NOTICE: This blog was written by Aimee Eddy Gross from Erie, PA. This is an unedited version of the blog and has not been professionally edited. To comment on a blog or if you experience any issues, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.Thank you and enjoy the blog!
Many confuse recovery from mental illness with being cured of the illness. Recovery doesn’t mean that your mental illness will magically disappear and you’ll never struggle again. There is no cure for mental illness. It’s something you will have to deal with for the rest of your life. What recovery does mean is that your illness is under control, and with proper techniques and medication you can keep it from rearing its head with vengeance.
When I met my husband 14 years ago I was working towards recovery. I was going in and out of depression episodes. I was lonely and I felt like I was in a rut. I told my, then boyfriend, about my illness and told him if he wanted to stay with me he had to learn how to handle my sickness. So we went to couple therapy.
By the time we married 2 years after we met, I was finally happy. Lou and I were ready to build our lives together, and my therapist told me I no longer needed therapy. I was excited. Even though I stopped therapy there were things I needed to do to stay well. I had to continue to see my psychiatrist, I had to practice coping techniques, I had to put an end to unhealthy friendships, and I had to lean on my husband and my support system.
There were still days I felt like I was losing control and times I cried for no reason at all. Some nights I cried into my husband’s arms and he talked to me until I calmed down. I practiced positive thinking; I did things like taking a relaxing bath. I journaled and pulled myself out of those rough times. The rough times were not often, but when they did come I worked through them.
Before my recovery, every day was a struggle just to keep going. I’m not saying the struggle ends in recovery, but it’s a different fight. Instead of struggling just to make it through a day without curling up in a ball and crying, in recovery, you fight each day to just stay well. The fight becomes a routine. Each morning you take your medication and you practice coping techniques. When that negative thought sneaks in, you replace it with a positive. You identify your boundaries and work to keep them, and you work on building healthy relationships. You manage your illness every day.
After a few years of marriage I began to worry excessively about paying bills and started to find it harder to manage my mental illness. I didn’t want to hit rock bottom again so I sought help. I kept track of my feelings in my journal and I knew the signs of when I needed extra help to stay in recovery. The therapist I had before moved to another center, but I found her and began therapy again.
I worried I had failed by slipping into sadness once again, but my therapist complimented me. She was happy I knew when to get help before falling all the way down the dark hole of despair. She told me part of recovery is knowing when you need to ask for extra help. I made the right step in my recovery process. I hadn’t failed at all. Instead I was taking care of myself, which is a very important part of the process.
I continued to see her until she moved to a college then I started working with another therapist. After a few months with the new therapist I was ready to go on my own again.
I have now gone several years without therapy. I lean on my husband, family and friends for support. I take my meds and practice coping techniques. I meet with my psychiatrist every two months for a medicine check and to give a report on how I am doing. I face the hard days with strength and determination. I thought when I went through cancer I would need therapy again, but I had lots of support to keep me going. I am truly happy with my life. The bad days come and I fight through them, but there are more good days.
There is no cure to mental illness, but recovery is worth fighting for. Your illness will never go away, but you can live a normal life and find happiness. You can manage your sickness and live a productive life. Happiness is waiting for you. Fight for it. You can do it.