Guest writer number four is Michelle. Michelle’s blog, “This is a depression blog“, was last year included in Psych Central‘s ‘Best of the web – blog’, ‘Top ten depression blogs of 2014‘ (What a mouthful!).
I will let Michelle tell her story:
This is a Depression Blog
Sometimes I have a hard time separating myself from my mental disorders. That’s the thing about chronic ailments (In my case, dysthymia, a form of chronic, lower-level depression) – it is with you so persistently and for such a long time that you get tangled up in it. I forget where the mental illness ends and where I begin.
For a long time, before diagnosis, I thought my depression and anxiety were me, that they were simply flaws in myself. I was too sensitive and too anxious. I thought that if I were a stronger person, I might be able to navigate life without constantly feeling hurt or worried. If I were a better person, I might feel happy. At that point, I had forgotten what it was to be happy.
Despite the way mental illness is woven into my life, it did not make me who I am. It did not cause me to enjoy art, or music, or literature. It did not make me love macaroni and cheese. It did not give me a good sense of humour. Those things are all me. They are me when I’m suffering with my mental illness, and they are me when I forget about my mental illness entirely.
Though mental illness does not make me who I am, it has affected me. Some of the effects are not so great. It has caused me, at times, to isolate myself. It has led to me breaking into cold sweats when faced with making phone calls. It has meant that I’ve hid a part of myself from other people. But some of the effects are okay. It has caused me to have great empathy for others with mental illness. It has given me good motivation to better myself. It has made me appreciate the good times.
So, who would I be without mental illness? I don’t know. Though I am always changing, I don’t expect I will ever know myself without mental illness. It isn’t something I expect to be ‘cured’ of. But I can look back in time and see how I fare now compared to then. 10 years ago, I didn’t even realize I had depression. 5 years ago I had no coping skills. Now, I am learning to be more positive and open to the world. I used to look to the future and feel hopeless, but now I can look forward and see opportunity for more growth. I am not always happy, but I can remember what it is like to be happy and work towards it.
Little by little, I disentangle from my mental illness a bit more. I have realized that my mental illness is not a sign that I am weak. If anything, my mental illness shows that I am strong. If I can endure all these years of mental illness, surely I can endure just about anything. In recognizing all these things about myself, I become a little bit stronger, and the burden of mental illness becomes easier to bear. I hope that one day I become so very strong it doesn’t feel like a burden at all.