In a recent therapy session, my therapist suggested I give my mental illnesses too much power over me. For example, thinking I can’t do something or can’t try something because my anxiety is too high, or that my depression is an excuse for not trying to be better next time. Mental illness creates some limitations you have to be aware of, but that doesn’t mean you should let it limit yourself even further.
There is a difference, you see, between being compassionate with yourself when the demons win, and accepting that you can’t have fewer bad days in the future. Believe me, the bad days will come when the demons leave you flat on your back, and that isn’t your fault. Nor is it your fault when anxiety makes you hide on your couch binge watching Netflix instead of going out with friends. Yet there are coping methods you can learn, and skills you implement, and therapies you can try that will limit the impacts of those bad days.
It is hard, especially taking the first few steps, but eventually it gets better. But even when you’ve been seeing a therapist for years and journaling and practicing mindfulness and doing all the other things you’re supposed to do there will come a moment when you say you can’t do something because of your mental illness and your therapist will stop you to say that your giving the illness too much power.
It will never be an immediate turn around, and that is especially hard for me. Yet learning to understand your mental illness can help you learn to live with it. It isn’t a cure, just a new door that you can open, a new part of life you can learn to enjoy, one that you thought your demons had forever taken from you. But just because your demons got the better of you one day, doesn’t mean you have to forfeit future days to them. It just feels that way.
Taking any modicum of power back from this horrible illness that has caused you to suffer and doubt yourself so much is a small victory, but an important one. Maybe someday they will find a cure and we will get all that power back from our demons. Until then it is merely a question of how much power will you let your demons have.