Who will I be without the “crazy girl” label? If I get better, will people think I’m boring? Will I even exist if my mental illness is gone? Can I hold onto it for a little longer? This is part of my life narrative, where will I be if I am well?
These are questions I have been asking myself since the first time I was referred to a counsellor. My depression, eating disorder and anxiety had become such a huge part of me. The scars on my arms were a constant reminder of the self destruction that had made people listen. The bones sticking out were part of what finally made me heard. Why would I give this up? I didn’t want to live anyway.
People often question why someone with a mental illness is not working to change things. They do not understand why you would hold onto this pain and misery that is all encompassing. Why are they not trying more things to fix this? Never judge where someone is in their journey with their mental illness, it is not up to you to decide when a person reaches out for help.
Mental illnesses are incredibly complex and while they are painful and miserable, the symptoms of them are often the only thing in a person’s life that gets them attention and makes people listen. Why would someone give up their voice so readily?
It takes a while to fully commit to getting better. A lot of emotions and things get in the way. In particular, my eating disorder had a huge grip on me and letting it go was like losing a limb. There is now a gap in my life where I no longer spend all my time counting and food planning. Of course, this means that I am not slowly killing myself and I can finally eat for enjoyment and in public. I have lost so much to my eating disorder but it was still a comfort when the rest of my life is out of control. It has been a lot of work to find coping mechanisms unrelated to food.
One of the scariest things, for me, about going into therapy for my BPD was this fear that there was nothing else to me besides being mentally ill. Everyone who has known me since the age of 14 has known me when I have been ill, what if everyone around me realises they do not really like me when I am well? Because I am boring.
A symptom of BPD is struggling with your identity and knowing who you are. This has led to my mental illness becoming a huge part of how I identify myself. I’m a 23 year old girl with a mental illness. Through therapy, I hope that I will discover who I am outside of that. So much of my life revolves around mental health. My personal life, my job, this blog – it is all focused on mental health.
I am more than my mental illness. You are more than your mental illness. It is okay to struggle to let it go, you are not alone. The relationships we have with a mental illness is complicated, do not let anyone make you feel bad for it. You will work towards letting it go when you are ready. Just remember to focus on what you can gain from getting better.
And for those of us who will live with mental illness forever, you can still learn to live a fuller life and forge an identity alongside your mental health. It does not have to be the biggest part of you.