Accepting Limitations in Mental Health Recovery

September 1, 2020 Megan Griffith

Limitations in mental health recovery are real; but lately, I've been doing everything in my power to ignore my increasingly obvious limitations. I just don't want to be mentally ill anymore. I want it to go away so I can read and write and be a good wife and mother without a herculean effort. Even though I've been in recovery for years now, part of me still believes that if I just ignore my limitations and shame myself for having them in the first place, I'll be able to just breeze past them. Every time, this leads to a complete meltdown that forces me to honor my limitations, so you'd think I would know better by now, but here I am again, in meltdown mode.

Recognizing Limitations in Mental Health Recovery

The first step to avoiding this meltdown mode is recognizing what my limitations are and why they exist. Lately, I've been tired. I've been so, so tired. It's hard to keep myself motivated to do my work for my job, let alone all the other things I want to do in my life, like cook, clean, go for walks, play music, read, and so on. I just want to sleep for hours, and when I don't, my mind goes to a very dark place. The world looks hopeless and pointless and my life seems to have no meaning at all. My increased need for sleep is a very real limitation for me right now, and when I ignore it, there are serious consequences.

Unfortunately, I found this out the hard way. A few weeks ago, when I first started sleeping more, I listened to my body and accepted those limitations. But as the fatigue went on, I started to get embarrassed about how much sleep I needed, and I ruminated over all the things I wasn't doing because I was taking so much time to sleep. So I decided to ignore my sleep needs. I drank an absurd amount of coffee, I refused to nap even when my mind got completely twisted and hopeless, and guess what? It didn't help anything. I still wasn't doing all the things I wanted to be doing, because whether I liked it or not, I needed that sleep. Without it, I could be awake, but not functional.

I'm still not sure why I need so much sleep right now. It might be because of a recent medication change, or it could be because my depression has been worse lately, or it could be my body's way of coping with my dark mentality. Regardless of the reason why, this is my reality right now. I need to sleep. I cannot do everything I want to do.

Ignore Toxic Positivity: Not All Limitations Can Be Overcome

This has happened to me over and over and over again. It's partially my fault because I go through cycles of ignoring my limitations and then limiting myself way too much which leads to me ignore my limitations, and so on. But there's another factor that has made this cycle worse for me: toxic positivity. Toxic positivity is positivity that doesn't recognize the reality of our human struggles. It would say that the only limitations are the ones you place upon yourself.

I really hate that mindset, but it's so tempting. On my good days, it's nice to believe that I can overcome anything; and on my bad days, this kind of toxic positivity convinces me that all my problems are my fault, the result of a bad mindset, which plays nicely into my shame issues.

But here's the reality: some limitations exist for a reason and cannot (or should not) be overcome. Sometimes you just have to admit that you're human and give yourself permission to do your best without pushing yourself over the edge.

How I'm Dealing with My Limitations in Mental Health Recovery

I'm tired of this toxic positivity and my cycle of ignoring and being smothered by my limitations, so I'm making a change. This week, I am making a plan to work within my limitations. I still don't have a crystal clear image of what that will look like for me, but here are a few things I think I want to implement:

  • If my mindset starts to get too dark, I will take a nap, even if it's inconvenient or I want to be more productive.
  • I will not stay up past midnight. It's fun to be a night owl, but I have to get up when my baby wakes up, which means I need to go to bed earlier to get more sleep.
  • I will write down all of the goals I want to achieve, separate them into short-term and long-term goals, and then I will make a plan to work toward at least one goal every day.

How do you cope with your limitations in mental health recovery? Let me know in the comments below.

APA Reference
Griffith, M. (2020, September 1). Accepting Limitations in Mental Health Recovery, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 14 from

Author: Megan Griffith

Find Megan on Facebook, Tumblr and her personal blog.

June, 30 2021 at 2:53 pm

Thank you for wiring this piece. I’m glad to learn about toxic positivity- THATS ME! It’s a horrible cycle and I rarely feel successful on either side of the coin. I’m happy to hear others feel the same exact way! I feel sleep is SO underrated and valued. It’s hard to feel like your not meeting your potential ability wise and /or accepting that your potential may be different that you originally thought.

September, 7 2020 at 12:27 pm

I'm struggling to with my limitations, too. I want to be super, but my depression says "No". I realize I need a organized life. Everything has to be wrote down, label, and scheduled. I allow myself to sleep more in the winter because my body requires it.

September, 10 2020 at 3:02 pm

I completely understand this. There are so many things I want to do and I just get so stuck, or I'm just too exhausted, and I hate that. One of the reasons I'm still working on my recovery, even though it's hard and I hate it sometimes, is because I really want to be able to do all these things someday.

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