For years, I identified myself by my mental illnesses. I would claim anxiety, depression and PTSD as if they were my children. I didn't openly talk about them, but I recognized them as a part of who I was.
It was just within the last six months that my mindset changed. You see, I was convinced that I would never overcome them, so acceptance was all I had left to accomplish. I so easily labeled myself a victim of something I could not control- a chemical imbalance that I drew from the deck at birth. I felt isolated and alone nearly my entire life, even though I was surrounded by incredible people who loved me. The problem was that no one knew or could understand the restlessness going on in my head- the constant stream of negative thoughts prevented me from accepting the love all my friends thought I was receiving that they were giving to me.
I tried medication and it sucked. I worked my way up to a higher dose each month, and I expected the pain to go away. It did, don't get me wrong, but accompanied by the absence of the many feelings I once had were migraines and nausea and sleepless nights. Deepened isolation, lack of focus, loss of appetite and tremors that made me feel weird and self conscious and unlike the rest of the world.
My doctor said it was normal and that the side effects would subside, but after months of my hands shaking uncontrollably I started to doubt that they really knew what was best for my body.
And I don't mean this in a bitter, negative way. Doctors help so many people, and they are trained to treat diseases through medication. It wasn't that they were knowingly giving me something that they didn't really believe would help me or something they thought would harm me. My doctor encouraged me to stick with it, throwing out statistics about the number of people it has helped and the average amount of time it takes for the human body to adjust to this type of medication. The focus on numbers and statistics overruled my intuition and my own feelings. It had been over a year, and I noticed the difference in who those drugs made me. I knew deep down it wasn't what was best for me personally.
I think it was my lack of empathy while on the drug that made me recognize I didn't want it anymore. I loved the way I could connect with and relate to people when they were hurting, and the little pills I took with a glass of water every morning robbed me of that gift. It made me feel like a more boring, vacant version of myself; as if my spirit, feelings and personality had decided to pack up and leave my body and all that was left was this physical being, simply going through the motions day to day.
And ever since those little pills, I haven't been the same as I was before taking them. I haven't given up on finding that old me, though. I work to find that person even harder, every single day.
I write this because I know medication isn't for everyone. If it is working for you, don't stop. Do what helps you, but don't allow it to be your crutch. Medication of this kind is meant to be a temporary fix, not a long-term aid that you become reliant upon.
If you are struggling with a mental illness and you don't feel like medication is right for you, listen to your body. You have choices in this season of recovery. Recognizing that there is something wrong is step number one. Knowing you were not made to feel isolated, afraid and anxious every waking moment was not what God intended when He created you, but is where healing begins.
Pills and therapy are not for everyone. If you don't want a doctor to help you, you need to commit to helping yourself. You are sick, so you do need some form of medication. Now whether that is yoga twice a week, changing your diet to fuel your body with healthier, more natural energy, meditation or prayer for 20 minutes a day, or simply coming up with a regular exercise schedule that you stick to- you have the ability to choose. Take your passion and let it be your medicine. If you're a book worm, heading to a quiet space you can be alone to get lost in a book a couple times a week might be your best option. If you're an art junky, escape to the nearest art museum or make time to create yourself. Go hammocking outdoors in a pretty spot if that's your idea of serenity. Writers, write. Bakers, bake. Runners, run. Whatever feeds your soul, do that.
And most importantly, don't identify with your disease. At the end of the day, it is not who you are. It is only a small portion of what makes up all of you. You are stronger than you think, and if you have faith, you have everything you need to beat this. I'm on your side.