Living With Chronic Mental Illness

A big narrative surrounding mental health is one of hope.

One that yes, you might be suffering now with anxiety or depression, but a trip to the doctor, some medication, some talking therapy and you’ll be right as rain within the year.

No more mental illness for you!

And it is important to showcase those stories, the one’s where people got the help they needed and shook off the ‘burden’ of mental health issues to live out the rest of their life unburdened. Alright, some people might rely on medication, but for the most part they are ‘well’ again. Those dark days are a distant memory. Yes, this is a massive generalisation. But we’ve all read the same stories.

And, that’s not my lived experience of mental illness.

I can only say what I have experienced. My ‘journey’ has been one of five steps backwards, one step forwards time and time again. Just when I think it can’t get worse, it does. Just when I think ‘normality’ is within reach, it’s’ torn from me again. Countless counsellors , so many trips to the doctor I have a script all prepared now and can recite it from memory, multiple medications in the faint hope of finding the one that works.

It’s been the underlying pattern of my life since 2012. Six years of battling my own brain, six years of people not seeing what’s really happening, six years of questioning why I can’t be better.

I know now I’m never going to be ‘better’.

I have a chronic, long term mental health condition and the most I can hope for is that it’s managed. With the NHS the way it is right now, I genuinely don’t know whether it ever will be managed.

I can’t get access to the therapy I need in order to heal. I can only, right now, access CBT. CBT doesn’t work for me. It works for a lot of people, but it doesn’t work for me. If it did, I wouldn’t be here right now, writing this post.

I haven’t yet found a medication that helps. I haven’t yet found a doctor willing to work with me to find a solution to these issues.

I have been left to manage my mental health on my own, and I don’t know how that is going to end.

Coming to terms with all of this is hard. Knowing that in my future there is relapse, knowing that at any moment it could all come crashing down, trying desperately hard not to sabotage the friendships I’ve spent so long building, being afraid to ever fall in love and burden someone else with the weight of my mental illness - I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to accept it.

Know it, yes.

Accept it?

Different kettle of fish all together. In the quiet of the night, when I am alone with my thoughts and my future, all I long for is that this whole circus had never set up camp, and that it would take notice of the evacuation board I have nailed up time and time again.

I want to be better. It’s not a case of being ‘too lazy’ to deal with my mental illness. The nature of the beast is that without proper care, it isn’t going to go away or be managed properly. I can try my best, but I don’t know what the future holds.

I don’t know if the next depressive episode will be the last. I don’t know if I’ll end up ruining more friendships through black and white thinking and an obsessive need to be liked.

I just don’t know.

I don’t know how to come to terms with it. I am trying. Oh god, I am trying. Every time I write I remind myself that the suffering is not for nothing, that if I can educate or help just one person it will have been worth it. I do not choose to live like this. I just make the most of the cards I have been dealt.

I will probably never fully recover from my mental illness. That is a fact. It is not a negative outlook. Many people can, and will recover and that makes me happier than you will ever know.

I don’t know for how long my mental health will hold up, or for how long I’ll be able to manage alone. I don’t know if my future holds more hospitalisations, an early grave, or even a long and happy life with minimal effects. I don’t know any of that. The not knowing is the hardest part.

But all I can do is advocate, educate, continue speaking out, and live every day like it’s my last. Because with this unpredictable brain, who knows?!

Love, Cordelia