“Recovery is terrifying when you don’t know who you are without your sadness.”
My bipolar 2 disorder, anxiety and eating disorder control my life most days. They lie to me, make decisions for me and make me feel the way they want me to. I try to change that. I want to change that.
Some days, I don’t know anymore. Because the truth is: I’m absolutely terrified of mental illness recovery.
I don’t want to feel this roller coaster of emotions anymore. I don’t want to spend two hours getting out of bed just to feel like there’s a storm cloud over my head all day. I don’t want to be so anxious or depressed I can’t function or work.
I hate waking up in the morning not knowing how I’m going to feel that day. Will I cry for no reason at all? Will I be so tired that I fall asleep while working? Will I feel this crippling emotional pain that keeps me from getting anything done? What about a panic attack – will I have one of those? Or will I feel numb, empty and incomplete all day?
I spend most of my days in fear. Fear that I’m going to lose my job or that the people I love are going to abandon me. I have a fear of reaching out for help because I feel like I burden. I feel so intensely insecure and fragile every single day, and I tie my self worth to things I shouldn’t – like my marriage or my job.
I hate not knowing what will cause me to move between a depressive and hypomanic state. I hate living with the idea of knowing that I could wake up one morning feeling significantly worse than I did the day before. I hate not knowing what rock bottom looks like – because just when I think I’ve made it there, I find myself feeling lower, darker and heavier.
I don’t enjoy being mentally ill, but that’s not to say there isn’t something good or positive that’s come from it – like becoming an advocate for mental health, starting this blog and seeing my work published on sites like The Mighty.
And for me, that’s what makes mental illness recovery tough for me. I’m scared I won’t find the inspiration to write. I’m scared if I recover, my blogs won’t be relatable or powerful anymore. I’m scared I’ll lose the platforms that have been so critical to my treatment. I’m scared my voice will no longer matter just because I’m “better.”
But really, I’m just scared of who I am without mental illness.
I worry if people get to know the real Christina – the one in mental illness recovery – they won’t like her. They won’t think she’s funny, smart, kind or strong. They’ll see that I’m nothing more than the useless, worthless human being I said I was while in the depths of my depression. So, yeah. I’m terrified of making recovery my new normal.
I know I need to take this next step. I need to let go of this fear of losing myself in recovery. I need to find out who I am and what I’m made of. And while I may never be ready for recovery, I need to just jump in and trust the process – even though the unknown is absolutely terrifying.
I need to keep taking my medications, showing up to my psychiatrist appointments and following my treatment plan. I need to have hope that better days are ahead, and I need to embrace those days when they come.
So, even though I’m scared that I’ll lose every good thing about myself when the rain stops and the sun shines again, I need to remember there’s so much more to me than my mental illnesses.
When others are silent, I am loud. I'm a passionate advocate for mental health, and I believe that sharing my story is the best way to break the stigma surrounding mental illness so that people can get the help they deserve. My strengths are my dogs – Hendrix, Khaleesi and Benny – and my hope is that tomorrow can be different.
We're not doctors, therapists, counselors or mental health professionals. We didn't study psychology in school. But wearea group of people living with mental illness, navigating recovery and learning how to take care of ourselves in the process. And because we know what it's like to do it alone, we believe you shouldn't have to.
Fight for Better Tomorrows was built on the belief that tomorrow can be different. We're here to share our stories and help you navigate recovery so you can fight for better tomorrows, too.