I have struggled my entire life with mental illness. Unlike some people whose mental illness has an origin that can be pinpointed to a specific life event, mine is caused in part by a genetic mutation. It has always been there to varying degrees. I have always struggled.
Thanks to that same genetic mutation, I have always been considered treatment-resistant, as well. No medication I ever took seemed to even touch the darkness I carried inside me. This mutation affected the way the neurotransmitters in my brain worked so I never received the chemicals that I desperately needed, whether made naturally or prescribed, in any useful amount.
For over forty years of my life, I struggled to function while feeling inherently broken and flawed without ever understanding why. Discovering the existence of my genetic mutation helped me see my mental illness in a new light and put me on a new path of self-love and acceptance. There were ways to treat my mutation. I no longer had to be classified as “treatment resistant” and pushed aside as a hopeless case. I no longer had to stagnate through life, a broken shell going through the motions while barely existing.
Please know that I am not touting any magical cure for mental illness. I am also not trying to push that stigma-fueled misconception that if you just try harder, you can somehow vanquish your mental illness by force of will alone. My mental illness is still very much present and ongoing treatment is still needed. But the way I have come to view my mental illness has drastically changed and, in many ways, it has been both a world-changer and life-saver for me.
I no longer blame myself for my mental illness. I used to believe I was damaged and broken, that I was crazy on some core level, unbalanced and just not right in the head. I had downed gallons of that stigma kool-aid, poisoning myself with the idea that I must just not be trying hard enough, that I was somehow doing this to myself.
I now accept that it is a verifiable illness and one that is largely treatable. I have accepted that I am no more responsible for my illness than a cancer patient would be for their condition. It is a medical diagnosis that affects people of all walks of life regardless of their race, religion, gender identity, age or socio-economic status. I did not ask for my illness nor was it thrust upon me as some punishment or retribution. People just sometimes get sick and when they do, they need treatment.
For years, I was suicidal on and off. Because none of my treatment ever seemed to work, my world felt hopeless. Because I felt damaged and useless, I surrounded myself with people who treated me like I was as worthless as I felt. Even on my best days, I was only a few steps away from giving up.
Being able to finally accept that I was not responsible for my illness removed all the blame from the equation. Since I was no longer to blame, I could stop hating myself, stop punishing myself for being so broken. If it was a medical condition, it was treatable. And if it was treatable, there was hope.
Hope was a new concept for me.
I was not used to the idea of looking forward to the future. Previously, I went through the motions of merely existing day by day. I did not look forward to what tomorrow might bring because it had always brought the same despair as told held and all the days before. Nothing had ever changed. But now, there was finally a very real possibility for change. For the first time, I found myself looking forward to the future.
I also received some semblance of control over my own life. For years, it felt like my world had been spinning out of control and I had no say in the matter, that I was just along for the ride. But if there is treatment available that can work, that means I have control over my life again. Though it might take time to find a balance that works for me, my life and my health are in my hands. The only way my life will never get better is if I choose to not get treatment.
Regaining control over my own life in turn made me more proactive about my treatment. I was willing to try anything that might help. Meditation. Yoga. Tai Chi. Writing. Art. Anything that might make a difference and give me a better fighting chance. It all added new tools to my mental wellness toolbox and made me stronger.
It also made me more open to letting others back into my life. For years I had isolated myself from many people, believing they were better off without me. I worried that somehow the mess in my head might spill over into their lives and firmly believed that nobody deserved that. Being able to see my mental illness as a treatable condition allowed me to take those walls down and let people back in. I wasn’t dangerous, unbalanced or crazy. Nobody needed to be protected or shielded from me. I had a fairly common condition that was treatable.
My new strength also helped me to see that everything my mental illness had been telling me all along was a lie. I was not weak. I was not broken beyond repair. I was not useless, unlovable, unwanted, unworthy. I was strong. I was fierce. I was brave. I was a fighter, a survivor, a force to be reckoned with. My future was in my hands.
My new fighting spirit gave birth to an inner advocate that I never knew was within me. Not only was I fighting for my own mental health, but I began writing advocating for others, as well. And the more I talked about my own mental illness, the more I let others know they were not alone and encouraged them to never give up, the stronger I got. Within my illness, I found a purpose, a reason to keep going and to fight that was much larger than my own survival. The same illness that for years had me pinned on death’s door had breathed new life into me and given me a true calling.
That does not mean that my mental illness is gone. It is still there raging strong. The only difference is that now when that inner dialogue begins, I can fight back. I can call it out for the liar it is. I can use the tools I have acquired in my mental wellness toolbox and stave off the worst of it. Instead of succumbing to its cruelty like a lamb being led to slaughter, I now have the will to fight back, to call it out and to refuse to let it beat me.
And I have hope.
I want to get treatment. Because I have a sincere hope that one day things could be better, that one day my mental illness will not have such a death grip on me.
Having hope has made all the difference.
If you are struggling right now with mental illness, please take my words to heart. You are not to blame. You have done nothing wrong. You are not broken, flawed, or damaged beyond repair. You are not useless, unwanted, unloved, unworthy. You have a medical condition that could happen to anybody. There is treatment available. Things can get better.
And there is hope.
You just have to open yourself up to that possibility.
Trust me. It will change your world and might just save your life.
You’re stronger than you realize. You’d have to be strong to fight the monsters you’ve been fighting all along.
You’ve got this.
I have hope for you. Now all you need is hope for yourself.
2 thoughts on “Changing My Perspective On My Mental Illness Saved My Life”
How did you discover your genetic mutation?
One of my newer doctors did a Genesight test in hopes of discovering a medication that might work for me. Neither of us expected my condition to be caused a genetic mutation. I have numerous other pieces on my blog that talk specifically about my mutation because finding it honestly changed my life in so many ways.