Depression, anxiety, PTSD and BPD are my present diagnoses with regards to my mental health. I first became aware of my mental illness at age 32, twelve long years ago. I know I’ve been living with it for most of my life, but I didn’t know I was unwell. My life was chaotic and volatile, but I just believed everyone lived that way. After experiencing a life-changing psychotic break, I began the long and arduous journey to continuously search for hope and peace. Here I am, age 44 and I’m still looking.
I’ve done so much work over the last twelve years and believe that the many programs, therapies and support groups I attended expanded my knowledge about myself and my illness and is truly what’s kept me alive for this long. Cognitive behavioural therapy, dialectical behaviour therapy, in-hospital treatment, support groups, individual therapy, and time with my psychiatrist have consumed my life since the breakdown. And with each new endeavour was the hope that this would be the one that would make the feelings of emptiness, loneliness and sadness go away for good.
And sometimes, the feelings went away. But they always came back. And each time they return, my carefully reconstructed world starts to fall apart. The steps I’ve made forward start to become the steps that make me falter and go backwards. I feel a sense of helplessness as they overwhelm me with their intensity. And the confusion sets in and my mind starts to slip into despair.
I have almost a surreal way of watching what’s happening to me, as if I’m an observer of my life, rather than a participant. I can see myself withdrawing, isolating and becoming the shell of the person I want to be. I’m screaming inside for someone to save me, yet my mind knows that the only one who can save me is myself. And yet, it’s my own mind that is preventing me from doing it.
When you have a mental illness, you spend a lot of time in your mind, desperately trying to make sense of what’s happening. For me, it’s frustrating and heartbreaking to make huge strides in my recovery, only to discover that the illness pushes me back. It’s like trying to constantly fight the fierce current in a river, walking upstream. It’s exhausting.
Sometimes, it just feels really good to let go of the fight and fall into the current and let myself be swept away, no longer in charge of my destiny, instead leaving it to fate. I’m scared that one day I will choose to not stand up and resume my walk upstream and I’ll be lost forever. That I’ll take too much comfort in letting myself drift aimlessly. And when I find myself thinking this way, I’m overwhelmed with sadness as I imagine my life being this way.
I don’t choose to live this way. Nothing would make me happier than to find peace and stability, combined with a passion for life. But for so long, my hopes are raised with each time I move forward in my recovery, only to have them dashed when relapse rears its ugly head. The relapses weaken my resolve to keep going.
Hope is all that I have left. Hope that I will find the strength to carry on and keep fighting. Hope that one day, something will work on a more permanent basis. And now, the real work begins again.