“I’ll get through this.”
I am a person who likes having control. I like to think that I’m in control of my life, of my feelings, my thoughts, my future. I know exactly what I want to do with my life, how I need to arrange my schedule to complete my degree, what I want to wear, what I’m going to say, how I’m going to say it. For the longest time, I’ve been control of my mental health. When people ask me how I’m doing, I smile the most genuine smile I can and tell them that I’m fabulous, I’m great, blessed, doing well, and all the other positive words. And people believe me. I wouldn’t lie, right?! Besides, who really cares if I’m not doing good?
I help people. I encourage others. I lift them up when they are down. I am a Mental Health Champion. I am a leader. I am a shoulder for those who need to cry. I am the ear for those who need to talk. I am the voice for those who are silent. I am the one who needs to be strong for my mom as she goes through cancer treatments. I am much needed at my job, as I am highly knowledgeable and good at what I do. I am a wife. I have responsibilities. I HAVE TO BE OKAY. Even when I’m not.
I had gotten quite good at wearing the mask, until there were times I forgot to wear it. I had gotten so good at lying to others about how I felt, that I had actually come to believe it myself. I started to forget the mask more and more, allowing more and more people to see that I was not really okay, that I was struggling. When that happened, I became embarrassed in those moments that people saw that I was not as strong as I made out to be. That I couldn’t sleep at night. That I kept myself so busy and so stressed that I couldn’t think. That’s when I began to allow my stress to take control. To allow my anger to penetrate my thin shell. The more I tried to pretend that I was okay, the more obvious it became that I wasn’t. And then, it happened. I couldn’t cope with my mental status. My mental health needed severe attention. I WASN’T OKAY. But I refused to believe it.
I have been seeing a counselor for quite some time now. For so long, I have struggled with depression and anxiety, and I knew I was doomed to struggle with it forever. Yet, I still felt like there was something a little off. I became aware of other struggles, struggles that just did not match up with the idea of depression or anxiety. I had an idea of what was wrong, but there was no way I was going to admit that I was struggling with another mental health issue. To admit that I was struggling would mean that there was something wrong with me! That I would be afflicted with this diagnosis forever! It became so bad, that I could no longer deny what I had been obsessively occupied with denying. I had to face a hard truth: If I was going to successfully learn to manage my symptoms and build up my coping skills toolbox, then I would have to admit the one thing that I did not want to admit: That I was not okay with being not okay. Being “not okay” meant I would have to admit that I was struggling with a personality disorder. Isn’t my personality who I am? Does it mean that my personality needed to change? I was totally distraught, confused, and conflicted to admit that my behaviors needed to change. I was living in denial.
Sitting in the counselor’s office, I made the choice. I made the choice to accept that I was not okay. That it is okay to be “not okay.” I realized that just because I was “not okay” now does not mean that I will always be “not okay.” I finally broke down that huge wall of denial which was causing me resistance in my recovery. I am not okay. And that’s okay.
This is my recovery. Being “not okay” is okay. This is me breaking down the stigma of identifying with a diagnosis. I am not my diagnosis. I am the same person I was before. Except now, the wall of denial is crumbling down and I can continue to walk down the path of recovery.
I am being changed from the inside out. From the inside out Lord my soul cries out….
April Brantley, CR Mental Health Team X-Factor