a toll it takes on us – emotionally, spiritually and physically. Not to mention financially! I am however focused on improving my physical well-being as I continue to strive towards a place of wellness that I deserve.
I am proud of the hard work and dedication that I put in over the years. Countless hours of therapy, a few hospitalizations and a desire to achieve stability. I will never say that I beat mental illness, because I’m well aware that it’s a lifelong battle, but I will say that it hasn’t beaten me yet.
Love and light,
I’m in the process of trying to discover myself. For most of my life, I pushed aside my interests and views in order to try and fit in with the “rest of the world”, whatever that meant. In doing that, I lost sight of who I am, or could be.
I intend to spend the next few months getting to know myself better. Letting out the real me, flaws and all and not caring if others like it or not. I’ve come to a point in my life where I no longer need the approval of others to find happiness. The only person whose approval I need is my own.
I sometimes question if I’ll ever get better and it’s in those times that my brain tries to convince me that, “no, I won’t”. The last 12 years have been a constant battle to get on the right side of feeling better and it’s been exhausting. My emotions go from feeling exhilarated during the times when I’m “succeeding” and almost feel like I’ve got a handle on things, to feeling absolutely dejected because of yet another setback. I judge myself most harshly for not being able to “get better” and the self-shaming game is huge. Despite my logically knowing that relapses happen during recovery, I blame myself every time one happens because I’m not good enough at recovery.
I’ve spent my life wanting to be good enough. To be a good enough daughter, mother, sister, friend, wife and employee. The only area that I ever felt like I was almost good enough was in my career and that has been taken away from me – due to my mental illness, it has been difficult for me to return to full-time employment for a sustained period of time. This has cost me much needed knowledge to remain competitive in my field so I have been stagnant.
Getting better IS hard. And what is “better”? Perhaps I should be looking at it from the perspective that it’s not necessarily “better” that I hope to achieve – it’s “different”. Maybe then I can stop the shaming that comes with not being “better”, because that insinuates that how I am right now is ok. And even though I’m different now, that’s not a bad thing. I’m going to work on accepting that how I am in this moment is good enough. I will continue to evolve into something different and stop labelling each step in my journey as worse or better. It just is.
I don’t know where I will end up tomorrow – I’m just going to do my best to live in today.