Living with mental illness can feel like an uphill battle. There are many inspirational posts that talk about fostering self-love, taking time to participate in self-care, and becoming the grounded well-rounded person that doesn’t let anything phase them.
The truth is that while there are skills and tools that we can grow in and learn about for managing and coping with mental illness, those things don’t take the symptoms entirely away. It can feel like a moral or personal failing to be doing all the work and still finding ourselves in a depressive episode or experiencing abnormal levels of anxiety.
I remember when I first started acknowledging that I was struggling, I kept looking for the “cure.” At time I would feel optimistic about the progress I had made and the skills I was using. Then when my symptoms got hard again, I would feel discouraged. I would feel like it was something I was doing wrong or neglecting.
I remember talking to a friend about this frustration in not figuring out the puzzle that is Major Depressive Disorder. At that time, I was almost ready to graduate with my Bachelor’s in Psychology, and it felt like I should at least know how to solve my own diagnosis. After listening to my rant, my friend asked me if I saw myself as a homework assignment or a person. She reflected to me that I was talking about myself as if there was a problem that needed an answer rather than focusing on my growth and understanding that my life did not look the same on a day-to-day basis.
After processing her wisdom, I realized that I was looking to control things I did not have control over. Self-love was not about having no bad days; it was about giving myself grace on those bad days and believing that I have the skills to get through them. I still have times that I struggle. Every day is not my best, but allowing myself to be okay with that has changed how I see my depressive symptoms. Sometimes I need help finding the skills to make things feel better, and sometimes the skills I already use are enough. Regardless I have the strength to survive those hard days and I genuinely believe that of myself.
Self-love isn’t a checklist of habits and self-care items. It is a continuous dynamic journey that says you deserve patience and you deserve grace. In writing this blog post, I hope to reach those who may be struggling with that same control mindset that I found myself stuck in. When we allow ourselves to let go of that control, mental illness gets a lot less exhausting.