I hardly feel worthy to even label myself as one who struggles with a mental illness, not when I know there are so many others who struggle much deeper than I. Whose pain is much more debilitating than mine.
One of the things I find so frustrating about struggling with mental illness symptoms is the lack of control that comes with it. You never know when it’s going to hit you. It comes at you like a crashing wave that you have absolutely no control over. You can’t predict it. You can’t foresee it. You can’t wrangle it. Most often the wave comes crashing down, all-consuming, and you are left to figure out how to swim and thrash about in it, and somehow still come out with your head above water.
It hurts my heart so much to realize the people that get hurt the most by my struggle with mental illness symptoms are those closest to me. They get the best of me, and unfortunately the worst of me. This is typically the case whether we struggle with a mental illness or not.
I feel fortunate in that my anxiety and depression symptoms are actually a compass for me. When I start feeling anxious, and depressed it’s typically because something is going on with my thyroid again, and that sends me to my doctor to check my bloodwork, and most times it means I need an adjustment in my medication, or sometimes it means we need to add another medication. For many this isn’t the case, and though the up and down rollercoaster that I experience on a regular basis is not fun, I am thankful that at least there is some hope in knowing the cause. For many, this just isn’t so.
Mine manifests itself most often in feelings of inability to handle life, panic attacks, secluding myself, hopelessness, verbal attacks towards those I love, and each one of them is a desperate plea when I feel out of control to regain some sense of control.
What I find most ironic about what happens in these moments is that I so desperately want to be loved, and know that I am not alone…that someone will stand by me, and yet I push people away…I make it incredibly hard for people to want to love me, and yet I am fortunate enough that those closest to me still do…they choose me as wife, as mom, as friend. Maybe not in that moment, but I have grown a lot when I experience this that I fumble my way through it and verbalize what is actually happening to me for them. It’s hard to get the words out though.
My husband told me just the other day how incredibly hard it is to love through it, and honestly I am so glad he did. By forcing myself to get words out to describe what is happening even with tears streaming down my cheeks, and between hiccupy sobs…the more we communicate to one another the better we love each other through the hard. He deserves to know so he can at least try to understand even if he never understands what exactly it feels like, and him telling me how hard it is to come to me when I am pushing him away helps me to at least comprehend what he is feeling, and why he isn’t being supportive in the way I wish he would, because he honestly doesn’t know how.
I’ve told him before “sometimes, I feel like it would be easier if I had a broken arm or something….when someone’s arm is broken, everyone can see that his or her arm is broken, and so they know he/she will be unable to use their arm in the right way, but no one can see a mental illness. It would be easier for people to be supportive, and understand if they could just see it.”
But you can’t….mental illnesses are uunpredictable, and they aren’t black and white. You can’t control it, and you definetly can’t logic your way through it.
There have been so many moments when I feel the wave coming, and anxiety consumes me, that I look into the mirror, and what I see is not even me. I am completely unrecognizable. It’s an out of body experience, that is so hard to even describe if you’ve never experienced it.
You try and pray your way out of it, but I gotta be honest….sometimes if there really is something biochemically off in your body, you really need help and intervention. Praying helps, but I am living proof that sometimes medication or supplements are needed to help with the problem.
So friends if you are reading this, and you too struggle with symptoms of a mental illness, please know this…you are not defined by your disease. Even though it often times feels like it, don’t believe that lie. You have value. You are enough. Your story is worth being told, and if you are in a state where no one seems to believe you, and no one seems to understand please know that I do, and I see you. YOU MATTER!
And for those of you who are concerned about me now after reading this, know that I am ok…I’ve talked to my doctor, and recently got labwork done revealing that I do indeed have a hormonal imbalance that I need to get corrected…again. I’m just writing this after being on an emotional roller coaster, and wondering why my body is broken, but I also know that I need more Jesus, and perhaps a little bit more of my medication 😉