Recovering from mental health struggles is a weird, messy business. And it is one that doesn’t seem to end. Although I am at a place where I am stable in my recovery, the truth is that I still have bad days, days where I still have to battle back against my demons when they lie to me and try to drag me down into the darkness. I used to dream of a day when I wouldn’t have these demons. I used to think about a point where my darkness would be behind me and I could ask, what comes next? Yet the darkness is a part of me, for better and worse. However, that doesn’t mean I can’t still ask, what comes next?
I can ask what comes after I am able to wean myself of my antidepressants. I can ask what comes after I re-establish positive sleep patterns, after I can confidently answer the question of who am I, and after the therapy appointments are the exception, not the rule.
Recognizing that what comes next refers to different points in my recovery, rather that what comes after mental illness altogether, is an important realization. It is a part of moving forward, of accepting my darkness and learning to live with it in a healthy way. And while there are challenges to that, the reality is that there are also positives. For example, I know and can take comfort in the fact that my bouts of depression and anxiety have made me more compassionate. The dark days where I was self-medicating with alcohol rather than facing the demons taught me to never judge anyone just because you seem to be doing better than them. Because the truth is you might just be doing better than them on that particularly day. Any one of us can struggle with demons that want to pull us down. It isn’t a weakness, it isn’t a failure, it isn’t a lack of faith. It is an illness.
So what comes next?
What comes next is a me that has grown from the battles with my demons, grown more compassionate, grown more open and honest about my battle. What comes next is welcoming others who come out of the darkness ready to share their stories. And hopefully, one day what comes next is a world free of the stigma of mental illness, a world it is okay to admit that you aren’t okay. Because the truth is we all have dark days. We have days where we stumble and fall. But what comes next is that we get back up again.