Suffering from a mental health condition can feel like being suffocated inside a black hole. It’s hard to envisage a brighter future when you are submerged in darkness.
Even if you can see wholeness and wellbeing in the distance, it seems impossible to climb out of your situation. This is why it is important to give recovery a voice and to document progress as well as hardship. By providing an abstract concept with genuine voices and real-life success stories, rehabilitation appears more achievable. Reading about journeys back to good health can inspire us with our own struggles.
In my own experience, when General Anxiety Disorder was at its most debilitating, I was consumed by the illness. I viewed it as an inherent characteristic that was my own fault, rather than something external and separate from myself. So blinded by the sudden onset of a condition that completely transformed my life, I couldn’t see the possibility of recovering. It felt like the anxiety would remain at that level of intensity forever, and life didn’t have the potential to revert back to the way that it had been before.
After my diagnosis, I read an online forum in which some of the contributors explained that General Anxiety Disorder was a lifelong condition. This was an overwhelming prospect. Had I been informed then that General Anxiety Disorder was a lifelong condition, but that it was also a condition that could be managed through treatment such as medication and talking therapies, it may have been some comfort to me. In retrospect, I wish I had access to stories of recovery to act as a source of hope.
The onset of the condition coincided with my first year of sixth-form college and was at its most intense for eighteen months. This time was filled with sleepless nights, panic attacks, loss of appetite, obsessive compulsions, paranoia, severe nausea, erratic heart rate, fatigue, and agoraphobia. Unable to eat, sleep or venture anywhere but home or college without becoming panic-stricken; going to university seemed like an impossibility.
Had someone informed me then that I would be able to live independently in a different city for three years, travel abroad by myself, and be able to share my recovery on stage in the form of spoken word poetry, I would never have believed it. I would be lying if I said that symptoms are now non-existent. They’re not. But the difference is: the symptoms are manageable and less intense. General Anxiety Disorder exists as an external presence, and no longer has the ability to dictate my life.
Recovery is possible. It is paramount that we remind each other of this. As a society, we should communicate more because talking about difficulties can often dilute them.
Unfortunately, mental illness is still tainted with stigma, and people who speak out about their experiences are sometimes branded “attention-seekers”. But mental illness does not equate to weakness. Discussing mental illness with others, rather than just “coping” and trying to deal with the suffering on your own, is an important step towards recovery. Not only does the cathartic nature of sharing your endurance with another person help to ease the burden of suffering, but your journey can be of comfort to other people. Mental illness can be an entirely isolating experience. Therefore, speaking to someone who is having a similar experience can help to reassure them that they’re not alone and that recovery is not only genuinely possible, but inevitable.
Image Credit: Synergy Recovery Services