I Stopped Fighting My Mental Illnesses.
There is a season (turn, turn, turn)
And a time to every purpose, under heaven.
A time of love, a time of hate.
A time of war, a time of peace.
A time you may embrace, a time to refrain from embracing.
From the song: Turn Turn Turn
By Pete Seeger
Most of my life, as long as I can remember Mental Illness has wreaked havoc on my life. Depression, Anxiety, Emotion Regulation, Mood stabilization issues, Black and White Thinking, Self Medication, Rage. All this led to an inferior quality of life, broken relationships and a trail of human wreckage that spilled back decades. In the late 00’s after another “breakdown” and Suicide attempt, I got, as they say, “sick and tired of being sick and tired." I was ready to do whatever it took to get better. I decided I was going to fight this Mental Illness until I defeated it leaving me victorious over it. So with determination, I slowly and deliberately trudged my way slowly out of despair. I gained the skills and tools to wage my war on the illness and symptoms. I started changing my mind and my values creating space for growth and change. My symptoms still raged at me. But I was getting better, stronger, I was learning to turn back my symptoms and resist my difficult feelings and emotions but I was still not winning my war, the fight raged on. I labeled my symptoms demons and monsters. I visualized them with skull faces, and I hated them. I pushed my body and my mind. I endured the uncomfortable thoughts and feelings the “demons” conjured in my head until I bearly budged a centimeter when they would try to claw at me and ruin me. I fought hard….
A fight is a violent confrontation or struggle. It is synonymous with: brawl, fracas, melee, rumpus, skirmish, struggle, scuffle, altercation, clash, disturbance. You get the point. A struggle is constant and ongoing. After time though I was in many cases better than I can ever remember being when it came to my mental health. I was happy, without waiting for the next breakdown. But I did break down again. And again. It was different now though. I would fight, until I would get so weary that I would become exhausted. Fighting every day, all day, eventually, I would be fatigue and be overtaken by the effort of my daily struggles until I fell.
I couldn't figure out why I wasn't winning. I was metaphorically kicking my symptoms ass. I was diligent. I pushed back. I would get so tired of having to fight... It again became almost more than I could bear. Then I would "break down." I was bewildered. I was winning the fight of the day to day battles, but it felt like I was loosing in the more protracted overarching war.
I thought about it. I thought hard about it. Did I need better tactics or more allies to win this war against the demons? Did I need to figure out how to amass more energy to spend in my struggle? Nothing gave me confidence or made me feel like an end was in sight to the campaign I was waging against my Mental Illness. Then slowly it dawned on me. The problem wasn't how I was going to win the fight. The problem was the fight itself. I was in an unsustainable battle with an unbeatable foe.
In my path to better Health and healing, I had learned a few facts about my illness and symptoms. I am not like other people. I don't have the luxury of entertaining certain things in my life and still have an experience worth living. Extremes, judgment, prolonged anger, lack of acceptance of my life as it is. I don't get those things in my life if I want a healthy experience. Period. I don't get to have that. So why did I think that this one thing in my life could be different? This fight this war with my Illness. My Illness, I said it like it was separate from me. That is was an outside entity. I said it as if it wasn't me..... But It was me. My illness is just an aspect of who I am. A small part of the many elements that combine to complete me. How could I sustain or even win a war against my self? Where is the balance? How is that accepting of my life as it is?
I stopped fighting my mental illness. I quit, just like that. I opened my mind and my heart and my life. I made room for my symptoms, and I accepted them. I let them be a part of who and how I am. I was finally honest about my life and my lot in it. Accepting my illness doesn't mean I let my symptoms run roughshod over the good things in my life. It doesn't say that the unwanted thoughts or challenging feelings get to run free across the landscape of my life. But it does mean that I am no longer weary and tired day in and day out from waging wars against my self.
The war is over. I surrendered. This change has made the difference in my health and my life.
Accept who you are and your Illness and see if you can't find peace with it. It made the difference in my life.