November 28, 2014, I made the hardest decision of my life. I left my husband and son so I could get well. I'd been sick for almost four years with what started as prenatal depression and ended as the deepest, darkest postpartum depression I could imagine. I experienced constant daily suicidal ideation for years. When I lost my ability to eat and sleep, I reached the end of my resiliency. (Note: This post contains a trigger warning.)
Recovering from Mental Illness
In general, suicidal thoughts are not normal, but they have been for me lately. I have been actively working toward my recovery for over six years now, and yet for the last two months, I've experienced some kind of suicidal thought nearly every day. I don't want to die, I just want to hit "rock bottom" so I can finally actually get better. (Note: This post contains a trigger warning.)
I’m Court Rundell and I’m thrilled to co-author the Recovering from Mental Illness blog at HealthyPlace. From a very early age, I was painfully aware that my internal life was atypical, and I needed to keep it a secret. I had panic attacks and disassociated from my body regularly by seven; I attempted suicide at 11 and started abusing drugs and alcohol by 12.
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.
Health anxiety used to be called hypochondria, and it's a highly stigmatized mental health condition. Instead of being taken seriously, health anxiety is often reduced to being "dramatic." I have dealt with health anxiety on and off for the last seven years, and I want to share my experience so others won't have to feel as alone as I have.
Psychiatric medication is a tricky topic in the world of mental health for a lot of reasons. These drugs have a dark history of being used for the convenience of doctors rather than the wellbeing of patients, the pharmaceutical industry makes a huge profit off of them, and they come with a lot of very negative mental health stigma.
When I first read online that once I started really digging in to my recovery, things would get worse before they got better, I thought I understood. I thought it meant that acknowledging my pain would cause me more pain at first, but then it would heal and I would be "better." I knew that was a naive way of looking at things, but I still believed that would generally be the process. Boy, was I wrong.
Countless times, people have told me that a person can only start to heal if they are ready to do the work themselves. They can't be forced into improving their lives. Despite hearing this message over and over, part of me really thought I could convince other people to heal and "get better" if I just said and did the right thing. This probably comes from a history of being responsible for co-regulating my parents' emotions. I grew up having to say and do the right thing to maintain my worth, and for a long time, that felt normal.
Behavioral change isn't the only change needed in recovery from mental illness, but it is a key part of feeling better and living the life you want to live. But it is so incredibly hard. I recently had a frustrating, but productive, conversation with my therapist about how I need to start making behavioral changes if I want to keep improving my mental health, and the reason it was so frustrating is because I have never known how to change my behavior.
Recovery from mental illness is a long, complicated path, and even though the whole point of recovery is to help us grow, it still comes with limitations, setbacks, and collateral damage. Sometimes, in the midst of all the negatives, I lose sight of the positives, lose sight of hope. And I can't help but wonder, what if I never recover from mental illness?